Who started with electronic music?

Electronic music

Electronic music was at the beginning of the conceptual history a composition method that was mentioned for the first time in 1949 by Werner Meyer-Eppler[1] and in which primarily or exclusively sound generators whose sounds have been generated electronically should be used. Over time, the term became more and more used for every way of dealing with electronic instruments in music, thus as Generic term, interpreted and is generally recognized as such today. Electronic amplification is not one of them, but in the field of electroacoustic music.[2] In the time before Meyer-Eppler's first mention, this music, which developed in the context of radio and television broadcasts, was often too Electric music called.

Notes on the story

-> for computer music see timeline history of computer music and surroundings.

Electronic music was initially considered by Edgar Varèse, later by Iannis Xenakis or Karlheinz Stockhausen and many others Electroacoustic music develops what is itself a controversial category term.[3] Electronic musical instruments enjoy in the reception serious music to this day by far not the reputation of acoustic instruments. The first acceptances of so-called new parameter In sentence theory (even if not yet the official one), after Joseph Schillinger's efforts to place all music under the dictum of mathematics, Werner Meyer-Eppler's influence in the mid-1950s (see also Schillinger system). Schillinger's compositional system continues to exert a clear influence on musical developments not only in the listening variants of electronic music. Meyer-Eppler himself pursued a type of authentic music in which composers could also be interpreters.[4] With the development of electronic music, the usual separation between interpreters and composers was actually abolished, which subsequently gave popular music an undreamt-of boost and enabled a previously unknown level of musical freedom.

The first electronic music to incorporate existing instruments, Ondes Martinot, Trautonium, Theremin, etc., into an orchestrarium of normal instruments, was performed in the period after the Second World War by Paul Hindemith, Olivier Messiaen, Anis Fuleihan and Arthur Honegger. then Karlheinz Stockhausen and Mauricio Kagel. At the beginning of electronic music, as it is understood today, it was found out in the Cologne studio for electronic music that pulses turn into sound from a certain frequency (see also article Soundchip). Since then, a distinction has been made between additive sound synthesis (the combination of sine tones) and subtractive sound synthesis, the filtering of tones from a noise spectrum. At the Institute for Sonography in Utrecht, at the same time as the development of the Moog in the USA, the "variable function generator" was presented in the mid-1960s, a device for using flexible voltages and a forerunner of today's sequencer. In the immediate post-war period, the emerging electronic music was particularly hostile to conservative circles.

Composition methods in modern or contemporary electronic music often require building your own instruments (or software-based applications, for example by laying down stochastic processes) up to the creation of program routines in languages ​​such as ABC, for example. The management and availability of sounds are playing an increasingly interesting role. We can now speak of three generations of electronic music. The I. tried to synthesize sounds, the II. Their availability (presets and music on the Internet) and the III. goes today instead of tones with the main parameter pitch more with surfaces, samples (references) or rooms, for example via Ableton live or using different control options that were increasingly used in the context of the music of the second generation.

Main influences

On the one hand, there has been the concrete music Pierre Schaeffers and their representatives, who worked or work with field recorders and tape recordings, since the 1950s, Schaeffer intended to reverse the direction of composition from the traditional sequence of idea-score-performance (top down) in the direction of a sequence of the concrete to the abstract (bottom up). "In sharp contrast to this, a serially shaped school of thought of electronic music is positioned in Cologne, which the voltage-controlled analog studio and the development of algorithmic composition systems bring with them."[5], Karlheinz Stockhausen and others in the studio for electronic music:

“After Stockhausen started working there in 1953, all electronic instruments such as melochord and trautonium were removed and instead generators (for sine tones, white noise and impulses) and filters from the radio measurement technology were made available. There were also multi-channel tape machines on which the individual sine tone components were painstakingly recorded and mixed with one another. The complex studio technology required careful planning of the composition process, since the sound generation at that time did not take place in real time, but only delivered an audible result as the end result of a multi-stage process. "[6]

Since the 1960s, Minimal Music by Steve Reich and Terry Riley and others was introduced in the USA as an alternative to serial music. John Cage and Pierre Boulez in the field of live electronics, Morton Subotnick and composers from the San Francisco Tape Music Center, as well as Éliane Radigue, Vladimir Ussachevski (tape music and sound synthesis) and Morton Feldman (graphic notation) opened up other ways in the development of electronic music. . David Tudor was one of the earliest performers of experimental electronic music. The Algorithmic Composition by Iannis Xenakis was also developed mainly on stochastic composition principles, spectralism and texturalism also use electronic analysis parameters and deal with the design of overtone series.

