Electronic Music Past and Present

History of Electronic Music


Once sounds could be recorded, they could be manipulated, and enterprising tech nerds (before the term existed) got down to work figuring out how these devices functioned.

One of the earliest recorders was purchased in the United States for Columbia University. It was an Ampex machine for the music department to record concerts. Almost immediately, one of the faculty, Vladimir Ussachevsky, was experimenting with it. He was fascinated by the idea that he could transform sound by layering sounds on top of each other and manipulating them.

He was invited to work with another composer, Otto Luening, and the two of them spent months improvising before being invited to a produce some compositions for a concert at the American Composers Alliance and Broadcast Music Inc. It was the first concert, but not the last. Finally after a few concerts in NYC, they were invited to demonstrate their compositions on NBC’s Today Show. That was the first televised electronic performance.

Very Early Days

Across the world, different electronic music genres started to emerge. Some are still in existence today in their same origination while others morphed into new types of music completely.

Different Genres of Electronic Music

These are some of the original genres of electronic music. There’s experimental music and avant-garde as well as pure computer music that doesn’t necessarily fit into one particular box of music. This is a type of music that is moving fluidly based on the technology brought to the industry from computers.

  • Ambient
  • Krautrock
  • Hip hop
  • New age
  • New wave
  • Neo soul
  • Post-disco
  • Psychedelic

There was electronic creeping into the disco sounds of the 70s as well as rap and other music in the 80s. House and techno emerged in the 80s, too. Each genre used manipulation as a stepping stone to the next style of music.

Equipment for Electronic Music

Some might argue that it all started with keyboard synthesizers that were used for popular music. One of the first to use a keyboard synthesizer in a concert was Herbie Hancock. As you can see by the clothes, this was back in the 80’s.

The keyboard made way for digital synthesis with algorithms for frequency modulation as well as rhythm machines, or drum machines, bass machines, and chiptunes. From there came MIDI technology with software and computer programming. Each advance in technology brought about a new way to manipulate sound to create music. When we talk about music today, it’s hard to find any genre that doesn’t include some aspect of sound manipulation, but it’s not all considered electronic music.

Electronic Music Today

It’s difficult to pin down music into one genre when the basics of the music is constantly changing. Is it experimental when the musician is trying new things, and being creatively challenged to provide electronic music that hasn’t been heard before while mixing it with melodies?

Every musician wants to push the boundaries and come up with original music that people will love. Even DJ’s are using electronics and sound to produce music nobody has heard before.

We invite you to listen to some indie artists who are pushing the boundaries of what’s considered electronic music. Whether it’s melodic trance, classic house, classic deep house, or acid.

They often can’t be pigeon holed, and that’s a good thing. Artists who don’t experiment and grow aren’t coming up with anything new or revolutionary. If that happened a hundred years ago, we wouldn’t have the vast array of genres we have today.

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