Electroacoustic Music

Genres and Categories [G&C]  ]

This somewhat elusive term has evolved since the late 1950s, and attempts to define it have provoked much-heated debate amongst academics and practitioners. The term has a specific meaning in audio engineering (see 2 below), and a rather-too-simplistic explanation is that it was adopted as an inclusive and umbrella term as the activities of musique concrète, tape music, and electronic music composers saw almost immediate cross-fertilization, which continued through the 1960s and 70s.

The term saw early usage in the United Kingdom and Canada, and during the 1970s tended (amongst other terms) to be used in the French language (électroacoustique) in place of musique concrète. The term was never in wide usage in the United States, where Electronic Music, Tape Music and Computer Music predominated, but recent years have seen an increased usage here too. The term is currently widely used in several European/South American languages, including Spanish and Portuguese.

More recently, some, particularly in Canada, have adopted the term Electroacoustics, which includes Electroacoustic Music Studies in its sense, and has the advantage of emphasising the interdisciplinary nature of the field in the nuance of its meaning. (See 4 below)

Some argue that the term is so elusive as to be unhelpful, and should therefore be abandoned. Others opt for the most general possible use of the word as an umbrella term (see 1 below). The English language has seen increased recent usage of the terms Sonic Art and Electroacoustics in place of Electroacoustic Music. The French language has several nuanced alternatives, including l’Art de Sons Fixés (Michel Chion) and Musique Acousmatique (proposed by François Bayle in the early 1970s as a replacement for Musique Concrète, and a means of delineating his aesthetic concerns within the broader field of Electroacoustic Music).

In an attempt to illustrate nuance, the following four established definitions are offered below.

1. Electroacoustic music refers to any music in which electricity has had some involvement in sound registration and/or production other than that of simple microphone recording or amplification. (Source - Leigh Landy (1999). Reviewing the Musicology of Electroacoustic Music. Organised Sound Vol. 4, No. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 61-70)

2. An adjective describing any process involving the transfer of a signal from acoustic to electrical form, or vice versa. Most commonly transducers, such as the microphone or loudspeaker are examples of this process.

Although the term most precisely refers to a signal transfer from electrical to acoustic form or vice versa, it also is often used more loosely to refer to any process for the electronic generation and/or manipulation of sound signals, including techniques of sound synthesis for the electronic or digital generation of such signals. When the purpose of such manipulation is artistic, the result is commonly called electroacoustic music. (Source: Barry Truax - Handbook for Acoustic Ecology CD-ROM Edition. Cambridge Street Publishing, 1999 - CSR-CDR 9901)

3. Music in which electronic technology, now primarily computer-based, is used to access, generate, explore and configure sound materials, and in which loudspeakers are the prime medium of transmission. There are two main genres. Acousmatic music is intended for loudspeaker listening and exists only in recorded tape form (tape, compact disk, computer storage). In live electronic music the technology is used to generate, transform or trigger sounds (or a combination of these) in the act of performance; this may include generating sound with voices and traditional instruments, electroacoustic instruments, or other devices and controls linked to computer-based systems. Both genres depend on loudspeaker transmission, and an electroacoustic work can combine acousmatic and live elements. (Source - Simon Emmerson, Denis Smalley (2001). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians - Second Edition. Ed. Stanley Sadie.)

4. (Electroacoustics) The use of electricity for the conception, ideation, creation, storage, production, interpretation, distribution, reproduction, perception, cognition, visualization, analysis, comprehension and/or conceptualization of sound.

(Source - Kevin Austin, with an acknowledgement to Michael Century)




- Music using technology ( English , French )



