The Gradual Change of Electronic Music

Date: Nov 23, 2018
Category: Art Category


Electronic music is a term used loosely used to refer to a very wide variety of music. Generally, it is used to refer to all music produced with the use of electronic gear. The term electronic gear is used to describe machines or equipment that produce electronic sound. Electronic sound refers to a sound generated through electronic signal (Collins, Schedel, and Wilson). The dictionary defines this music as music generated when electronically fashioned sound is recorded and harmoniously arranged by a musician (composer) to form a pleasant-sounding masterpiece.

How Electronic Music is Being Used in All Sorts of Music

The wide genre of electronic music is specific music that is produced using machines such as computers, drum machines, synthesizers, and samplers. There is a common tendency to loosely refer to this music as techno. The term electronic music is loosely used to refer to music that either sounds ‘electronic’ or music that is produced using computers, synthesizers, or drum machines as opposed to traditional musical instruments. However, it is important to note that techno is only a genre within this wide super-genre. Today, many other genres of music are produced using electronic means. Genres such as hip-hop can be produced using computers, synthesizers, and samplers.

Some music genres such as EDM (Electronic Dance Music) are sound more electronic in nature than others. Additionally, this genre of music is iconic and is associated with the development of synthesizers in the 1970s. The music was made to sound like some classical symphonies. On the one hand, the EDM is astounding and unique and has a characteristic insistent baseline. On the other hand, there is a group of EDM music that deviates significantly from this general characteristic. However, the EMD is sometimes seen as a signature genre of electronic music alongside techno.

Later on in the 1990s, there was a general fracturing of the EDM genre when many other sub-genres and styles came up. This was accompanied by refinement of synthesizers, samplers, and computers such that even better sounding electronic music could be synthesized. Other styles of music could be remixed as well; for instance, house music is viewed as remix of various styles of pop using electronic devices. Remixing can concern the music itself or the style (Butler 98).

In general, electronic music, including the EDM, techno, and house music, has over time gained popularity with clubs. Other newer forms such as Korean pop are also being utilized in clubs and at parties. As of 2010, electronic music was the major type of music played in clubs, discotheques, and a wide variety of party places. This is the primary reason why this super-genre of music has earned itself the name ‘club music’. This term is seen to vaguely represent the music that is played in club, a bulk of which is electronic music with close resemblance to the EDM, techno, house music, K-pop, disco, and funk among others.

It is very important to note that a distinction between what can be or should be electronic music is not clear. Some music genres that are not electronically generated have many attributes similar to electronic music. However, electronic equipment is nowadays used to produce musical genres that are traditionally known to be non-electronic. Both groups of music may share a very wide range of characteristics until it becomes a challenge to differentiate them. For instance, the class called club music is thought to encompass majorly electronic music, but in reality it may contain a large bulk of music that is not electronically generated. Generalization can be attributed only to close resemblance either in audio characteristics or intended clientele.

A good example of the above is that 2006 and the following years saw a lot of hip-hop music being played in clubs. Among this music was electronic music, while the rest of bulk was hip-hop. The majority of people generalized this music as electronic music, while others went as far as terming it as the EDM. At any particular time, club goers like music that is most popular and, therefore, the term ‘club music’ has a very variable meaning. The EDM is made from electronic source and together with other genres of electronic music is sometimes called club music because of the energy. For instance, a sub-genre of electronic music made and used in South Korea is characterized by an extensive use of visual elements in videos and high energy among dancers. Like other forms of the EDM, this music is performed with lots of energy and is very famous in clubs, at parties, and in other rave places.

The History of Electronic Music

The history of electronic music is rather long although relatively short compared to other kinds of music produced using organic sounds. Electronic music dates back to 1897. The device used at that time was an electromechanical machine that produced a range of inorganic hums. Later, purely electronic machines were used to synthesize music. At these early times, inventors of these machines tried to compose music using their newly formed machines. They are seen as composers for the purpose of this paper.

