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 According to composer Pierre Henry, "musique concrète was not a study of timbre, it is focused on envelopes, forms. It must be presented by means of non-traditional characteristics, you see … one might say that the origin of this music is also found in the interest in ‘plastifying’ music, of rendering it plastic like sculpture…musique concrète, in my opinion … led to a manner of composing, indeed, a new mental framework of composing" 

Experimental Music:  Is it music?  Some define music as organized sound an silence.  


1) Avant-Garde/Experimental (pre 1970s)

2) Dance/Electronic (1970s-present) (this is where house, techno, etc. fall in, post-disco synthesized dance genres); also called electronic dance



Avant-garde music in the 20th century refers to electronic composition. 


In the years following World War II, Electronic music was embraced by progressive composers, and was hailed as a way to exceed the limits of traditional instruments. Modern Electronic composition is considered to have begun in force with the development of musique concrète and tape recorders in 1948. Composers would cut audio tape at different angles and splice them back together, sometimes randomly, to create all sorts of interesting sounds.















































Electronic music  evolved with the creation of early analog synthesizers. The first pieces of musique concrète like hear above were written by Pierre Schaeffer, who later worked alongside such avant garde classical composers as Pierre Henry, Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Stockhausen has worked for many years as part of Cologne's Studio for Electronic Music combining electronically generated sounds with conventional orchestras. Other well-known composers in this field include Edgar Varese and Steve Reich.




Moog is a legendary name in the world of music.  As far as manufacturers/innovators of musical/audio equipment go, Robert Moog is as close to a household name as anyone I can think of.  The original Moog Modular Synthesizer, as used in early ‘hit’ electronic records such as Wendy Carlos’ “Switched on Bach,” was the earliest commercially-available integrated audio synthesizer instrument.


In 1968 Wendy Carlos released "Switched-On Bach" which was to become the most influential "electronic" (not to be confused with modern "electronica") classical recording of all time, winning the 1969 Grammys in three categories. The album was also one of the first "classical" recordings to go Gold. She is considered to be the pioneer in bridging the gap between classical and synthesized music. The album received a mixed reaction at the time of its release, however. Some critics reviled it for trivializing the work of one of the most revered classical composers of all time, but others were excited by the freshness of the sound and the virtuosity that went into its creation. Regardless of the negative reviews, the album caught public attention and sold better than anyone expected. 


It may not seem as impressive now, but in 1968 it was a first!  Classical music created with electricity!




















But as much as Moog was indeed an innovator and a massive contributor to the world of music and audio, widespread acceptance of his (and others – Buchla, EMS, etc) synthesizer systems actually marked the demise of a much earlier tradition of electronic music practice.  Because the Moog Modular, complex and inscrutable as it now seems, was in fact a massive simplification and streamlining of the earlier academic/institutional ad-hoc electronic music studio.  



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As technology developed, and synthesizers became cheaper, more robust and portable, they were adopted by many rock bands. Examples of relatively early adopters in this field are bands like The Silver Apples and Pink Floyd, and although not all of their music was primarily electronic (with the notable exception of The Silver Apples), much of the resulting sound was dependent upon the synthesised element. In the 1970s, this style was mainly popularised by Kraftwerk, who used electronics and robotics to symbolise and sometime gleefully celebrate the alienation of the modern technological world; to this day their music remains uncompromisingly electronic.


Musicians such as Brian Eno, Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre, the Japanese Isao Tomita, Kitaro and Tangerine Dream also popularised the sound of electronic music. The film industry also began to make extensive use of electronic music in soundtracks; an example of a film whose soundtrack is heavily dependent upon this is Stanley Kubrick's film of Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange.  Forbidden Planet had used an electronic score in 1956 and, once electronic sounds became a more common part of popular recordings, other science fiction films such as Blade Runner and the Alien series of movies began to depend heavily for mood and ambience upon the use of electronic music and electronically derived effects. Electronic groups were also hired to produce entire soundtracks, in the same way as other popular music stars.


In the late 1970s and early 1980s there was a great deal of innovation around the development of electronic music instruments. Analogue synthesisers largely gave way to digital synthesisers and samplers. Early samplers, like early synthesisers, were large and expensive pieces of gear -- companies like Fairlight and New England Digital sold instruments that cost upwards of $100,000. In the mid 1980s, this changed with the development of low cost samplers. From the late 1970s onward, much popular music was developed on these machines. Groups like Heaven 17, Severed Heads, The Human League, Yaz, The Art of Noise, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and New Order developed entirely new ways of making popular music by electronic means.


