Electronic Music

In a constant state of flux

As a musician, I am interested in how technology has been, and continues to be used to create music;
is technology purely a means to an end or does it actually affect the music musicians create. Since the advent
o f recorded sound, musicians have been utilising recording equipment to record, create, manipulate and perform music.
The LP became the instrument of DJs in clubs, who 'scratch', often simulating beats like a drummer.
Tape and multi-track recording allowed musicians to play/record music bvackwards, stretch the duration of their work,
edit what they had recorded. The extended durations allowed by CD invited some musicians to create extended works.
The development of the PC and 'home recording stuydios' meant that more musicians had
access to more technology and were thus able to create more music.

"...at every step of the way musicians and composers have been right there, playing with the latest technology and always
asking themselves,´What can I do with this?´ That question, the entirely natural response of the creative musician,
has been the main driving force that has brought us the incredible sound technologies we have today."

"Seth Price "Title Variable" UbuWeb is pleased to present a retrospective of Price's 'Title Variable' audio project, [2001-].
...series of music compilations, each concentrating on a technologically transitional but culturally ill-defined moment within the recent history
of digital music production, Price suggests how production tools have changed music, both in distribution
and who controls it as much as in structure and sound.
" (www.gabba.tv/blog.html, 15/11/ 06)

"But ultimately, electronics held the key. Nothing, so far, had blasted music out of its prison...In October 1964, Robert Moog and Herb Deutsch exhibited the first hand-made Moog synthesiser modules, the sounds of which would be transformed a few years later by Sun Ra into astro-blackness, a sea of sounds, the energy of distant winds, the lyric initiative of electricity, new worlds on eath."(Toop, D. (1995/'01) Ocean of Sound, Serpents Tail, p86)


"Shiva Feshareki’s unconventional and often outrageous music has been performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and at the BBC Proms – she performs the world premiere of her concerto for [4] turntables and orchestra." (roundhouse.org.uk , accessed, 21/01/2010)


Some may argue that it was the development of the tape that had the biggest impact on music; allowing musicians to re-order, stretch, repeat, reverse and combine sounds.

"A far back as the mid-1940's, Frenchman Pierre Schaeffer was pioneering a new musical form called musique concrete which involved recording acoustic sounds to short lengths of recording tape, splicing them together, speeding them up and slowing them down, reversing them and otherwise manipulating them...The technique also used tape loops..." (10)

French-American composer Edgar Varese was finally able to realise "ideas that he had been harboring for decades" when he recieved an Amex tape recorder in 1953 (1).

"Technology should be there to make it easier to translate things onto tape but it's not the sould of the music. The human element-that's the soul." (Kate Bush in Toop, p276)


"The Mellotron, used by the Beatles on Strawberry Fields, was the first sucessful sampling instrument." (www.philharmonia.co.uk/thesoundexchange/sound_samples/ )

"The appearance of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” had changed my life: it suggested a music that ideally balanced complexity and directness. There was a downside, though: as a product of the recording studio, most of the Beatles’ music after 1967 couldn’t actually be played live."
Tod Machover, On Future Performance, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/13/on-future-performance/ , accessed 17/01/2010

How much music that has been made using (music) technology can be performed live? The Beatles album compelled Machover to imagine and compose new music, and to "invent new instruments and new modes of playing".

Machover continues to suggest that the technology inspires him to create "unusual" work which requires the said technology to create it

"For the first time in my career, I feel as if there are enough tools on my laptop, enough brilliant and inventive playing chops amongst the younger generation of performers, enough ooomph in the iPhone, and increasing openness and entrepreneurship in musical organizations both large and small to stimulate my imagination and allow for the production and dissemination of my somewhat unusual creations."


Composers such as John Cage and Terry Riley experimented with tape in the 1960s; listen, for example, to Cage's Rozart Mix of 1965 in which he 'compiled' excerpts from a number of sound recordings, which he cut up, made faster and layered above eachother. Tape also allowed Cage to explore spacial elements by separating sounds between the left and right channels. Terry Riley's Mescalin Mix is another example of how tape affected music. Riley also worked with Young for a while with a dance company in 1959-1960. It was during this time that Riley started to use tape in his experiments with repetition as structure. Steve Reich, was experimenting with tape loops in the 1960s. Minimalism was undoubtedly influenced by tape, especially evident in the music of Steve Reich. Reich's first tape piece was probably M Mix, which consisted of recordings of speech, piano and other sounds, some of which were distorted. Reich was also to use speech in his tape loops (Come Out, Its Gonna Rain, 1965-66) but then went onto use instruments such as the organ, piano and violin and to transferring tape loop effect pieces to live performance. Riley used tapes in his later solo piece Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band (1967) to give the feeling of the 'phantom band' by creating time delays. But tape was not exclusively used in 'minimal' music; rock musicians also experimented with it.