Demarcation to Electronic dance music and Electronic pop music

Robert Moog also worked on electronic theremines in the USA from 1953 until he presented the first monophonic synthesizer as a modular system in 1964.[7] After the development of the first affordable synthesizer (the Minimoog), and even more so of the first drum machines (see for example Roland TR-808), a differentiation towards electronic dance music was soon made, the term Electronic music stands mainly since then for the listening and not the dance variant of music made on the basis of oscillators, samples and sound synthesis and not for electronic pop music that is more suitable for the masses. Early electronic instruments, for example the Rhythmicon by Henry Cowell, Leon Theremin and Joseph Schillinger (1931), were able to rhythmically implement the time and length parameters of the music. Pitch was still important until the beginning of the millennium, when new types of pitch functions were able to overcome this obstacle. Nowadays it is also possible to change the tempo without changing the pitch (cf. granular synthesis).

1969 appeared with Popcorn by Gershon Kingsley the first piece of pop music on the market to be produced using electronic music. Electronic pop music builds on the one hand on the processing and handling of samples and digital sound design as well as on the use of analog electronic equipment. The latter as a result of the Psychedelic 60s, which had shown themselves to be particularly open in the development of new and unknown (ethnic) musical techniques and the subsequent Krautrock Klaus Schulzes. The market launch of the Minimoog in 1970 was a notable development. The introduction of the MIDI standard in 1982 for the development of the pop music variant of electronic music could hardly be overestimated. From the mid-1980s, affordable polyphonic synthesizers came onto the market. In the eighties, the digital sound synthesis of the Yamaha DX-7 became particularly popular - the most successful synthesizer of all time, with the appearance of which the synthesizer era, as was often claimed, was basically over. Nevertheless, electronic music is not being replaced by computer music and both develop their own horizons and contexts. In fact, the electronic devices are partly merging with those of computer music.

One of the main exponents of electronically produced music that breaks the boundaries between Electronic music and Electronic pop music Brian Eno, musically also with what he called the ambient ambient, was also blurred by his contacts with both circles. Much complex popular music takes place in the area of ​​extensive interpretation of ambient, drone, etc.

Analog / digital

Electronic music is produced either in analogue or digital form, or as a mixture of both. Analog instruments are, for example, monophonic synthesizers, recordings that exceed the sampling rate (overdubs) can also count as analog. Singing is allowed in electronic music, but if acoustic or acoustically amplified other instruments are added, one speaks of semi-acoustic music. Digital music producers orientate themselves in the Electronic pop music more in line with market standards (also with regard to the choice of instruments) than in the Electronic musicthat is geared towards the development and use of the most up-to-date production methods possible. On the years 1979-84 the popular variant of electronic music is called analog years referenced, that means that at the time mainly pieces were produced and known using analogue equipment.

With the digital representation of an analog sound image, there are no longer any problems worth mentioning. However, software reacts so differently to so-called operating errors (midi errors, for example) than hardware (for example, if the filter potentiometer wobbles) that comparisons generally refer to the “advantages” of hardware in this regard. Hardware is often also more user-friendly, so the results can appear more motivated. The development of interfaces is blurring the boundaries between analog and digital. A fundamental difference is the fundamentally warmer sound image of analog machines, pure software or even chip productions often impress with a brilliant but porous sound image, which many call "hard" and which can also lack pressure due to the strict channel separation. The slightly unclean channel separation in analog tape machines is part of the so-called Tape saturation, which means an overall fatter overall sound on the master tape, but eludes 100% product control (compare the discussion Tape saturation on the talk page). Accordingly, vinyl masters are often designed to make the overall impression of tracks a little brighter, whereas CDmasters are designed to produce a sound that is as warm and powerful as possible.

In the course of the so-called Digital revolution Since the 80s there have been efforts to decouple digital music from the previous reference history of music, which has accelerated the differentiation of virtual musical results (programs, patches and subpatches, plug-ins, programming languages ​​such as pure data, filters, effects) and the Shift of the design question from the real musical shape to the design of oscillators and the like (see article Soundchip) as a result. As a consequence, Nicolas Negroponte has been talking about the post-digital age since 1998; this should not be a counter-movement, but rather the question: How did the Digital revolution dealt with the events and how can the creative potential that was released there be processed and used now (see also article Postdigital).

