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Music Essays
electronic music pioneers part 1 electronic music pioneers part 2
steve reich - minimalist a short history of the american composer

Different Trains
different trains - part one introduction and the use of music technology
different trains - part two thematic development
different trains - part three thematic development and continuity
different trains - part four dynamics and conclusions
different trains - table 1 tables 1.a. to 1.c
different trains - table 2 tables 2.a. to 2.g



electronic music pioneers

part two - the late 20th century & popular music



Electronic innovation in popular music

The vernacular music world saw technological innovation in the later half of the twenteith century as performers began to experiment with development of electronics in music technology. Most "rock" music is dependant on electronics for voice amplification (enabling subtlety in singing style) and instrument enhancement (for the electric guitar and keyboards). Groups such as Andy Warhol's "Velvet Underground" experimented with this technology, pioneering the use of amplification distortion for musical statement. The use and development of electronic "feedback" and "overdrive" in music of the late 1960's led to the "heavy rock" of the early 1970's (for example, Jimi Hendrix's "Live/Dead"). Meanwhile, John Cale of the Velvet Underground extended electro/acoustic interaction to the viola, influencing string performer/composers such as Billy Currie of "Ultravox", and the "Futurist" rock movement in the early 1980's.

By contrast, Kraftwerk, a group dating from 1968, sought to compose purely electronic music from their "Kling Klang" studio in Düsseldorf, Germany. Many popular music composers (such as Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis) and groups (such as Tangerine Dream and The Human League) have been influenced either directly or indirectly by Kraftwerk.



Multi-track Recording

The innovation of recording has spelt many advances for the musician. Mike Oldfield with "Tubular Bells" in 1975 employs a multi­track recorder enabling him to play several different instruments simultaneously. Meanwhile composer/producer Brian Eno coined the term "Ambient Music", refering to music which is on the "cusp between melody and texture" (Jarrett, Michael (1998). Sound Tracks: A Musical ABC, Volumes 1–3. Temple University Press. pp. 1973.) For example, "Another Green World" exemplifies the creation of a sophisticated textural sound world by the use of emerging studio techniques (such as tape looping giving a denser chromatic texture).


Some reprecussions of electronic music development

The development of music technology has raised a number of aesthetic issues. John Mowitt in the book "Music in the era of Electronic Reproducibility" argues that music has become an artifact, something which is acquired and not produced. With recording techniques, composition is a definite article, it is no longer open to interpretation, unlike a notated score. Technological innovations such as the CD (Compact Disc Player) and mp3's (where music is stored as a digital file in computer code) have led to the original performance and the recorded copy becoming almost indistinguishable. Mowitt observes that there may no longer be a need for performance once a recording has been obtained.

The changing nature of music due to technology also raises important socio/political questions. Walter Benjamin in "Reflections" observes that we may either regard art with "Contemplation" (i.e. the artifact only has meaning in its context, for instance, a stained glass window in a church), or with "Distraction" (i.e. the art work is uprooted from its traditional associations by reproduction) permitting many subjective interpretations. It is also possible to argue that the availability of recorded material may degenerate our memory skills - we can now listen to a musical work many times (this was not possible before the twentieth century). Does this devalue music, and the importance of listening to (an appreciating) a musical work? One thing is for sure - the technological change of the last century has caused music to become a very different thing to what it once was.




electronic music pioneers p.1 - p.2


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