The American composer John Adams experimented with tape in his music during the 1970s. Addressing students at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (where he taught from 1972-82) on 22 April 2004) he noted that his then colleague Alden Jenkins "taught electronic music and shared my love of early Stockhausen tape pieces," (earbox.com)

Adams' tape works of the 1970s
Heavy Metal - 2 channel tape (1970)
Studebaker Love Music - 2 channel tape (1976)
Onyx - 4 channel tape (1976)
Light Over Water - 2 channel tape (1983)

Ingram Marshall (Light Over Water: The Genesis of a Music) suggested that Adams' works were influenced by his work with tape and synthesisers. Using Shaker Loops (1978/83) as an example, Marshall argued that Adams wanted to do with the orchestra things which he, Steve Reich and Terry Riley could do/had done in the studio with tape and synthesisers.

Gavin Bryars is another musician who has used tape in his work. For example, "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me" (released on PointMusic in 1993) consists of a looped recording of a song he had recorded, with changing orchestral accompaniment.

"When I played through the tape again at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano and I improvised a simple chordal accompaniment."

Could Bryars have composed / performed this music WITHOUT the use of a tape recorder?

"At the time I had made a number of pieces using tape loops, and I noticed that the first section of the song formed a curiously effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable, but inevitable way...I took the tape loop there to copy it on to a continuous reel...For some time, I had had the idea of making a piece of music which repeated in a gradually incremental way but which had something of the emotional tone of the late 1950s American war films...For me at the time, this idea related to both Pop Art and Minimal Art: a kind of non-abstract repetition but with emotional overtones." (Bryars, 1993)

So the composition came about as a kind of accident caused by the use of tape?

Toop suggests that the late Arthur Russell was a "minimalist/disco composer" (1995, p119). Does this this imply that disco music and minimal music had things in common? Toop points out that Russell frequently worked with New York dub DJ Walter Gibbons.

"New York dub emerged, almost as an inevitability , from the disco tape editing and remixing of DJs such as Tom Moulton and Walter Gibbons...[Moulton] restructured funk tracks with a razor blade".(Toop, 1995, p118)

Toop further suggests that Disco was constructed in a

"modular, even-number" fashion and that dub (a la Gibbons) 'contrasted/merged the developmental improvisation of Indian ragas with the hypnotic, human-interlock accredtions of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's Nigerian Afro-funk'. Minimal music is/was hypnotic, and developed, to a certain extent, from "the developmental improvisation of Indian ragas".

"Like Gibbons, Russell played the studio like an instrument" (Toop, 119). Russell worked with John Cage, Laurie Anderson, Francois Kervorkian, David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame). Steve D'Aquisto, the Ingram Brothers, Peter Gordon, Larry Levan, poet Allen Ginsberg and 'minimalist' Philip Glass amongst others.


The composer Morton Subotnick "inaugurated the 1990s with an electronic work to be performed interactively on a compact disc through a Macintosh computer, with the consumer making choices as to the sequence and nature of the musical components and the images that accompanied them on screen."(6) It would be hard to argue that each consumer would make the same decisions regarding the music and images; this may or may not mean that the technology influenced the music. Ask Subotnick if his approach to composition changed because of the format he was working with and he may say no, but the variety of possibilities for the consumers undoubdtedly mean that music that would not have otherwise been created, have been.

"All of the versions that Ihad made at this time [1971-75] and since have been limited in their duration by physical factors: the maximum duration of a single side of a vinyl LP, the length of a reel of magnetic or 16mm film. So when the possibility arose to make a CD version, I resolved to reconsider the piece for this extended medium" (Bryars, 1993)


These processes and many more, are now possible on computers, using software like Cubase®, Logic® & Soundforge® which allow musicians to apply chorus, delay/echo, distortion, dynamics, envelopes, pitch bend/shift, reverb, and vibrato' as well as altering the duration of sounds. These programs also mean that composers can create music on instruments that they cant play or don't have acess to. Whilst the music composers create with these packages may not be influenced by the technology, musicians, who would not otherwise have heard the music, may be influened by it. Morton Subotnick suggested that "the kind of music that's being made is going to be different" because of the availability and cost of computers. (8)

"Logic has shaped the way that we’ve done our music, in the sense that its plug-ins and its audio engine certainly shape the sound of the music...But we use Logic how we want to use it. We shape it to our sessions and our needs." (Hilton)

www.apple.com/pro/musicaudio/inthestudio/thieverycorp accessed 6/3/06

"So I've used Native Instruments tools, to take samples that I create, say it's a bowed instrument that I’m trying to get some overtones out of. I'll just do a series of sampling and then I will process them using Reaktor, bringing those audio files into Reaktor and completely transforming them into something else that's unrecognizable. Which is quite amazing because you would never know what the source was. I could take something like a hurdy gurdy or a bowed dulcimer and make it sound eerie just by processing it, just by synthesis. I know what kinds of sounds I'm looking for so I can do sampling sessions before the season even begins and make all kinds of wild sounds. It's been an evolution over the process of doing 3 seasons that I've really refined these sounds. I like to use technology to create sounds that have not been heard before....I use Absynth, Kontakt, Reaktor, Vokator, Pro-53. Basically, I have used all of the NI programs at some point during the show. The program I use the most and the foundation of all my sound design is Reaktor with some external processors. I Use the Eventide Eclipse, TC Fireworks and a Lexicon 960 as well as a lot of VST plugs. I also run stuff through filters and distortion. I’ll get a sound in Reaktor that I love. I'll record that and I'll begin processing and layering other sounds on top." (source)

