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joseph kelly and the deep structure of techno

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Joseph Kelly was a maverick scientist who, 40 years before the development of computer devices capable of processing musical sounds, first posited the idea that all music is techno, and began to seek formulae that would allow him to calculate the techno within different kinds of music. His vision was that Science would expose the deep structure of all music, and would thus be able to derive new and theoretically perfect musical forms.

Joseph Kelly's Tree of Techno diagram
Joseph Kelly's Tree of Techno diagram (enlarged to show genres of music developed after Kelly's death)

Kelly was also a pioneer of having a crafty toke as an alternative to getting violently pissed up on lager, but in the repressive climate of 20th century Britain he was persecuted for his beliefs and his lifestyle. This ultimately resulted in his tragic suicide in the cells of Lewisham Police Station in 1963, and Kelly did not live to see his dream realised.

Joseph Kelly formula
An excerpt from the details of Kelly's original paper on the Grand Unified Theory of All Techno, 1957

The legacy of his work, however, lived on. Kelly's genius inspired a generation of students who, with access to vastly superior research tools, fast computers, and skunk, were able to work out the details of the formulae which Kelly had sketched in the 1950s and 60s - and, crucially, to apply them to real music in real time.
  • In 1984 Atkins, Fowlkes, May and Saunderson (a research team based in North America) published reports of musical forms approaching theoretical perfection, based on the application of Kelly's ideas to contemporary non-techno musical forms such as funk and European synth pop. They eventually produced Techno's famous D-type, or Detroit, variant.
  • This research was followed within only a few years by the publication, by Hawtin et al., of G2M-variant (2nd generation minimal) techno.
  • Further research in the UK by scientists such as Goldie, Fabio and Grooverider applied variations of Kelly's formula to jazz and reggae, resulting in the isolation of a stable form of D/B-type techno (drum/bass variant).
  • Meanwhile the HBP (hard banging party) techno variant was developed in mainland Europe by academics such as Picotto (1989 - present) and Liebing (1992 - present).
The Museum's Curator, Donald Wiltshire, has developed a recursive version of Kelly's formula which we believe has allowed us to isolate techno in its purest form: mathematically perfect techno. And Professor Carl Loftus has successfully adapted Kelly's formulae to restore the techno basslines of music recorded prior to the discovery of bass in 1960s Jamaica.
Picture of Joseph Kelly
Joseph Kelly at Cambridge, where he first developed his Grand Unified Theory of All Techno. Photograph taken in 1951.
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