jahsonic.com - [Next >>]

Electronic music

Parent categories: electronic - music

Artists: Kraftwerk - Wendy Carlos - Perrey and Kingsley

Bibliography: Modulations (2000) - Peter Shapiro

Related: ambient - dance music - drum machines - electro - electronica - electronic art music - electronic dance music - electropop - house - industrial music - Moog - musique concrète - synth pop - techno - trance

Electronic has been around for much of the twentieth century but only entered into the mainstream of popular music with eighties dance music such as house and techno. Since then dance music has almost invariably been electronic. [Aug 2006]

Silver Apples (1968) - Silver Apples [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Pierre Schaeffer in 1952

The TB-303 was a synthesizer/sequencer produced by the Roland corporation in 1982 and 1983 that had a crucial role in the development of contemporary electronic music. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_TB-303 [Apr 2005]


Electronic music is a loose term for music created using electronic equipment. Any sound produced by the means of an electrical signal may reasonably be called electronic, and the term is sometimes used that way -- in music where acoustic performance is the norm, even the introduction of electronic amplifiers may touch off discussions of electronic music (jazz and folk music, for example, have gone through a good deal of argument about the topic).

As a category of criticism and marketing, however, electronic music refers to music produced largely by electronic components, such as synthesizers, samplers, computers, and drum machines. Theoretically, the music could include any of an array of other "instruments". Also see computer music. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_music [Oct 2004]


  1. http://www.phinnweb.org/history/


Late 19th century early 20th century

The earliest purely electronic instrument was the Teleharmonium or Telharmonium, developed by Thaddeus Cahill in 1897. Simple inconvenience hindered the adoption of the Teleharmonium: the instrument weighed seven tons and was the size of a boxcar. The first practical electronic instrument is often viewed to be the Theremin, invented by Professor Leon Theremin circa 1919 - 1920. Another early electronic instrument was the Ondes Martenot, which was used in the Turangalîla Symphony by Olivier Messiaen

Post-war years: 1940s to 1950s

In the years following World War II, Electronic music was embraced by progressive composers, and was hailed as a way to exceed the limits of traditional instruments. Modern Electronic composition is considered to have begun in force with the development of musique concrète and tape recorders in 1948, only to rapidly evolve with the creation of early analog synthesizers. The first pieces of musique concrète were written by Pierre Schaeffer, who later worked alongside such avant garde classical composers as Pierre Henry, Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Stockhausen has worked for many years as part of Cologne's Studio for Electronic Music combining electronically generated sounds with conventional orchestras. Other well-known composers in this field include Edgar Varese and Steve Reich. (See the main article on Electronic art music for more information.)

At the Radiophonic Workshop, the sound special effects unit of the BBC, Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire created one of the first electronic signature tunes for television as the theme music for Doctor Who. A short OGG file sample of this can be found here.

1960s to late 1970s

Although electronic music began in the world of classical (or "art") composition, within a few years it had been adopted into popular culture with varying degrees of enthusiasm. In the 1960s, Walter Carlos (now Wendy Carlos) popularized early synthesizer music with two notable albums The Well Tempered Synthesiser and Switched On Bach, which took pieces of baroque classical music and reproduced them on Moog synthesizers.

As technology developed, and synthesizers became cheaper, more robust and portable, they were adopted by many rock bands. Examples of relatively early adopters in this field are bands like The United States of America, The Silver Apples and Pink Floyd, and although not all of their music was primarily electronic (with the notable exception of The Silver Apples), much of the resulting sound was dependent upon the synthesised element. In the 1970s, this style was mainly popularised by Kraftwerk, who used electronics and robotics to symbolise and sometimes gleefully celebrate the alienation of the modern technological world; to this day their music remains uncompromisingly electronic.

In jazz, amplified acoustic instruments and synthesizers were mixed in a series of influential recordings by Weather Report. Joe Zawinul, the synthesizer player in that group, has continued to field ensembles of the same kind. The noted jazz pianist Herbie Hancock with his band the Headhunters in the 1970s also introduced jazz listeners to a wider palette of electronic sounds including the synthesizer, which he further explored with even more enthusiasm on the Future Shock album, a collaboration with producer Bill Laswell in the 1980s, which spawned a pop hit "Rockit" in 1983.

Musicians such as Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno, Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre, the Japanese composers Isao Tomita, Kitaro also popularised the sound of electronic music. The film industry also began to make extensive use of electronic music in soundtracks; an example of a film whose soundtrack is heavily dependent upon this is Stanley Kubrick's film of Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange.