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The machines used were electromechanical although the sound they produced was deemed electronic. One of such machines is the Dynamaphone (Talharmonium) that was assembled by Thaddeaus Cahill in 1902. This device was heavy and cumbersome and weighed 200 tons. It was made of dynamos that were used to produce differently pitched hums. The difference in sounds was due to the difference in speeds of the dynamos. What was produced by this machine was thought to be music and was transmitted using telephone lines. The human input in either ‘playing’ this instrument or composing music is very minimal. A major characteristic of electronic music produced in this age was that human input was very minimal unlike modern electronic instruments. This characteristic is seen again in the vacuum amplifier made in 1906 by Lee DeForest. The instrument was named a triode vacuum tube that amplified electronic sound signals.

These musicians are however seen to be very futuristic in their approach as much as their instruments could not be played. There was concerted effort aimed at producing machines that could produce electronic sounds. Additionally, there were even more attempts to make devices that could be controlled. This culminated in the extensive research work and conclusion that was made by Ferruccio Busoni in 1907. This researcher worked extensively on the possibilities of producing electronic music in future. In his book titled Sketch for a New Aesthetic of Music, he investigated the possibility of new sources of music for the future. He widely discussed electronic sources of sound that could be utilized to compose music. His views inspired many musicians, including his apprentice named Edgard Varese.

The following decade would see much research work done. People investigated further the possibility of having electronic music in future. This period saw development of noise instruments by Italian musicians. These instruments were later investigated, improved, and classified. One of the notable musicians who did this work was Italian Luigi Russolo. Most of the work he and other musicians of electronic music did was research and pioneer work. Not much was done in terms of music itself, but a lot of work was done in terms of instruments.

The 1920s

The 1920s saw a breakthrough in noise instruments production and quality. This is a period that resulted in an instrument that could be controlled by players. This is also a period when the first music piece was composed using noise instruments. This contrasts sharply electronic instruments made before that could not be used to compose music although their raw sounds were regarded by some people as music.

Among the instruments that were made in this period were Theremin, Ondes-Martenot, and Trautonium. It is over the same period that Talharmonium was improved to Hammond Organ. A composer named Messiaen composed Fete des belles eaux in 1937, which was written with the Ondes-Martenot. This instrument was also utilized as the soloist in a composition named Trois petites liturgies de la Presence Divine, which was completed in 1944. This period is important in the history of electronic music and marks the beginning of writing compositions with the help of these instruments.

One major characteristic of artists of this period is their courage and futuristic approach. Additionally, they were focused on bringing something new to people. This is a very common characteristic that has been observed among many musicians. A curious and futuristic nature of these musicians was taken to the next decade.

The 1930s

One of the notable composers of the 1930s is John Cage. He is not only famous because he composed electronic music, but also because he did a lot of pioneer work in the same style of music. His song Imaginary Landscape no.1 that was completed in 1939 was made in a manner that is very similar to electronic music of today. He recorded test-tones generated electronically and attempted what can be called ‘mixing’ in modern times. The test tones were played in varying speeds using turn tables and, thus, music was produced. This is very similar to current electronic music when synthesizers produce sounds that are processed using samplers and computers and are made into a composition. This can be argued to have been the source of modern electronic music although a lot of refining had to be done. This is also the period when amplifiers were significantly improved to perform functions that are close to modern electronic equipment. At the same time, tape recorders were produced. This made it easy for recording and storage or electronic sounds that could be utilized in music production. These were used in a similar way as modern synthesizers.

The 1940s

The 1940s did not see much in terms of improvement of electronic music. Few events that pertained to development of electronic music took place in this period. However, there was a milestone in the popularization of electronic music when it was broadcasted over radio in 1948. The Radiodiffusion-television Francaise (RTF) aired the song Etude aux Chemin de Fer and this became the first electronic music to be broadcasted in any radio station. This meant another step in the recognition of electro acoustic music that was produced by a group that was called Music Concrete. The airplay of their music was not only iconic for their music group, but a major turning point and a crucial milestone in the acceptance of electronic music by the society. Composers of this group were Boulex, Messiaen, and Stockhausen.

Messiaen is a composer who displayed a very great deal of determination. Across the decades, he has been among the greatest icons of electronic music. This is a musician who composed music with one of the earliest electronic equipments in 1937. This equipment was named Ondes-Martenot and was among the earliest electronic equipment that could be played by musicians. This makes Messiaen one of the most focused electronic musicians of his time.

