Colin McSwiggen at n+1:
From roughly the mid-1910s until the end of the 1930s, a handful of Russian engineers and artists took it upon themselves to remake the practice of music in the image of a revolutionary utopia. In contrast to the better-remembered Prokofiev and Shostakovich, these inventors were mostly outsiders to formal musical traditions, and they believed that the future of music lay not in new compositional styles, but in new technologies for the production of sound.
What they created was astonishing, not only in its novelty but in its quantity and scale. Many of their more outlandish ideas never saw fruition: an organ powered by an entire factory, an electro-acoustic orchestra mounted on a fleet of airplanes. But they successfully fashioned a great number of unprecedented devices, from synthesizers to proto-samplers, with technology that predated magnetic tape let alone the integrated circuit. Many of their conceptual developments—methods for synthesizing speech, models of the physics of musical instruments, theoretical descriptions of the idiosyncrasies of live performers—would have been at home in the technological landscape of the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s.