Switched On: The Dawn of Electronic Sound by Latin American Women
• Edited by: Luis Alvarado and Alejandra Cárdenas •

Review by Marta Salogni

If you can’t see it around you, how do you know it’s possible, how do you know if it even exists?
If a sound is not heard, is it still a sound?
If it’s not recorded, is it forgotten?
And will somebody, one day, question whether it ever existed?

Documenting the minority has always felt like a duty to me. It’s a form of activism and a revolutionary act against the version of the story written by only one part of society, which is the side of the gatekeepers, the ruling and owning class, the ones that wrote history as they think they saw it — through their eyes, their ears, their tongues. The unveiling of new sides of the prism we call history has taken an important turn in recent years, thanks to the work of dedicated modern heroes like the authors of Switched On, who shine a light through that prism to show us what we’ve been missing out on.

The history of music has been dominated by white male presence, and the history of early electronic music in particular is no different. The majority of publications about the matter have concentrated on the works by a handful of male creators, saluted as the geniuses who set the scene for the dawn of electronic sounds to become a field of study and listening. But that belief, or better, that side of the story, is lacking the deeper nuances of the movement of women pioneers behind the birth of lots of the most exciting, experimental and fundamental early electronic works, which paved the way for music as we know it today.

Some of the examples of these women pioneers are more known than others, since in the last few years more efforts have been made to bring them into the spotlight. Most of them have been examples taken from the Western world, the world which is perhaps the easiest to dive into due to the number of publications already in existence.There hasn’t previously been a book that focused on the side of the story from a non-western, non-male perspective, about this subject.

All these reasons are why this book is such an essential read.

Switched On: The Dawn of Electronic Sound by Latin American Women is a rare gem:

Not only because of the light it shines, but also because it’s shining from the perspective of sound creators themselves. An ‘intergenerational dialogue’ as the foreword puts it, looking both at the past, the future, and their context.

My favourite quote reads:

My works are all against oblivion. Because that’s terrible: when you forget something, it disappears.

– Leni Alexander –


‘Switched On: The Dawn of Electronic Sound by Latin American Women‘ is published by Contingent Sounds. We have a few copies for sale in the Heavenly Recordings Bandcamp store.

Marta Salogni is an Italian born, Grammy nominated recording engineer, producer and mixer working from her own Studio Zona, in London.