The 1950s

The 1950s were important for the history of electronic music. At this time, production of such music was possible and steps were taken to improve it. However, some entrepreneurs and music composers had a different vision altogether. They figured out how to produce more music. This is due to increasing acceptability, which led to it being aired in a radio station in 1948. One of the entrepreneurs that invested in electronic music in the fifties was Karlheinz Stockhausen. The milestone that was scored in 1951 is establishment of electronic music studio in Cologne, Germany. Nordwest Deutsche Rundfunk (NWDR) studio was established. More music was produced with various electronic sounds. At this time, the studio acquired sophisticated machines that produced refined electronic sounds. Additionally, a modifier was developed that made electronic music production even better than before.

Prominent musicians of this time include Vladimir Ussachevsky who produced electronic compositions for a tape recorder. He was assisted by Otto Luening and their composition was presented in New York in the Meuseum of Modern Art. It was in the same year that the first machine used as a sequencer was designed by Raymond Scott. This device was very complicated compared to what is in use in the modern world. The number of switchers in this device amounted to hundreds and these switches controlled stepping relays. It had astonishing 16 pieces of oscillators and a lot of timing solenoids. However, regardless of the complex nature of this machine, it made sequencing work easier compared to how it had been before (Techno Movement 201).

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With all this invention and improvement relating to instruments, composers had an easier time producing music. It was easier to produce electronic music than it had ever been imagined before. One of the artists who made use of all these innovations was Leonard Isaacson Lejaren Hiller who composed a piece named Iliiac Suite. The music was a string quartet in nature. This is credited to be the first music to have been algorithmically composed. Additionally, it was produced using computer-assisted methods. This was the first music to ever utilize complete computer-aided composition. These two composers became legends of their time. At the same time, Cologne studio did its first work based on scriptures in the book of Daniel.

The late 1950s were quite an essential period in the history that was dominated by investors, innovators, and entrepreneurs. People became curious about electronic music. This is a time when scientists and business people turned their attention to electronic music. One of events involved playing electronic music through hundreds of loudspeakers around famous Phillips Pavilion in the Worldfair of Brussels 1958. In the following year, whooping $17,500 from the Rockefeller grant was awarded to establish an electronic music studio in New York. This culminated in the opening of a studio named Columbia Princeton. This is the first instance when entrepreneurs and innovators paid this much attention to electronic music. Due to this large sum of money, the newly started studio utilized state-of-the-art technology such as RCA Mark II synthesizer. This was the first synthesizer to work on the principle of voltage control. With great investment in electronic music, many composers came on board. This period saw a lot of composers rise and the existing ones produce better music. These composers included Ussachevsky and Wuorinen among others.

The 1960s

The 1960s were a crucial period in the evolution of electronic music. From what is seen as traditional music produced using semi analogous means to the refined music of the twenty first century, the 1960s marked a turning point and transition from the old to the new. An important transition happened with the development of a computer. Computer systems utilized in this period were significantly different from systems used in the 50s and were somehow closer to modern machines.

The 1960s were a period of computerized synthesis when workstation computers were employed. Digital synthesis language was employed and studios such as Bell Labs were using it. One of the famous producers of this lab was Max Mathews. This period also came with smaller synthesizers that could use low voltage. This equipment was now available to most studios, composers, some musicians, and even institutions of higher learning, which greatly raised the popularity of electronic music now that the production process was cheaper and more affordable. A musician named Walter produced an album called Switched-on Bach, which became a symbol of the new age in electronic music. This piece was very different from all pieces made before.

This age also brought with it a new approach to electronic music. Due to the portability of instruments used in music creation, it was now performed live to the audience. Live performance that is very common with electronic music began at that time. John Eaton was among the pioneers of live music performance. One famous concert is the Concert Piece for Synket and Orchestra that was held in 1967 during which many musicians convened and performed their pieces.

The 1970s

The spread of techniques invented earlier occurred. These systems improved such that in 1967 an instantaneous digital control system was developed and was used for synthesizing analogue music. It was used till the 1970s by composers such as Laurie Spieglelb among many others who utilized this technology even later. Ushering the new decade was an array of inventions that made electronic music really modern. Some other music produced in this age is very close to what is available today.

