Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Electronic art music
Electronic "art" music is a regrettably vague term for the formal and primarily academic branch of electronic music that is focused on extending musical capabilities through technology. Electronic art music suffers from naming difficulties similar to those associated with the terms "contemporary music" and "modern classical music" (modern music composed in the traditions of classical music.)
When electronic techniques first came to be used for musical purposes, the experimental field was fully contained within the term "Electronic music". Many of these early electronic compositions drew widespread interest, but little enthusiasm. Beginning in the 1960s, however, electronic techniques and instruments were embraced by popular musicians, eventually leading to more mainstream styles that also came to be embraced under the umbrella of "electronic music". Although both forms are still referred to as "electronic music" by their respective adherents, the term "art music" is generally used to specify the less mainstream of the two branches.
Electronic musical instruments date from the late 19th century. The futurists, Russolo and others, made crude electronic sound generators that were operated with hand cranks. Yves Klein, Marcel duChamp and other early 20th century surrealist artists experimented freely and publicly with electronic and unconventional musical works.
During the 1920s, at public demonstrations of the Theremin Clara Rockmore frequently used the instrument to play violin parts for popular classical pieces. But it was not until the 1940s that they were adopted as a tool for the creation of non-traditional music.
The foundations of modern electronic "art" music (hereinafter referred to simply as "electronic music") lie in the developing musical sensibilities of early 20th century symphonic music. Perhaps the most direct lineage can be drawn from the music of composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, who felt that contemporary music had begun to exhaust its potential, and that musicians would have to break away from the constraints of tradition before the art could advance. This belief was widely adopted amongst the musical avante-garde, and led to the exploration of atonality as a means to exceed the limits of classical harmony.
Although atonality was refined to a great degree, some musicians felt that the simple use of traditional symphonic instruments was a serious limitation. It was the development of the tape recorder and musique concrète that alerted the musical community to the potential of electronic music as a means to surpass the limitations that were imposed by the use of traditional musical instruments.
Concrete itself can be compared to a sonic collage, in which various natural and man-made sounds are spliced, mixed and looped on the tape recorder to form an integrated "piece". One notable characteristic of Concrete that drew strong interest was that with Concrete, the final product and the musical "score" are one and the same. As a result, there are no additional layer of abstraction and interpretation (such as a musical score, musicians or a conductor) between the composer and the "orchestra". This concept intrigued many experimental composers, many of whom soon adopted the technique.
Much electronic music composition of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s was accomplished at American and European universities, where large, expensive, state of the art electronic synthesizers and music systems were installed. Whilst composers like Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass explored repetitive minimalism, other composers produced odd assemblages of noises that were highly unusual, even startling, but very alien to traditional melodic, rhythmic, and organizational concepts.
Blurps, beeps, squawks, rumblings, gurglings, almost cartoonish types sounds were common fare and could not be classified as "songs" or "concertos" in any conventional sense. These mid-20th century electronic compositions do not bear much resemblance to most electronica, rave, techno, trance, or chill musics developed since the 1980s. However much modern electronic music in these areas has been influenced deeply by this mid-20th century works, even if they sound nothing like them. Near cousins of this highly experimental electronic music might be the "industrial noise" music of bands like Lt. Caramel, Zoviet France, dadaist art ensembles and some of the more experimental musicians working in IDM and glitch music areas such as Autechre.
Notable electronic art musicians
- Luigi Russolo although his Intonarumori noise generators were not electronic, he foresaw the use of Noise and electric instruments
- John Cage possibly the first to use "found sounds" in compostions; he made use of radios and gramophones
- Pierre Schaeffer revered father of Musique Concrète
- Pierre Henry worked with Schaeffer and independently in early Concrète experiments
- Edgard Varèse constantly searched for new sounds; pioneer of tape music
- Iannis Xenakis pioneered stochastic tape music
- Vladimir Ussachevsky early tape music at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center
- Otto Luening early tape music at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center
- Mario Davidovsky yet another pioneer from the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center
- James Tenney musical theorist, composed early works for computer
- Paul Lansky a pioneer of computer music
- Milton Babbitt of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, created pioneering works with the RCA synthesizer
- Karlheinz Stockhausen pioneered the use of "Klang Elektronische" in works such as Kontakte and Mantra
- David Rosenboom biofeedback pioneer, founder and Director of the Electronic Media Studios and Laboratory of Experimental Aesthetics
- Jean-Claude Risset inventor of the continuous Risset scale
- Oskar Sala helped to develop the Trautonium, provided soundtrack sounds for Alfred Hitchcock film "The Birds"
- Daphne Oram invented Oramics device that produced electronic sounds via masks and light
- Luciano Berio co-founded the Studio di Fonologia, an electronic music studio in Milan
- Pauline Oliveros EIS: Extended Instrument System, used electrically amplified brain waves to trigger acoustic percussive instruments
- Raymond Scott invented the sequencer and other early synthesizing instruments, such as the Clavivox and Electronium
- Morton Subotnick helped develop and composed works for the Buchla synthesizer, later making use of the "Ghost Box" and innovative computer techniques
- Wendy Carlos formerly known as Walter Carlos, helped develop and make famous the Moog synthesizer, later pioneering the use of Synergy and other early digital synthesizers
- Jean-Jacques Perrey composed pioneering works for tape, Ondioline (of which he was a salesman), and Moog synthesizer
- Gershon Kingsley gave the first live performance of synthesized music with his Moog Quartet, later pioneering the use of the Synclavier and Fairlight digital synthesizers
- Peter Thomas made early use of Moog synthesizers, vocoders, and invented the Thomwiphon synthesizer
- Isao Tomita the Walter Carlos of Japan, recorded synthesized versions of classical works
- The Silver Apples American electronica band, invented the "Simon" synthesizer
- Tangerine Dream one of the first electronic bands, used tape effects and later synthesizers
- Brian Eno originally famous as a glam rock star, he pioneered (but did not invent) Ambient music
- Kraftwerk carefully straddling the border between electronic art and electronic pop, they are credited with inventing Techno
See also: sonology
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