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Listen: this is what musicians of the '60s and '70s thought the future would sound like

Day 3 - Dubai FFWD Fall/Winter 2016 Photo by Cedric Ribeiro/Getty Images
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

What did the future sound like to previous generations of dreamers?

Spotify user Lana Leprich is attempting to answer that question with a nifty retrofuturist playlist from the past.

Retrofuturism is the trend of looking back at all our previous looks forward. More specifically, it's a celebration of "vintage futurism" — historical attempts to portray the future. Retrofuturism is a major factor in the enduring appeal of B-movies and science fiction from the '50s, art deco design, and cultural futuristic touchstones like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Akira, and Blade Runner.

But whenever we explore our past futurism, the focus is usually visual. It's rare that we stop to examine what the future used to sound like.

Leprich's playlist covers a range of musical styles from the '60s and '70s. The result is an interesting look into not only the sounds that once embodied futurism but also early innovations in audio effects.

For one thing, it offers a taste of just how far-reaching early synthesizer work was — from the astral choral realms of Eduard Artemyev's 1972 theme for Solaris to Beaver & Krause's jazz organ atomic funk to the Space Lady's insistent "Synthesize Me." Even Ursula Bogner's tuba travels to the future were accompanied by a series of synthesized blips and audio signals.

But those songs were just the beginning. The T.O.N.T.O. ("The Original New Timbral Orchestra") in use by Tonto's Expanding Head Band on "Cybernaut" was actually built in a futuristic style. A giant polyphonic synthesizer that took up a whole room, it was modeled after the bridge of a starship and inspired by the design of Buckminster Fuller's futuristic geodesic domes.

Elsewhere, Perrey and Kingsley probably weren't envisioning how close we'd one day come to identifying microbial life on Mars when they wrote about little Martians as part of The In Sound From Way Out!, their album of "electronic pop music of the future." But lucky for us, even if we don't ever get to meet Marvin or any of his fictional siblings, we'll always have music like this from the past to remind us to keep looking forward.

Listen to the whole playlist above or on Spotify.