Just Can’t Get Enough: Synth-Pop and Its Legacies

Just Can’t Get Enough: Synth-Pop and Its Legacies
Editors: Geoff Stahl, Nabeel Zuberi & Holly Kruse

If one were to nominate a pivotal moment for synth-pop, 1978 is a strong contender: Kraftwerk switches on /Die Mensch-Maschine/; Gary Numan’s group Tubeway Army and the Yellow Magic Orchestra release their debut albums; The Human League, Japan, The Normal (AKA Daniel Miller of Mute Records) and Telex release their first singles; two lads from Liverpool eschew their guitars for synths and a tape machine and form Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark; the group Berlin forms in Los Angeles, Duran Duran in Birmingham, and Soft Cell begins to record in Leeds. In the late 1970s and 1980s, the sound of synthesisers, sequencers and drum machines becomes an indelible part of the pop soundscape, manifested in music-making across the globe. Synth-pop is a loose rubric that includes DIY electronic music, post-punk and sounds shot through with the tropes of futurism and dystopia during the Cold War and early neoliberalism that Mark Fisher has called “the eerie.” Synth-pop also refers to melodic hits and chart toppers such as those by a-ha, Bronski Beat, The Buggles, Eurythmics, New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Tears for Fears, Ultravox, Visage and Yazoo. This collection aims to cover synth-pop broadly defined, considering everything between its most rough-hewn and naive forms to its glossier, sophisticated incarnations. Along these lines, this collection aims to map out the distinctive synth-pop sound, its imagery and its global circuits, from its early experimental days to how its aesthetics have been recollected and refashioned in the decades since. We are particularly interested in contributions that counter synth-pop’s white, male hegemony and explore the genre beyond the Anglo/American axis.

Areas to consider might include the following:

  • Gender and sexualities
  • Synth-pop as dance music
  • Technologies
  • Ideological conflicts and tensions (synth-pop vs rock, technology
    vs. virtuosity, style vs substance, artifice vs. authenticity)
  • Tropes (industrialism and post-industrialism, automation and robots,
    futurism, totalitarianism, urbanism, orientalism)
  • DIY politics and sonic aesthetics
  • Synth-pop’s transnational migrations and influences
  • Genres (cold wave, dark wave, minimal wave, vapour wave)
  • Synth-pop on screen (video clips, documentaries, feature films,
    television, advertising, video games)
  • Fashion and make-up
  • Formats and media (cassette cultures, 12-inch singles, zines)
  • Archiving and reviving (labels such as Dark Entries, Minimal Wave
    and Discom)
  • Remediations and revisitations (social media, YouTube, blogs like
    Crispy Nuggets, streaming)
  • Proto-synth-pop progenitors and precursors (Laurie Anderson, RD
    Burman, Wendy Carlos, Suzanne Ciani, Delia Derbyshire, Brian Eno,
    Bruce Haack, Jean-Michel Jarre, Giorgio Moroder, William Onyeabor,
    Daphne Oram, Perrey & Kingsley, Raymond Scott, Silver Apples,
    Suicide, Vangelis)

As well as abstracts for chapters of 5000-6000 words, we also welcome abstracts for alternative contributions, along the lines of shorter think pieces, or interviews with significant synth-pop figures. Abstracts should be 250-300 words and can be submitted (tosynthpop2023 /at/ gmail.com) . Deadline for abstracts: January 16^th , 2023.
Intended publication date: 2024.