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Electronic music

Electronic music is a loose term for music created using electronic equipment. Any sound produced by the means of an electrical signal may reasonably be called electronic, and the term is sometimes used that way---in music where acoustic performance is the norm, even the introduction of electronic amplifiers may touch off discussions of electronic music (jazz and folk music, for example, have gone through a good deal of argument about the topic).

As a category of criticism and marketing, however, electronic music refers to music produced largely by electronic components, such as synthesizers, samplers, computers, and drum machines. Theoretically, the music could include any of an array of other "instruments".


The earliest purely electronic instrument was the Teleharmonium[?] or Telharmonium, developed by Thaddeus Cahill[?] in 1897. Simple inconvenience hindered the adoption of the Telharmonium: the instrument weighed seven tons and was the size of a boxcar. The first practical electronic instrument is often viewed to be the Theremin, invented by Professor Leon Theremin circa 1919 - 1920. Another early electronic instrument was the Ondes Martenot, which was used in the Turangalîla Symphony by Olivier Messiaen

In the years following World War II, Electronic music was embraced by progressive composers, and was hailed as a way to exceed the limits of traditional instruments. Modern Electronic composition is considered to have begun in force with the development of Musique concrete and tape recorders in 1948, only to rapidly evolve with the creation of early analog synthesizers. The first pieces of Musique Concrete were written by Pierre Schaeffer, who later worked alongside such avant garde classical composers as Pierre Henry[?], Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Stockhausen has worked for many years as part of Cologne's Studio for Electronic Music[?] combining electronically generated sounds with conventional orchestras. Other well-known composers in this field include Edgar Varese and Steve Reich. (See Electronic art music for more information.)

At the Radiophonic Workshop, the sound special effects unit of the BBC, Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire created one of the first electronic signature tunes for television as the theme music for Doctor Who. A short OGG file sample of this can be found here.

Although electronic music began in the world of classical (or "art") composition, within a few years it had been adopted into popular culture with varying degrees of enthusiasm. In the 1960s, Walter Carlos (now Wendy Carlos) popularized early synthesizer music with two notable albums The Well Tempered Synthesiser[?] and Switched On Bach[?], which took pieces of baroque classical music and reproduced them on Moog synthesizers.

As technology developed, and synthesizers became cheaper, more robust and portable, they were adopted by many rock bands. Examples of relatively early adopters in this field are bands like the United States of America, The Silver Apples and Pink Floyd, and although not all of their music was primarily electronic (with the notable exception of The Silver Apples), much of the resulting sound was dependent upon the synthesised element. In the 1970s, this style was mainly popularised by Kraftwerk, who used electronics and robotics to symbolise and sometime gleefully celebrate the alienation of the modern technological world; to this day their music remains uncompromisingly electronic.

In jazz, amplified acoustic instruments[?] and synthesizers were mixed in a series of influential recordings by Weather Report. Joe Zawinul[?], the synthesizer player in that group, has continued to field ensembles of the same kind.

Musicians such as Brian Eno, Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream also popularised the sound of electronic music. The film industry also began to make extensive use of electronic music in soundtracks; an example of a film whose soundtrack is heavily dependent upon this is Stanley Kubrick's film of Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange. Forbidden Planet had used an electronic score in 1956 and, once electronic sounds became a more common part of popular recordings, other science fiction films such as Blade Runner and the Alien series of movies began to depend heavily for mood and ambience[?] upon the use of electronic music and electronically derived effects. Electronic groups were also hired to produce entire soundtracks, in the same way as other popular music stars.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s there was a great deal of innovation around the development of electronic music instruments. Analogue synthesisers largely gave way to digital synthesisers and samplers. Early samplers, like early synthesisers, were large and expensive pieces of gear-- companies like Fairlight and New England Digital sold instruments that cost upwards of $100,000. In the mid 1980s, this changed with the development of low cost samplers. From the late 1970s onward, much popular music was developed on these machines. Groups like Heaven 17, Severed Heads, The Human League[?], Yaz[?], The Art of Noise, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and New Order developed entirely new ways of making popular music by electronic means.

The natural ability for music machines to make stochastic, non-harmonic, staticky noises led to a genre of music known as industrial music. Some artists, like Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, and Severed Heads, took some of the adventurous innovations of Musique Concrete and applied them to mechanical dance beats. Others, such as Test Department, Einstürzende Neubauten, took this new sound at face value and created hellish electronic compositions. Meanwhile, other groups (Robert Rich, :zoviet*france:, rapoon) took these harsh sounds and melded them into evocative soundscapes. Still others (Front 242, Skinny Puppy) combined this harshness with the earlier, more pop-oriented sounds, forming Electronic Body Music (EBM).

Recent Developments

The Acid House movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s went on to further promote the development and acceptance of electronic music into the mainstream and to introduce electronic dance music to nightclubs. Electronic composition can create rhythms faster and more precise than is possible using traditional percussion. The sound of electronic dance music often features electronically altered sounds (samples) of traditional instruments and vocals. See dance music.

The falling price of suitable equipment has meant that popular music has increasingly been made electronically. Artists such as Björk and Moby have further popularized variants of this form of music within the mainstream. In the 1990s, a Turkish electronic musician, Murat Ses, published his electronic works, which incorporated original Levantine[?], Central Asian, Anatolian[?] musics in a so-called trilogy with the concept: "The Timeless and Boundariless Context of Culture and Civilization".