In 1770, a device called Mini Moog was developed, which was an improvement to a device called Moog that had been produced earlier. This was an improved synthesizer that was rather integrated in functionality. Due to advancement in technology, this device was far cheaper than any other synthesizer produced previously. A digital synthesizer would follow really soon, which enabled production of newer songs. By the mid 1970s, synthesizers, samplers, drum machines, and computers close to what is in use today had been invented. For that reason, electronic music made since the seventies is similar to what is seen today to a considerably large extent. This means that modern electronic music began in the 1970s.

History of Some Musicians and Interesting Facts about Them

The super genre of electronic music has had a lot of musicians and composers who have contributed to making this music as it is today. Some have been scientists or ordinary people who made equipment and had to learn how to play it and even teach others. Notable contributors to this super-genre are quite numerous and the time covered by the evolution process amounts to more than one hundred years. This section of the easy will focus on artists who have made their contribution to making electronic music close to what is known nowadays. It will discuss composers who have produced and performed this music from the 1960s. Previous forms of electronic music could not be performed live as instruments could not produce music in real time. Additionally, equipment was heavy and bulky and could not be ferried to clubs and other venues where music could be performed (Kraftwerk 12)

One characteristic of electronic musicians is that they are inventors or innovators. Some of them are seen composing music, while others perform it. A stunning musician is Moog who invented a lighter synthesizer. This is unique as in most cases musicians do not invent or make instruments. This is a musician who brought a great idea as well as a flare of invention. He did not just make the equipment, but also developed it in a manner that can be called inventing. In the today’s arena of electronic music, most musicians are DJs who perform their music live. Others work with producers who produce their music electronically while a musician may perform or sell his/her music.

How Early Musicians Differ or Coincide With Current Musicians

David Mancuso played a key role in the early development of electronic music. He is thought by many to have been the most outstanding person who shaped the genre of Electronic Dance Music. He focused on electronic dance music, as well as creating and performing his music live to the audience. He developed a party named by invitation only at which he performed in numerous places in the New York City. With the mind-blowing title of love saves the day, first of these series of parties was done in 1970 with his electrifying performance of electronic music. Before he had become a seasoned musician, he would play records for his friends in the 1960s, especially at their parties. It is through this that his performances got noticed and widely accepted by many. In the seventies, he had an opportunity to play or compose live music due to advanced technologies.

Following the commercialized style of club performances, he specialized in private parties and had his niche well-defined. Playing the EDM music at these private parties gave rise to house music. The house music brought forward by this musician is rather similar to what is being played today in the American market. However, the Party House Music played by LMFAO with Nicki Minaj is club music and the name house music is more or less used for marketing purposes only. However, the music bears similarities with original house music because of the insistent baseline as well as the use of electronic equipment in its production.

Electronic music is more club-based as seen earlier and is a genre of music that is produced and performed by DJs in clubs. One DJ who preformed and enriched the EDM in the 1960s and 70s is Francis Grasso. He is a DJ who was more heard than seen unless one made a point of visiting his live performances. Rich in skills, he is one of very few DJs who can be said to be publicly shy. He is credited with making live performances in the 60s and the 70s that were close to what the world enjoys today. His skill set enabled him to perform moves that were practically impossible using the technology of the day. He was the first DJ to slip-cue records, therefore being able to create a continuously flowing music from various records, which made him famous in clubs. In addition, he was among the first few DJs who were able to play and perform music in line with the energy flow of the club. This means that he classified and grouped music that elicited energy among the audience. He would therefore play this music more often, making the club livelier.

This DJ is very different from DJs the world has today. Most of them like the limelight and are attracted to publicity. This is also so with electronic music artists such as Daft Punk. However, this DJ shares a lot with one of the greatest composers, producers, and live performers of house music today. This is a French DJ and producer David Guetta. This musician is seasoned in skills and is able to keep the club charged the whole night. His music is skillfully produced, pleasant, and full of energy. However, he is a musician and DJ who is more heard than seen. Finally, his skillful work makes him known all over Europe, the US, and other places. Additionally, he is sought after by top American artists to produce music or team up with him.