The score for Forbidden Planet had used an electronic score in 1956 and, once electronic sounds became a more common part of popular recordings, other science fiction films such as Blade Runner and the Alien series of movies began to depend heavily for mood and ambience upon the use of electronic music and electronically derived effects. Electronic groups were also hired to produce entire soundtracks, in the same way as other popular music stars.

Late 1970s to late 1980s

In the late 1970s and early 1980s there was a great deal of innovation around the development of electronic music instruments. Analogue synthesisers largely gave way to digital synthesisers and samplers. Early samplers, like early synthesisers, were large and expensive pieces of gear -- companies like Fairlight and New England Digital sold instruments that cost upwards of $100,000. In the mid 1980s, this changed with the development of low cost samplers. From the late 1970s onward, much popular music was developed on these machines. Groups like Heaven 17, Severed Heads, The Human League, Yaz, The Art of Noise, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and New Order developed entirely new ways of making popular music by electronic means.

The natural ability for music machines to make stochastic, non-harmonic, staticky noises led to a genre of music known as industrial music led by pioneering groups such as Throbbing Gristle (which commenced operation in 1975) Wavestar and Cabaret Voltaire. Some artists, like Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, and Severed Heads, took some of the adventurous innovations of musique concrète and applied them to mechanical dance beats. Others, such as Test Department, Einstürzende Neubauten, took this new sound at face value and created hellish electronic compositions. Meanwhile, other groups (Robert Rich, :zoviet*france:, rapoon) took these harsh sounds and melded them into evocative soundscapes. Still others (Front 242, Skinny Puppy) combined this harshness with the earlier, more pop-oriented sounds, forming electronic body music (EBM).

Allied with the growing interest in electronic and industrial music were artists working in the realm of dub music. Notable in this area was producer Adrian Sherwood whose On-U Sound record label in the 1980s was responsible for integrating the industrial and noise aesthetic with tape and dub production with artists such as the industrial-funk outfit Tackhead, vocalist Mark Stewart and others. This paved the way for much of the 1990s interest in dub, first through bands such as Meat Beat Manifesto and later downtempo and trip hop producers such as Kruder & Dorfmeister.

Recent developments: 1980s to early 2000s

The development of the techno sound in Detroit and house music in Chicago in the early to late 1980s, and the later UK-based acid house movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s all fuelled the development and acceptance of electronic music into the mainstream and to introduce electronic dance music to nightclubs. Electronic composition can create rhythms faster and more precise than is possible using traditional percussion. The sound of electronic dance music often features electronically altered sounds (samples) of traditional instruments and vocals. See dance music.

The falling price of suitable equipment has meant that popular music has increasingly been made electronically. Artists such as Bjork and Moby have further popularized variants of this form of music within the mainstream. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_music [Oct 2004]

Silver Apples (1968) - Silver Apples

  1. Silver Apples (1968) - Silver Apples [Amazon.com]

    The Silver Apples made electronic music in a rock music idiom in the late 1960s. The name was derived from a W. B. Yeats poem, which incidentally lent its name to the album Silver Apples of the Moon, a 1967 electronic composition created by Morton Subotnick on the Buchla synthesizer. They disbanded after two records, and then reformed in the late 1990s. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Silver_Apples [Mar 2006]

    Amazon review:
    Oft-sampled electronic pop pioneers the Silver Apples released two exceptionally influential, off-kilter records in 1968 and '69, then apparently vanished. The group was formed in New York City in the psychedelic heyday of 1967 by drummer Danny Taylor and protosynth player Simeon, who quaintly named his hand-built instrument the Simeon. Taylor was a powerhouse of polyphony and his looping, loping playing is the engine that drives the Apples' experimental music, characterized by snippets of found sound, weird and warbly high-pitched singing, stray banjos, and--most importantly--the battering, buzzing, bleeping beauty of the Simeon synth. The two albums are a bizarre, sincere mixture of avant-garde sensibilities, pop melodies, folk-psyche song structures, overwrought poetry, and hefty percussion. It is difficult-to-describe, signature music that ranks high alongside the most forward-thinking avant-prog. The group got back together in the mid-'90s, spurred on by the enthusiasm that many acts showed for their music (the group has been name-checked and more by Spacemen 3, Low, and Stereolab). But as is often the case, the reunion records just don't quite cut it--this one CD has everything you need. Lazy electronic musicians are encouraged to sample the heck out of this band; you won't be the first. --Mike McGonigal for Amazon.com

    See also: electronic music

    your Amazon recommendations - Jahsonic - early adopter products

    Managed Hosting by NG Communications