One of the principal sources for dissemination of information about electronic music is the magazine The Wire, a monthly publication which covers the whole scene extensively.


Contemporary electronic music includes many different styles, such as:

Big Beat
Drum and Bass/Breakbeat
Electric Levantine
Electronic Body Music (EBM)
Intelligent dance music (IDM)
Noise music
Nortec[?] (electronic style from Tijuana,Mexico)
Progressive house
Progressive rock
Tech house
Trip hop aka Bristol Sound[?]

See dance music for genres that are considered to be for dance.

Notable artists in some genres of electronic music:

Aphex Twin (Well known in early ambient; known for psychologically-targeted music, some tracks intentioned to cause "bad trips" in the listener)
Art of Trance[?] (Trance)
Bedrock[?] (Collaborative effort by Bedrock Records, including Sasha+Digweed. Progressive house.)
Bjork (Bjork is one of the most inflential artists of the past decade. While she is impossible to categorize in one genre of music, her electronic art rock transmogrifies itself into what could best be described as progressive ambient.)
Brian Eno - (also together with David Byrne of Talking Heads collaborated on an early sampling album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts[?]).
Daft Punk (French house - leaders in the late 90ies Filter/disco sound)
Dieselboy[?] (One of the biggest names in Drum and Bass, lots of jungle)
Depeche Mode
Dust Brothers (breaks, big beat)
808 State
Enya (ambient, trip hop)
Fatboy Slim aka Norman Cook (Breaks, big beat, Happy Hardcore)
Frankie Bones[?] (Happy Hardcore, Funky breaks, Goa. Responsible for essentially starting the rave scene in North America. Came up with the word "Rave". Came up with PLUR.)
Frankie Knuckles[?] (Pioneered house music. Spun at a club called "The Warehouse", for which the genre was named.)
Funk Function[?]
Goldie (Drum and Bass)
Isao Tomita[?]
Jean Michel Jarre
JoCa[?] - http://www.jocamusic.com
Jochem Paap[?] aka Speedy J[?] (Atmospheric)
Jungle Brothers (Jungle, Two-step, Tech-step, Breaks)
JunkieXL[?] (Better known these days as "JXL" - had a massive chart hit with his Elvis-remix)
Keioki[?] (Progressive trance)
Klaus Schulze
KLF - pioneers in the field of flagrant sampling
Kraftwerk (Pre-techno early electronica, experimental, one of the most-sampled artists ever)
Mangabros (aleatoric cut-up electronica/text)
Mike Paradinas[?]
Moby (Does just about everything) - http://www.moby.com
Murat Ses
Oliver Lieb (Techno, trance)
Orbital (Funky breaks, Tech Step, Happy Hardcore)
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Paul Lansky
Paul Oakenfold (Trance)
Paul Van Dyk[?] (Trance)
Pet Shop Boys
The Prodigy (Breaks, Big beat)
DJ Q-Bert[?] (Scratch artist, three time world champion turntablist)
Ritchie Hawtin[?] aka Plastikman[?] (Minimalist, techno)
Sneaker Pimps (Mostly trip hop)
Juan Maria Solare (electroacoustic music[?] & Hörspiel[?] = radiophonic art)
Squarepusher (IDM and Drum and Bass, rather experimental)
Sven Vath[?]
Tangerine Dream
The Chemical Brothers (Breaks, Big beat, Funky Breaks, breakbeat)
The Orb (trance, ambient, one of the earliest big names in the movement)
The Residents
Thomas Dolby
Timo Maas[?] (progressive house, Tech-house)
Vate is a representative of the new electronic music from Mexico
Yellow Magic Orchestra aka YMO[?] (Pre-techno electronica, melodic)
Line Noise[?] (Melodic Electro/IDM) - http://www.lacedmilk.com/mp3s.htm

Notable record labels:

Bedrock Records
Bonzai Records[?]
Bunker Records[?] -- http://www.bunker-records.com/
Ersatz Audio[?] -- http://www.ersatzaudio.com/
Harthouse -- http://www.harthouse.com/
Hooj Choons[?] -- http://www.hooj-choons.co.uk/
International DeeJay Gigolo Regords[?] -- http://www.gigolo-records.de/
Interstate Records[?]
Mute Records[?]
Moonshine Music[?]
Ninja Tune -- http://www.ninjatune.net
Platipus Records[?] -- http://www.platipus.com/
Plus8[?] -- http://www.plus8.com/
Ralph America[?] -- http://www.ralphamerica.com/
Warp[?] -- http://www.warprecords.com/
LacedMilk Technologies[?] -- http://www.lacedmilk.com

Notable DJs:

Darren Emerson[?] (Techno, formerly 1/3 of Underworld)
Gilles Peterson[?]
Goldie (Drum and Bass (a major progenitor of the genre), Breakbeats, Acid jazz)
Jeff Mills (Detroit techno pioneer)
John Digweed (Progressive house, many collaborations with Sasha)
Judge Jules (Trance, hard house)
LTJ Bukem (Much of his work is described as "ambient jungle.")
Paul Oakenfold (Trance, early pioneer of the UK clubscene)
Sander Kleinenberg[?] (Dutch prog. house wizkid...)
Sasha[?] (Progressive house, trance, many collaborations with John Digweed.)

See also:

External links:

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