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“Stranger” Music: Synth Music Goes Mainstream

Unless you have been living under a rock, there is no doubt you have seen, or at least heard the deafening buzz surrounding, the Netflix hit show Stranger Things. Created by the renowned Duffer brothers, the 80’s throwback sci-fi series crams the epic adventure of a group of boys and their gifted female friend, Eleven, into eight unbelievable episodes. Filled with nostalgia-invoking references to everything from 80s foods to 80s TV and movie villains, the show is a pop culture phenomenon. In addition to the cinematic achievements of the show, the funky “synth” two-volume score has received almost equal acclaim as new listeners flock to the synth genre. In late December, each volume of the score was nominated for a coveted Grammy award.

The unforgettable, mood-setting score was the brainchild of two members of the Austin synth band Survive– Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. The band formed in 2008 when the two men were college roommates as they joined force with an additional roommate and a fourth mutual friend to form the low-key band in their home state of Texas. They reach local and regional success, but as soon as Stranger Things dropped on Netflix, the group has reached international acclaim and is planning a national tour. Survive released their second band album in September of 2016, and their new, loyal following should help them maintain the epic success they have reached as a result of collaborating on the Stranger Things series.

Broadview Entertainment Arts University students enrolled in the Professional Audio Engineering Associate of Applied Science degree program are trained in many techniques that can help them to achieve success in creating synth music. The creative ability of these students combined with their talent and skill in operating advanced audio equipment make them ideal candidates to dabble into this genre.

Synthetic music, commonly known as synth music, gained its first wave of popularity during the 1970’s. Its characteristic feature is that the sound created is almost exclusively produced through use of a synthesizer. Synth music was initially developed through a technique developed by electrician Robert Moog. Using an electrical signal, a specially designed machine could take sounds, essentially just vibrations that our ears interpret a given way, and warp them into millions of varied outputs. These altered electrical signals create sounds that we hear as unnatural because they are not based on sounds for which we already have a frame of reference, i.e. the sounds of musical instruments or sounds made by birds or mammals. The purpose of a synthesizer is to take these various electrical signals and adjust them to create a sound that has artistic value and can be in a musical piece or for another auditory purpose.

Early synthesizers were able to make minor sound adjustments, but by the 1980’s the machines had developed into portable machines that could take any sound and translate it into the sounds of any instrument. The widespread popularity reached out from the music world and into every home as children topped their Christmas lists with requests for lap-sized synthesizing pianos that could make the sounds of flutes, drums, saxophones, etc. with the press of a button and no knowledge of how to create these sounds on the actual instrument that the ear would interpret.

Music critics were strongly opposed to the often jarring sound of synth music and felt that the electronically produced compilations lacked the ability to initiate an emotional response from the listener. As rock, and later pop, bands brought synth techniques into mainstream hits, synth use continued to grow at a slow and steady pace, but still remained a relatively unpopular as a stand-alone genre. Fans in the UK were the lone exception, and a loyal synth following across the pond has kept producers in the genre going for decades.

By 2010, however, the prevalence of synth music, and the degree to which it was featured in American hits began to surge again. Artists across the mainstream spectrum such as Beyoncé, Ke$ha, Jesse J, Katy Perry, and even Madonna all had chart-topping hits that relied in part on synth sounds.  As music and TV audiences everywhere continue to embrace synth sounds, take on the challenge to try your hand at creating some synth beats.

If you think that creating synth music or working in the area of professional audio engineering may interest you, Broadview Entertainment Arts University has an Associate of Applied Science in Professional Audio Engineering degree that you can complete attending classes full-time in as little as 18 months. In this program, you will learn the exciting fundamentals of audio and visual production including acoustics, signal flow, music theory, and sound design. You will build on these basics and learn audio capture, editing, and mixing for both live and studio productions and will be able to earn your Pro-Tools Certification, an attractive additional to any audio engineering resume. Achieving your Pro-Tools Certification will ensure that you have a full understanding of the features of the program and know how to use them efficiently and effectively to achieve your desired result. Upon achieving certification, you will also have the option to have your name listed in the Avid Pro-Tools Certification database so that individuals seeking a certified audio engineer can locate your credentials.

As a student in BEAU’s Audio Engineering program, you will also get the opportunity to take courses in entertainment business and digital audio workstations. When you graduate, you will be prepared to hit the ground running and to use a digital audio workstation to create, capture, edit, process, and mix sound. Time will be spent developing your skill in producing and curating your professional industry portfolio and ensuring you have functional web presence, an industry expectation for media professionals. With a robust, industry-targeted program like BEAU’s Associate of Applied Science program in Professional Audio Engineering, you can learn a unique skill that allows you to use your creativity on a daily basis.

If you are interested in more information regarding this program or any other degree program at BEAU, contact an admissions counselor.