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Heifetz, Robin Julian (1980). Japanese Analog Electroacoustic Music
Heifetz, Robin Julian (Ed.) (1989b). On the Wires of Our Nerves: The Art of Electroacoustic Music
HEISS, Hermann (1960). Spezialaufnahmeaggregat für Tongemische (Record-and-Playback Heads for Tone Mixtures)
Helmuth, Mara (1996). Multidimensional Representation of Electroacoustic Music
Henry, Pierre, Leon, Georges (1975). Entretien entre Georges Leon et Pierre Henry
Henry, Pierre, Vérin, Nicolas (1999). Entretien avec Pierre Henry
Hettergott, Alexandra (1999). Human Voice Treatment in Various Types of Electroacoustic Music
Hinkle-Turner, Elizabeth (2006). Women Composers and Music Technology in the United States
Holmes, Thom (2002). Electronic and Experimental Music
Hoopen, Christiane ten (1994a). Issues in Timbre and Perception
Hoopen, Christiane ten (1994b). The music of François Bayle from one listener’s point of view: re-presentation versus representation
Hoopen, Christiane ten, Landy, Leigh (1992). La musique électroacoustique
Humpert, Hans Ulrich (2004). L’évolution technologique de la musique électronique au cours des 50 dernières années et son influence sur le travail du compositeur
INA-GRM, (1977). La musique du futur a-t-elle un avenir ?
INA-GRM, (1986). Catalogue des œuvres de 1948 à 1986
INA-GRM, (2000). La musique électroacoustique
Jaffrennou, Pierre-Alain (1998). Quelques considérations sur l’apport de l’informatique à la musique envisagée comme art d’interprétation
Johnson, Roger (1994). Technology, Commodity, Power
Kahn, Frédéric (2002). Une introduction à l’écoute de Subjestuel de Gilles Racot
Karkoschka, Erhard (1972). Eine Hörpartitur elektronischer Musik (An electronic music listening score)
Kasdan, Leonard, Appleton, Jon H. (1989). Tradition and Change: The Case of Music
Kaufman, Dieter (1972). Studio de Vienne. L’Autriche et la musique expérimentale
Keane, David (1981). The Quest for ‘Musically Interesting’ Structures in Computer Music
Keane, David (1984). The Bourges International Festival of Experimental Music: A Retrospective
Keane, David (1986). At the Threshold of an Aesthetic
Keane, David (1989a). Some Practical Aesthetic Problems of Electronic Music Composition
Keane, David (1989b). The Quest for “Musically Interesting” Structures in Computer Music
Keane, David (2000). Electroacoustic Music in Canada: 1950-1984
KOENIG, Gottfried Michael (1998). Studium im studio (1959)
Kohl, Jerome (2002). Serial Composition, Serial Form, and Process in Karlheinz Stockhausen’s {Telemusik}
Kotonski, Wlodzimierz, Barrière, Françoise, Clozier, Christian (1975). Wlodzimierz Kotonski parle de la musique expérimentale en Pologne
Kröpfl, Francisco (1998). Organizing Sound in Electroacoustic Music, questions and Hints: a Proposal of Exploration for the Young
Küpper, Léo (1998). Expérimentations et prospections
Laliberté, Martin (1992). À la recherche du nouvel instrument
Laliberté, Martin (2001). Problématique générale des outils dans l’histoire de l’électroacoustique
Landy, Leigh (2003a). Voulez-vous changer votre paradigme avec moi ce soir?
Langlois, Philippe (2002). Bernard Parmegiani au service de la recherche
Laske, Otto (2002). Subscore Manipulation as a Tool for Compositional and Sonic Design
Lejeune, Jacques (1999). Parcours, imagerie et classifications
Leman, Marc, Dierickx, Jelle, Martens, Gaëtan (2001). The IPEM - archive Conservation and Digitalization Project
Levaux, Benjamin (2002). {Trois études}
Lewis, Andrew (1987). Motion and the Analysis of Electro-Acoustic Music: Denis Smalley’s {Vortex}
Lewis, Andrew (1989). Amplitude and Frequency Slope Profiles in Denis Smalley’s {Pentes}
Lewis, Andrew (1992). The Undiscovery of Electroacoustic Music
Licata, Thomas (2002a). Luigi Nono’s {Omaggio a Emilio Vedova}
Licata, Thomas (Ed.) (2002b). Electroacoustic Music: Analytical Perspectives
Louet, Pierre (1991). Espace de la musique et musique de l’espace
Luening, Otto (1989). Electronic Music
Lyon, Marianne (2001). La musique électroacoustique au CDMC : données et éléments de réflexion
MacDonald, Alistair (1995). Performance Practice in the Presentation of Electroacoustic Music
Makan, Keeril (2004). An Interview with Edmund Campion
Malec, Ivo, Giner, Bruno (1996). Entretien avec Ivo Malec
Malec, Ivo, Giner, Bruno (2003). Rencontres avec Ivo Malec
Mandolini, Ricardo (2006). Musique informelle, musique électroacoustique : une convergence insoupçonnée ?
Manning, Peter (1979). Invention and Innovation: A Vital Partnership
Manning, Peter (1992). Towards a New Age in the Technology of Computer Music
Manoury, Philippe (1990). La note et le son: un carnet de bord
Marcías, Gonzalo (2004). Les origines de la musique électroacoustique au Mexique
Marie, Jean-Étienne (1969). De quelques expériences d’électro-acoustique musicale
Martin, Jean (2000). An Interview with Trevor Wishart