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Electronic art music

Electronic "art" music is a regrettably vague term for the formal and primarily academic branch of Electronic music that is focused on extending musical capabilities through technology. Electronic art music suffers from naming difficulties similar to those associated with the terms "contemporary music" and "modern classical music" (modern music composed in the traditions of Classical music.)

When electronic techniques first came to be used for musical purposes, the experimental field was fully contained within the term "Electronic music". Many of these early Electronic compositions drew widespread interest, but little enthusiasm. Beginning in the 1960s, however, Electronic techniques and instruments were embraced by popular musicians, eventually leading to more mainstream styles that also came to be embraced under the umbrella of "Electronic music". Although both forms are still referred to as "Electronic music" by their respective adherents, the term "art music" is generally used to specify the less mainstream of the two branches.


Although electronic musical instruments date from the late 19th century, it was not until the 1940s that they were adopted as a tool for the creation of non-traditional music. In 1920s public demonstrations of the Theremin, for instance, Clara Rockmore[?] frequently used the instrument to play violin parts for popular classical pieces.

The foundations of modern Electronic "art" music (hereinafter referred to simply as "Electronic music") lie in the developing musical sensibilities of early 20th century symphonic music. Perhaps the most direct lineage can be drawn from the music of composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, who felt that contemporary music had begun to exhaust its potention, and that musicians would have to break away from the constraints of tradition before the art could advance. This belief was widely adopted amongst the musical avante-garde, and led to the exploration of atonality as a means to exceed the limits of classical harmony.

Although atonality was refined to a great degree, some musicians felt that the simple use of traditional symphonic instruments was a serious limitation. It was the development of the tape recorder and Musique concrete that alerted the musical community to the potential of electronic music as a means surpass the limitations that were imposed by the use of traditional musical instruments.

Concrete itself can be compared to a sonic collage, in which various natural and man-made sounds are spliced, mixed and looped on the tape recorder to form an integrated "piece". One notable characteristic of Concrete that drew strong interest was that with Concrete, the final product and the musical "score" are one and the same. As a result, there are no additional layer of abstraction and interpretation (such as a musical score, musicians or a conductor) between the composer and the "orchestra". This concept intrigued many experimental composers, many of whom soon adopted the technique.

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