The Influence of Electronics on Academic and Popular Music

Working Title: The Influence of Electronics on Academic and Popular Music

Musique Concreté, pioneered by Pierre Schaeffer and “fathered” by Edgard Varèse in the 20th century, is the product of utilizing new sounds generated or manipulated by machines for the use of acousmatic listening (the purposeful obscuring of original source material to be presented electronically). As a direct relation to our course, this movement cultivated a wide eruption of support and dissatisfaction with the incorporation of electronics into the classical music community. As the beginning of this music started from a few composer’s insatiable need for new sounds, it created a giant gap in what the musical community considered “music” and how music was to be defined. In today’s classical music society, value is placed on academic electronic music and the implications of “trained” musicians studying the craft of composing electronic music, but there is a discrepancy on why there is value in “classical” electronic composition verses popular electronic music which uses many of the same technical skills. In researching this topic, I intend to find out more about the culture of popular electronic music in contrast to “academic” music and how these disciplines share similarities in production and technologies such as ProTools, Max, Audacity, and other software that produces and manipulates live and fixed media.

My research will begin with the study of electronic music at its inception, taking a historical survey of how electronic media began its role in academia and what precedent it set for maintaining the ideals of classical training. Additionally, my research will include the products in which popular and classical music are composed and how their histories diverged from one another to create this closely related media that is observed and mediated in drastically different ways. In conclusion to these surveys, I will create a concise document that traces these disciplines and reveals their historical and present significance. In addition to this document, I will compose a 3-5 minute composition for Horn and Fixed Media that explores and uses these programs within the context of contemporary classical music. For the final presentation, I will either present a recording of this composition or, if time and schedules will allow, a live performance of this piece.

Annotated Bibliography

Manning, Peter. Electronic and Computer Music. Fourth Edition. Oxford: Oxford University, Press, 2013.

Peter K. Manning discusses the evolution of electronic and computer music from the inception of music concrete in Europe and America to contemporary connections through online networks and the rupture of the internet. Organized into eight chapters, Manning discusses technology developments that inspired new and innovative compositional techniques starting with a historical survey to a more centralized topic of equipment advances and the repertory that developed from these advances. As the book is primarily situated in academic electronic music, this resource will serve appropriate for gaining a generalized chronology of musical events that led up to the current academic electronic music environment. This will help support arguments made about how both of these entities (pop and academic music) influenced one another throughout history.


Collins, Nick, Schedel, Margaret, and Wilson, Scott. Cambridge Introductions to Music: Electronic Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Collins, Schedel, and Wilson created this introductory guide into electronic music or both mainstream and experimental genres. Serving as a general guide to the historical evolution of electronic music, this source generates a streamline approach from academic developments and the electronic dance music scene through its fourteen chapters and closing notes. Presenting arguments of privatization/institutionalization versus open platforms and commercialization, this source continues to shed light on the many controversies that arise in the development of electronic music. As the primary goal of the paper is to illuminate certain aspects their shared history and influence, this source will help support certain arguments I present about perceivable influences that may have controlled or facilitated certain adaptations.


Roads, Curtis. Composing Electronic Music: A New Aesthetic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Roads elucidates issues that arise when composing and working within the electronic music medium. Organized into twelve chapters, Roads leads with a wide survey of composition, offering general issues and ideas that arise during the composition process and how these same issues surface in electronic music composition. Offering precise procedures on how to access and resolve these concerns, Judd incorporates important electronic music vernacular into the conversation. Although many of these techniques have gone out of fashion with the use of digital technology, many of these concepts and aesthetical goals are still applicable to contemporary electronic composition. This book will serve useful while arguing influential ties between the use of synthesizer and digital audio workstations within both the academic and popular music scene.


Judd, F. C. Electronic Music and Musique Concrète. London: Neville Spearman, 1961.

Judd introduces the key elements of electronic music at a fundamental level within his three-part instructional guide. Exploring the basic ideas of sound sourcing, Judd introduces the audience to the analysis of sound within the context of the scientific and mathematical properties of sound waves and sine tones. This leads to a continued conversation about the equipment necessary to produce these and how they are controlled and used within this medium. This book will serve as a guide to general equipment and sound production that will enhance my arguments about synthesizer and Digital Audio Workstations influence and growth. As this book is slightly dated, some of the information will only be applicable to the beginnings of my research, but will still serve relevant for general understanding and historical placement.


Brend, Mark. The Sound of Tomorrow: How Electronic Music Was Smuggled Into the Mainstream. New York: Bloomsbury, 2012.

Brend continues the conversation of mainstream electronic music by introducing a different perspective into the mix; rock music. Organized into nine chapters, Brend explores the small implications of curious and innovative inventors for mass music distribution to the incorporation of electronics in rock music. While this source is preferred in the conversation on popular electronic music, it provides good sources to an additional lineage that paralleled that of academic music. This will be used to help support the general claims made about the inclusion of electronics in popular music.


Demers, Joanna. Listening Through the Noise: The Aesthetics of Experimental Electronic Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Demers presents a more focused dialogue of academic electronic experimental music. Structured into three parts, Demers discussion begins with a broad introduction of fundamental differences with academic electronic music and the aesthetic that many composers of experimental music deal with. This source serves well for the academic development of electronic music and will help solidify certain stances made and argued as influential for academic music and shed light on the differences that rise within the experimental electronic music created inside and outside of academia.

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