electronic music

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

electronic music

electronic music or electro-acoustic music, term for compositions that utilize the capacities of electronic media for creating and altering sounds.

Initially, a distinction must be made between the technological development of electronic instruments and the music conceived to utilize the inherent advantages of these instruments. Experiments in electronic tone production began soon after the invention of the vacuum tube (see electron tube). The first important instrument, the theremin, invented by the Russian Leon Theremin in 1920, used interference beats of two oscillators to produce sine-wave tones. The Ondes Martinot, invented in 1928, and the Trautonium, invented in 1930, were of similar design.

The earliest pieces of electronic music used recorded sounds that were then electronically altered to create sonic collages. This style, called musique concrete, was developed in Paris in 1948 by Pierre Schaeffer. The invention of the tape recorder in the late 1940s gave composers new means for modifying recorded sounds, including splicing (cutting the tape to create new juxtapositions of sound), speed variation (which changes the pitch of the recorded sound), and mixing (which allowed two or more different recordings to be played back at the same time). In popular music, Les Paul was one of the pioneers of electronic music, inventing the first solid-body electric guitar in 1946 and recording music in the 1950s in an eight-track recording studio of his own design.

Controlling aspects of the musical sound by means of voltage regulation eventually led to the invention of synthesizers, devices that could produce and modify sound for musical applications. Among the earliest of these was the RCA synthesizer developed in the late 1950s and used extensively by composer Milton Babbitt in many of his electronic works. In the 1950s various studios that specialized in the production of electro-acoustic music were developed, including the West German Radio Studio in Cologne, associated with composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, the Italian Radio Studio in Milan, associated with Luciano Berio and Bruno Maderna, and the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, associated with Otto Luening, Vladimir Ussachevsky, Mario Davidovsky, and Babbitt.

During the 1960s synthesizers were made widely available by companies such as Moog (see Moog, Robert) and Buchla and found widespread usage in rock music. Popular groups such as the Beatles and the Beach Boys began experiments in multitrack recording, years after the innovations of Paul, that enabled several different recordings to be synchronized on the same tape. Eventually synthesizers switched from voltage control to digital control.

In 1983 the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) standard was agreed on by synthesizer manufacturers (see computer music). This digital code enables different electronic devices to communicate a variety of information to each other and allows computer control of synthesizer output. MIDI can also be used to control a wide range of equipment in addition to synthesizers; these include mixers, lights, and signal processors (devices that modify sounds by adding reverberation, by modifying pitch, and by other means).

Today MIDI is widely used in both academic and popular musical production. In MIDI production, computers are often used as sequencers (devices that control the output of musical instruments and signal processors). Throughout the last three decades of the 20th cent. electronic music increasingly became a part of pop music compositions, eventually allowing a solo artist to compose, produce, and perform music that employs a full complement of instrumental sounds. In the 1980s MIDI was also used in the creation of the radio baton, a new instrument that allows players to control the nuances of the music played.

See P. Manning, Electronic and Computer Music (1985); C. Anderton, The Electronic Musician's Dictionary (1988); H. Russcol, The Liberation of Sound: An Introduction to Electronic Music (1990); F. Rumsey, MIDI Systems and Controls (1990); N. Collins and J. d'Escrivan, The Cambridge Companion to Electronic Music (2007).

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

electronic music
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.