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In the seventies and eighties, there was a group that contributed immensely to electronic music. Initially, the group thought that their music would be restricted to Germany or Europe, but ended up being very popular and accepted even in the US. This group was called Kraftwerk and specialized in the EDM music. Their signature pieces of work were characteristic and involved catchy melodies that were beautifully enriched with repetitive rhythms. It also made their music similar to Western music, especially in terms of harmony. Another important characteristic of this group is that they did pioneer work of producing music entirely electronically. This means that no organic sound was utilized as only electronic equipment was utilized (Howard 71).

This group simplified lyrics so that they could be sung using a cocoder. Sometimes, they would employ computers to generate sounds from lyrics. This made their music extremely revolutionary for its time in the 70s and the 80s and its qualities have been utilized by many other artists since then. David Bowie who is a recording artist admits that his work was influenced greatly by this group. Another artist who was mesmerized by the work of this group was Afrika Bambaataa and the influence is seen in the album “Numbers”. He extensively utilized rhythms and melodies of this group and would later end up in the court of law for using their work without duly recognizing the source. Numerous artists have continued to utilize rhythms and melodies of this group to date.

The group named Black Eyed Peas has many similarities with Kraftwerk. Although this group started as a hip hop group, it has proceeded over time to include R&B, pop, and EDB. In their album E.N.D., the group utilizes a great deal of electronic sounds. Most of the work has been craftily produced using modern electronic machines, including lyrics. It has proceeded to win a Grammy for the best video of the year. Their music such as I got a feeling and boom boom pow has EDM characteristics and is electrifying for funs when performed live. This music is seen by many as futuristic as the group has attempted several techniques that were not widely popular at the time, as a result popularizing them. However, their skill set is not very different from music and performance by Daft Punk in the European market of electronic music.

Osbourne Ruddock was a Jamaican who later became an electronic sound engineer in the US. He later became a DJ and a music producer who called himself King Tubby. He made numerous contributions to current electronic music. What made him a renowned musician of the 60s and 70s was his contribution to the invention of club music. He is credited to have had a very inventive studio work, which made him rise from a sound engineer to a famous composer. By becoming a popular musician, he was instrumental in the development of several genres of electronic music. He invented the concept of remix, which is a crucial aspect in the development of electronic music and its live performance.

In the list of musicians and composers who have made electronic music what it is today, Frankie Knuckles is a respected remix artist who is a famous icon of electronic music of his times. He produced records, performed in live DJ shows, remixed music, and produced many electronic pieces of music. His work mainly concerns electronic music, especially the one rooted in the disco genre of music. He is also thought to be the musician who has been in the industry for the longest time from the 1980s to the 2000s. He has worked in many cities such as Chicago and New York, which has greatly enriched his experience. He also won a Grammy in 1997 for the remix of the year in the non-classical category. He was named on the billboards as the greatest dance music producer America had ever had in 1992. This was due to his prowess in disco electronic music production and remixing (Kirn 44)

Daft Punk is a team that has been producing electronic dance music in France. Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel are the two members of this group, which is popular and has worked with Kanye West. It is considered to be the greatest EDM group of all time as well as the most successful collaboration. Their popularity was at its peak in the 1990s. Their success is seen in terms of album sales as they have sold the greatest number of records in the EDM. Their records are imaginative as well as their personality. This imaginative characterization includes wearing of headgears and gloves to create robotic characters. This characteristic is also seen in the group Black Eyed Piece that uses robots in its videos. The difference in the Daft Punk’s case is that singers themselves take up the robotic character. This is a rather new concept and has nothing in common with the EDM musicians of the past and other electronic musicians (Madrid 165).

Another rap group that has taken electronic music to the next level is the LMFAO. This group is a rap group that became very popular in 2010. It performs its music live and is famous for having a clown-like characterization in their videos and performances. This clown character is not common for the electronic dance music of the 70s, 80s, and 90s as these years are characterized by energy. Electronic music of all these periods is characterized by energetic dancing on part of the cheered-up audience.

Hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj has produced music with this group, which has helped to boost energy in their music. However, it is important to note that she has also brought in a chemical character in the group, blending up well with them. Electronic music of all times and especially since the 1960s has been produced mainly for dance floors and parties. This is similar for almost all electronic music pieces produced by all artists in all genres.

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