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Unit XXV – The New Music. Chapter 79 Technology and Music. The Technological Revolution. Electronic music The most important development in art music of the 1950s and 60s The emergence of electronic music takes place in 3 stages Magnetic tape recording The development of synthesizers

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Unit xxv the new music l.jpg

Unit XXV – The New Music

Chapter 79

Technology and Music

Brian Bondari


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The Technological Revolution

  • Electronic music

    • The most important development in art music of the 1950s and 60s

  • The emergence of electronic music takes place in 3 stages

    • Magnetic tape recording

    • The development of synthesizers

    • The digital revolution


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Stage 1: Magnetic Tape Recording

  • Much more flexible method of recording sounds than the lacquer-disc recording that had been used previously

  • 1947 – a group of technicians at a Paris radio station, led by Pierre Schaeffer, experimented with what they called musique concrète

    • Music made up of natural sounds that were altered by changing the playback speed

    • Tape could be cut and spliced into new sound combinations


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Stage 1: Magnetic Tape Recording

  • The possibility of using artificially generated sound soon presented itself

    • A wide variety of sound equipment came into use

  • Studios for the production of tape music sprang up in America and Europe

    • Composers could alter pitch, volume, play the tape backwards, add reverberations, filter out overtones, spice, overdub, etc.

      • It might take hours to process only a minute or two of music


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Stage 2: Synthesizers

  • Synthesizers combine sound generators and sound modifiers in one package with a unified control system

    • They can generate completely new sounds or combinations of sounds, with an infinite variety of pitches, durations, timbres, dynamics, and rhythmic patterns

  • The 1st was the RCA Electronic Music Synthesizer – 1955


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Stage 2: Synthesizers

  • The synthesizer represents an enormous step forward in electronic music composition

  • Karlheinz Stockhausen (b. 1928)

    • Wrote 2 Electronic Studies (1953-54) built entirely from electronic sounds

    • Song of the Youths (Gesang der Jünglinge, 1956)

      • For vocal and synthesized sounds

Karlheinz Stockhausen


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Stage 3: The Digital Revolution

  • Digital circuits developed for computer systems have been adapted and refined for use in music

    • Including MIDI communication standards, synthesis, sampling, and signal processing


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Stage 3: The Digital Revolution

  • Composers now have the ability to manipulate pitch, timbre, duration, volume, etc.

  • Composers can create a virtual orchestra with a computer

    • The computer converts a string of binary numbers to an electrical signal that can be pushed through speakers

      • This process is known as digital-to-analog conversion


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Stage 3: The Digital Revolution

  • Virtual Modeling

    • Allows composers to use mathematical models to emulate and forecast the process by which real instruments produce sounds

    • Hybrid models can be made to create instruments that only exist in theory

      • Such as a “bowed trombone”


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Important Figures in Electronic Music

  • Edgard Varèse

    • 1883-1965

    • A pioneer of electronic music

    • Poème electronique, 1958

      • Commissioned for a sound and light show at a Brussels World Fair pavilion


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Mario Davidovsky

  • B. 1934

  • Liked to mix electronic music with live music

  • Synchronisms, 1963-88

    • Dialogues for soloinstrument and prerecorded tape


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Milton Babbitt

  • B. 1916

  • First to recognize the possibilities of electronic music

  • Did not think that the synthesizer should replace the live musician

    • Liked to combine electronic music and live performers

      • Philomel, 1964

      • Phonemena, 1974


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Pauline Oliveros

  • B. 1932

  • Helped found the San Francisco Tape Center

  • Known for her experiments with live electronic music, in which sounds are generated and manipulated during a performance

    • Sonic Meditations, 1971-1974

    • The Roots of the Moment, 1988

Pauline and her favorite instrument


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Paul Lansky

  • B. 1944

  • A pioneer in digital sound synthesis

  • Fully embraced computer-assisted composition

    • Idle Chatter, 1985

      • Just_more_idle_chatter, 1987

      • Notjustmoreidlechatter, 1988


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