We’re kicking off Giving Tuesday early this year! Your donation today will be matched up to $10K, doubling your impact! If you donate $50 today, the Reader will receive $100.

The Reader is now a community-funded nonprofit newsroom. Can we count on your support to help keep us publishing?

  • Ruth White

Early electronic-music composer Ruth White, born in Pittsburgh in 1925, doesn’t enjoy the posthumous celebrity of her UK counterparts Delia Derbyshire or Daphne Oram, probably because she spent the bulk of her career, from the mid-50s onward, making educational recordings—among the helpful characters she devised were Mr. Windbag (who debuted in 1974 with his adventures in Metric Land) and Professor Whatzit & Carmine Cat.

On the other hand, she was also one of a tiny handful of students ever taken on by avant-garde composer George Antheil, most famous for his Ballet Mecanique, whose ensemble included multiple synchronized player pianos and three airplane engines (and somewhat less famous for developing a frequency-hopping torpedo-guidance system with actress Hedy Lamarr). In the late 60s and early 70s she made three fiercely experimental albums, including 1969’s Flowers of Evil, which accompanied her radically processed voice—reciting her own unrhymed translations of Baudelaire’s poetry—with multiple layers of synth and tape. Today’s 12 O’Clock Track, “The Litanies of Satan,” sounds like an occult ceremony conducted by Daleks.