The history of electronic music spans many decades and continents – one might just call it “music” since electronics are heavily incorporated in contemporary productions. But, let’s talk about the origin story. Who invented electronic music? Electronic music is a broad term that encompasses any music that involves electronic processing, such as recording, editing, synthesizing, or manipulating sounds using various devices and technologies. The genre can be divided into two main categories: electroacoustic music, which combines natural and artificial sounds, and purely electronic music, which is generated entirely by electronic means.
The origins of electronic music can be traced back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when inventors and composers experimented with new ways of producing and manipulating sound using electricity. Some of the earliest electronic instruments were the telharmonium, the theremin, the ondes Martenot, and the trautonium. These instruments used different methods of generating sound waves, such as rotating tone wheels, oscillating circuits, or neon tubes. They were often used to create eerie or futuristic effects in music and film.
In the 1920s and 1930s, some composers began to explore the possibilities of electronic music as a new form of musical expression. One of the pioneers of this movement was Edgard Varèse, who composed pieces such as Ionisation (1931) and Déserts (1954) using percussion instruments, sirens, and recorded sounds. Another influential figure was Luigi Russolo, who wrote a manifesto called The Art of Noises (1913) and built noise-generating devices called intonarumori. He argued that the traditional musical scales and instruments were inadequate for expressing the modern industrial world, and proposed a new musical aesthetic based on noise.
In the 1940s and 1950s, electronic music developed further with the advent of magnetic tape recording, which allowed composers to record, edit, splice, loop, and manipulate sounds in unprecedented ways. Musique concrète was pioneered by Pierre Schaeffer, who used recorded sounds from various sources, such as trains, bells, birds, or speech, and transformed them into musical elements. Elektronische Musik was initiated by Karlheinz Stockhausen, who used electronically generated sounds from oscillators, filters, modulators, and ring modulators. He also experimented with spatialization, serialism, aleatoric methods, and live electronics.
After the 1950s, things start to get more interesting…