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Picture of PhonogenePhonogene

Picture of Pierre SchafferPierre Schaffer

phot of Forbidden Planet posterThe film, Forbidden Planet (1956), featured a groundbreaking all-electronic music score composed by Louis and Bebe Barron.

1945 - 1960

In this period the rise of electronic music takes on global proportions with many separate movements forming around the world. Earlier periods are easier to categorize, but this period shows widespread growth and is not as easy to pinpoint. From this point on, advancement and popularity of electronic music and technology grows exponentially.

Musique concrete

Photo of Pierre Henry
Pierre Henry using induction coils to control sound spatially.

Musique concrete (French for "concrete music" or "real music") is a form of electroacoustic music that utilises acousmatic sound as a compositional resource. The compositional material is not restricted to the inclusion of sonorities derived from musical instruments or voices, nor to elements traditionally thought of as "musical" (melody, harmony, rhythm, metre and so on). The theoretical underpinnings of the aesthetic were developed by Pierre Schaeffer, beginning in the late 1940s.
source: Wikipedia


Elektronische Musik

Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Elektronische Studie I" used sounds from purely electronic signals, differentiating it from the French musique concrete, which used sounds from acoustic sources.

Karlheinz Stockhausen worked briefly in Schaeffer's studio in 1952, and afterward for many years at the WDR Cologne's Studio for Electronic Music.

In Cologne, what would become the most famous electronic music studio in the world was officially opened at the radio studios of the NWDR in 1953, though it had been in the planning stages as early as 1950 and early compositions were made and broadcast in 1951. The brain child of Werner Meyer-Eppler, Robert Beyer, and Herbert Eimert (who became its first director), the studio was soon joined by Karlheinz Stockhausen and Gottfried Michael Koenig. In his 1949 thesis Elektronische Klangerzeugung: Elektronische Musik und Synthetische Sprache, Meyer-Eppler conceived the idea to synthesize music entirely from electronically produced signals; in this way, elektronische Musik was sharply differentiated from French musique concrete, which used sounds recorded from acoustical sources.

With Stockhausen and Mauricio Kagel in residence, it became a year-round hive of charismatic avante-gardism" on two occasions combining electronically generated sounds with relatively conventional orchestras in Mixtur (1964) and Hymnen, dritte Region mit Orchester (1967). Stockhausen stated that his listeners had told him his electronic music gave them an experience of "outer space," sensations of flying, or being in a "fantastic dream world" More recently, Stockhausen turned to producing electronic music in his own studio in Kurten, his last work in the genre being Cosmic Pulses (2007).
source: Wikipedia


American electronic music

John Cage's "Williams Mix" was his first composition for tape recorder and contains approximately 600 recordings, arranged by consulting the I-Ching. It took nearly one year to make.

In the United States, sounds were being created electronically and used in composition, as exemplified in a piece by Morton Feldman called Marginal Intersection. This piece is scored for winds, brass, percussion, strings, 2 oscillators, and sound effects of riveting, and the score uses Feldman's graph notation.

The Music for Magnetic Tape Project was formed by members of the New York School (John Cage, Earle Brown, Christian Wolff, David Tudor, and Morton Feldman), and lasted three years until 1954. Cage wrote of this collaboration: "In this social darkness, therefore, the work of Earle Brown, Morton Feldman, and Christian Wolff continues to present a brilliant light, for the reason that at the several points of notation, performance, and audition, action is provocative."

Cage completed Williams Mix in 1953 while working with the Music for Magnetic Tape Project. The group had no permanent facility, and had to rely on borrowed time in commercial sound studios, including the studio of Louis and Bebe Barron.
source: Wikipedia


RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer

RCA Mark
RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer

The RCA Mark II was a project of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, and was completed in 1957. With a room-sized footprint, this behemoth featured 4-note variable polyphony, twelve fixed-tone oscillators, a white noise source, and a binary sequencer. The sequencer was controlled by a paper tape reader similar to the kind found in a player-piano. The machine was built according to United States Air Force specifications and has a USAF oscilloscope. The RCA is still kept at the Columbia University Music Center, where it is bolted to the floor in the office of Professor Brad Garton.

The RCA's sequencer allowed composers to write music that traditional acoustic performers would find impossible to play; it is rumored that Igor Stravinsky, upon hearing about the synthesizer's capabilities, had a heart attack. An urban myth claims the unit was responsible for the New York City Blackout of 1977 because it was powered on moments before the lights went out.

Synthesizers and sequencers would take quantum leaps forward in the coming years since the introduction of the mammoth RCA Mark II, which operates on vacuum tube technology. The still functioning relic has quite a colorful history, and marks a technological surge in the evolution of electronic music. The RCA Mark II was designed by Herbert Belar, Harry Olson, Valdamir Ussachevsky, and Peter Mauzey.
source: Wikipedia