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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: May 2013

Chapter 1 - Introduction


Welcome to an exploration of electronic music, in many places and many guises. In societies tracking technological developments, the role of electricity in music has had a great impact on musical production and consumption, a musical influence as worldwide as the network of telecommunications. It has changed the balance of the instruments most commonly practiced, for example, toward electric guitars, turntables, and arguably the computer itself, and promoted an emphasis on recordings as the driver of mass musical contact. Yet the transformation has not been total, for traditional activities like live performance have continued in strength, albeit somewhat transfigured by such electronic factors as amplification and the Internet. Participation is not always subservient to passive reception, but is actively encouraged in such instances as musical video games and generative software for mobiles. Acoustic instruments have lost none of their charm and history, though some new history has been written by the interaction of acoustic means and the electrical transformation of sound. There always remains the option of turning off the power, but, unsurprisingly, we won't advocate that step in this book.

The term electronic formally denotes applications of the transistor, a specific electrical component popularized from the mid-twentieth century onward that enables the substantial miniaturization of circuits. Joel Chadabe titles his book on the history of electronic music Electric Music and the best terminology is sometimes contentious. You may see reference to electroacoustic music as an overall term: In the broadest sense, it simply means sound reproduced using electronic means, such as loudspeakers, but can be employed in a more constrained sense of highly designed electronic art music for close listening with an emphasis on space and timbre (more on this later).

Further reading
Braun, Hans-Joachim (ed.) (2002) Music and Technology in the Twentieth Century (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press).
Chadabe, Joel (1997) Electric Sound: The Past and Promise of Electronic Music (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall).
Collins, Nick and d’Escriván, Julio (eds.) (2007) The Cambridge Companion to Electronic Music (Cambridge University Press).
Cox, Christoph and Warner, Daniel (eds.) (2004) Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music (London; New York: Continuum).
Holmes, Thom (2012) Electronic and Experimental Music, 4th edn. (New York: Routledge).
Manning, Peter (2004) Electronic and Computer Music (Oxford University Press).
Théberge, Paul (1997) Any Sound You Can Imagine: Making Music/Consuming Technology (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press).