The difference, for example, between an analog kick drum, such as the kick drum of the Roland TR-808, and a digital one, is that the analog kick drum is able to do "flapp" or "booom", which is called the correct bounce and which is one digital drum base never ever creates, and not even in ten years. Even if an analog is sampled with as high a resolution as possible and all sorts of other tricks are used, it doesn't work.


According to Theodor W. Adorno, electronic music sounds like Webern on the Wurlitzer organ, every note is made by the "Intermediate apparatus embossed".[8]

See also

Computer music, serial music, post-serial music, post-digital, algorithmic composition, neural networks, soundchip, pure data, glitch (stochastics), music on the internet, futurism, spectral music, texturalism, digital vinyl system, KORG MS series (analog synthesizers), Roland TR-808 (drum machines), popular music, composition, musical work, Schillinger system, datamosh, data bending, circuit bending, equipment.

Abbreviation Elektro-, Electro-, Electronica

Electronic dance music, live electronics, electro, electro, electronica, electronics, electro punk / electro punk, electro trash, electro funk, electroclash, dark electro, electro house, electro wave, electro industrial, electronic body music, hardcore electro, minimal electro


  • Werner Meyer-Eppler - Electric sound generation: synthetic speech and electronic music (1949)

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Elena Ungeheuer - How electronic music was invented (1992) [1] at amazon
  2. ↑ As often as a guitar signal is alienated, it starts with the string. The pure or functional amplification is not mentioned in the context of electronic music or is not mentioned beyond a possibly occurring interference signal (distortion or feedback).
  3. ↑ Of course, electronic music is also acoustic, so the term is misleading, especially since almost all music is produced electronically these days. One problem is that in addition to the terms electronic and electroacoustic music, a term for the residual music is missing, traditional music where acoustic music is obviously tautological.
  4. ↑ Gottfried Michael Koenig - Algorithmic composition[2] Lecture series, TU Berlin, WS 2002/2003, November 8th, 2002
  5. ↑ Karlheinz Essl - Changes in electroacoustic music (2007) [3] in the abstract Karlheinz Essl
  6. ↑ ibid., Karlheinz Essl - Changes in electroacoustic music
  7. ↑ Moog History [4] at Moog archives
  8. ↑ A note on the importance of the equipment or the instruments used by: Theodor W. Adorno - Dissonances. Music in the managed world (1958) [5] at Google.books, P. 153

Web links

  • Chronicle of Electronic Music [6] linked with videos Sound house (Collins / D'Escrivan, 2007)
  • Daniel Cioccoloni - Timeline styles and composers of new and contemporary music[7] at Youtube
  • Gottfried Michael Koenig - Serial - electronic - digital. About compositional strategies. (2000) [8]Electronic music / authentic music (at Meyer-Eppler), Experience report from the studio for electronic music in Cologne, 1954 and others, lecture with audience discussion, reading sample at Google.books, P.87ff
  • ryoko700 - High voltage audio[9] at Youtube
  • Herbert Eimert / Robert Beyer - Sound in unlimited space, sound in unlimited space (1952) [10] the first more or less official composition of electronic music Youtube
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen - Study II (1954) [11] the first score for electronic music, at Youtube
  • Marcus Schmickler - About Electronic Music / On Electronic Music (2007) [12] Info text at Vimeo, Uploader: Institute for Music and Media
  • items Electronic music studio[13] at the de.wiki
  • Sinus tone generator [14] Online tone generator, please remember to adjust the volume of the headphones or the system beforehand.
  • Insight into the studio for electronic music in Stockholm in 1974[15] at Youtube
  • Sonja Diesterhöft - Meyer-Eppler and the vocoder (2004) [16] at the TU Berlin
  • Leo Merz - Digital vintage (2007) [17] PDF at roglok.net
  • Tobias Rapp - Musicologist on electronic music. “It looks like Lego bricks.” What does a laptop musician actually do? An interview with the American musicologist Mark Butler about the modular nature of electronic music (2008) [18] at the TAZ
  • Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Acid house from 1958 ... (Dick Raaijmakers) syncopation (1958) [19] at Youtube

Links in January 2020.