The natural ability for music machines to make stochastic, non-harmonic, staticky noises led to a genre of music known as industrial music led by pioneering groups such as Throbbing Gristle (which commenced operation in 1975) and Cabaret Voltaire. Some artists, like Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, and Severed Heads, took some of the adventurous innovations of musique concrète and applied them to mechanical dance beats. Others, such as Test Department, Einstürzende Neubauten, took this new sound at face value and created hellish electronic compositions. Meanwhile, other groups (Robert Rich, :zoviet*france:, rapoon) took these harsh sounds and melded them into evocative soundscapes. Still others (Front 242, Skinny Puppy) combined this harshness with the earlier, more pop-oriented sounds, forming electronic body music (EBM).


The development of the techno sound in Detroit and house music in Chicago in the early to late 1980s, and the later UK-based acid house movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s all fuelled the development and acceptance of electronic music into the mainstream and to introduce electronic dance music to nightclubs. Electronic composition can create rhythms faster and more precise than is possible using traditional percussion. The sound of electronic dance music often features electronically altered sounds (samples) of traditional instruments and vocals.


The falling price of suitable equipment has meant that popular music has increasingly been made electronically. Artists such as Björk and Moby have further popularized variants of this form of music within the mainstream.  With the explosive growth of computers music technology and consequent reduction in the cost of equipment in the early 1990s, it became possible for a wider number of musicians to produce electronic music. With the advent of hard disk recording systems, it became possbile for any home computer user to become a musician, and hence the rise in the number of "bedroom bands", often consisting of a single person.


Artists that would later become commercially successfully under the "electronica" banner such as Fatboy Slim, the Chemical Brothers, The Crystal Method, Underworld began to record in this early 1990s period. Underworld with its 1994 dubnobasswithmyheadman released arguably one of the defining records of the early electronica period with a blend of club beats, wedded to song writing and subtle vocals and guitar work. A focus on "songs", a fusion of styles and a combination of traditional and electronic instruments often sets apart musicians working in "electronica"-styles over more straight-ahead styles of house, techno and trance.


The more experimental Autechre and Aphex Twin around this time were releasing early records in the "intelligent techno" or so-called intelligent dance music (IDM) style, while other Bristol-based musicians such as Massive Attack and Portishead were experimenting with the fusion of electronic textures with hip-hop, R&B rhythms to form what became known as trip-hop. Later extensions to the trip hop aesthetic around 1997 came from the highly influential Vienna-based duo of Kruder & Dorfmeister, whose blunted, dubbed-out, slowed beats became the blueprint for the new style of downtempo. Rock musicians were also not slow to pick up on the trends in electronic music, and by the mid-1990s so-called "post-rock" bands such as Stereolab and Tortoise incorporating electronic textures into their music.


Around the mid-1990s with the success of the big beat-sound exemplified by the Chemical Brothers in the United States (due in part to the attention from mainstream artists like Madonna), music of this period began to be produced with a much higher budget, production values, and with more layers than most dance music before or after (since it was backed by major record labels and MTV as the "next big thing").


By the late 1990s artists like Moby were pop stars in their own right, releasing albums and performing regularly (sometimes in stadium-sized arenas, such had the popularity of electronic dance music grown). In fact, the status as the next big thing turned out to be shortlived, and some argued that this period exemplifies the notion of record labels and MTV attempting to force a trend upon an audience. During this period, MTV aired shows about the rave lifestyle, started purely electronic music shows such as AMP, and featured many electronica artists. However, the popularity of electronica was never sustained in the United States.


In the United States and other countries like Australia, electronica (and the other attendant dance music genres) remains popular, although largely underground, while in Europe, and in particular the UK, it has arguably become the dominant form of popular music.



There are hundred of electronic music genres that have been created over the last 35 years.  Over time, many of these genres will be enveloped into a larger genre, or forgotten forever.   The longevity of the specific style of music is determined by how popular the genre is, how many people are creating in that genre and how long that sound lasted in the main stream music scene.   


As of now, we will attempt to share with you the largest genres and help you develop an ear to recognize these styles with ease.  

This list is in no way complete, but will address the largest genres that exist today.


Click on the graphic to get started!

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