Electronic Art Music

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Electronic art music
Stylistic origins: 20th century classical music
Cultural origins: 1940s – 1950s
Typical instruments: synthesizer, tape loops (in latter incarnations were
added sequencer, keyboard, sampler, computer)
Mainstream popularity: small
Subgenres: electroacoustic, musique concrète, noise, electroacoustic improvisation

Electronic music has existed, in various forms, for more than a century. Between the time that recording sounds was first made possible and the computer technology of today, a vast amount of change has occurred. Technology has been developed for creating sounds, for recording sounds, composing, and for altering sounds. Some technology involved electronics, but some important conceptual changes that did not depend on electronics still had a profound impact on the advent of electronic music.
The experimentation with technology was occurring in many countries simultaneously, sometimes for different purposes. Throughout the last century, musicians, artists, scientists, inventors, and businesspeople each had interest in the progress of technology, and cross-pollination was and continues to be quite common. For this reason, part of the history necessarily includes advances in other fields.


As musicians, it is notable that some of the finest musicians and most highly acclaimed institutions are largely responsible for the progress made in the field of electronic music. This is not an isolated crowd; rather, it includes celebrities such as Stokowski, Boulez, Stockhausen, and institutions including Columbia University, Princeton University, and Stanford University, as well as many highly active and advanced studios in Europe. The beginnings of true electronic music were received with such profound appreciation. Time Magazine and the Today show featured the experimental composers and their works, an indication that they were well-received by conventional musicians.
The people involved in electronic music today still come from many different directions, and not solely from conventional classical, or art music academia. This fact may be part of the reason that classically trained performers have less awareness of electronic music than would be warranted considering its history. These classical performers tend to still be taught pre-20th Century and early 20th Century music, and the latter half of the century is largely ignored. As one can deduce from a brief look at the history of electronic music, the progress represents a natural course, a continuum, of progress of classical music. Many believe as flutist Patricia Spencer does, that the exploration of electronic instruments represents “the development of a new instrument.” [17]
Its inclusion in the current pedagogy is quite appropriate; in fact, one would be ill advised to exclude teaching this music, seeing as it represents the current trend and profoundly affects the future of classical music. Proponents of electronic music today understand the importance of knowing the history, as exemplified in this statement by flutist Elizabeth McNutt, “A knowledge of the history brings greater understanding, and we are more forgiving.” [18]
Mario Davidovsky, one of the most important living figures involved in electronic music, describes the effect electronic music had on his acoustic writing:
…and then when I would return to write chamber music and orchestral music, I was incredibly influenced by all these new ideas of how sound could behave.
He also understands this music to have a large impact on all contemporary composers:
We can say that 20th Century music has been greatly influenced by electronic music, whether the composers were using electronic instruments or not. [19]


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