Ongoing History of New Music

Ongoing History Daily: The father of feedback

Today, feedback is used by guitarists to create all sorts of cool effects. There would be no fuzzy, overdriven guitar rock if it weren’t for the physical principles of amplified sound that result in feedback. But who was the first guy to really use this technique?

It might be an experimental musician named Robert Ashley who released something called Wolfman in 1964. A treated electronic composition was put on tape. It was a drone-y, feedback-y thing designed to play through the speakers at the same time Ashley was playing live onstage. It was pretty tough to listen to–it gets quite piercing in places–but as far as anyone can tell, it’s the first time that feedback was harnessed to create a musical landscape.

So the next time you hear some fuzzy guitar, give silent thanks to Robert Ashley for the inspiration.

This is an example of his material from 1977 long after people figured out how to handle fuzz and feedback.

My last Ongoing History Daily was about Mondegreens.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38536 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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