"In addition, sampling provides the possibility to work with an enormous variety of sounds. With less than ten people we were able to perform the soundtrack of Powaqqatsi, while it had taken thirty or forty to record it." www.philipglass.com; 11/97, Interview by Claudio Chianura

Implicit in this statement is that the sampling did not actually influence the music, merely enabled Glass to perform it with fewer musicians. The same might be said of John Adams' 1995 work John's Book of Alleged Dances. "I made digital samples of these sounds and organized them into loops which, overlapping and interlocking, became mini-rhythm tracks."(7), Sampling (using samples from other tracks) has been a widely used technique in popular music for many years....

The dance music producer turned classical composer Walter Teib believes that 'Creating realistic orchestral demos has only become possible during the last few years, in particular because of streaming samplers such as Gigastudio® and the VSL orchestral library.' (SOS, Feb 2005, p180) "Of course people have been making orchestral demos for a while...But they were using technology at its limits, and this afected the compositions...In the past you could make things sound like an orchestra, but you couldn't compose like you normally would for an orchestra. It was also impossible to make very fast passages, or to make the strings sing, and so people often simply had held chords in their demos."

Software and hardware samplers also increase the sound palette of composers as they often include electronic 'instruments'. Samplers allow composers to realise music that may be impossible for orchestral musicians to play, they can time-stretch sounds and transpose them independantly. They can add reverb and many other effects. The availability of sequencers and other sound editing software also allow composers 'cut and paste' music, rather than re-recording it, which decreases costs. Programs like Apples iLife® suite which includes GarageBand® mean more and more people can try their hand at composing. Dun Williams (SoS, Nov 2004), referring to GarageBand, eJay®, Fruityloops® and Acid®, wondered whether "entry-level software [is] killing musical creativity". These programs mean that musicians can appreciate (or not) their own music, by listening to recordings they make. "Not all dance music is very good. In fact at one point, most of it seemed derivative and formulaic, perhaps because with the arrival of the sampler and sequencer, any kid could lay down a tune and put out a record" (Blaine, B. Are programmers the new DJs? The explosion of short film nights, shootingpeople, 19/11/04)

Tech & Film Music

www.tracksounds.com interviewed film composers Jeff Rona and Don Davis and asked them how they see technology affecting film music. Rona said in his interview "There is something about eighty people pouring their hearts into their instruments, as they play well crafted music, that just elevates a scene. Nothing in technology has rivaled that yet." When tracksounds asked Rona if 'synth and computer film-scores would replace orchestral scores' Rona replied; 'The way people make movies, has changed, but the scores still remain pretty diverse. Composers who don't know how to do a demo of a score using a computer are much less likely to get work. At the same time, if you don't have stylistic diversity, your chances of getting work become less and less.'

Tracksounds asked a similar question to Don Davis.

"Well, you're not going to see less of [synthesisers] because it offers some pretty unique advantages. Directors are going to want to hear synthesizer mock-ups more and more which is good and bad really. Unfortunately, that can hinder some really intricate writing, because its when you have pencil to paper that you can work things out, but when you're knocking out something quick on the synth so the director can hear it, you're going to jump into some expedience. I don't think this adds to the quality of the music."

For the composer Howard Shore (of Lord of the Rings® fame) "film scoring is a combination of tradition and technology" as he 'writes his initial scores with pencil and paper' but feels that "filmmaking today involves a digital world with frequent editing changes." (advert for Digital Performer, SoS, Nov '04). Technology has helped the (film) composer Philip Glass "a great deal. Today with very few instruments one can obtain a full-fledged sound." (9) Film composer Thomas Newman finds electronic music and orchestral music 'really interesting' and 'would never choose one over the other.'

"I hate the notion that electronics are a cheesy way of doing things and that orchestra is the only 'true' approach to scoring. But you can understand those critics, because electronics allow you to make easy choices. Anyone can do it. But while synthesizers are things you hide behind sounds, they can also be put in places you'd never expect. I've always wanted these boundaries to be amorphous."

The composer Philip Glass admitted that he used computers whilst working on his 'operatic film score' for Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bete (Beauty and the Beast).

"I timed every word, I placed it mathematically in the score...and when I got done, Michael Riesman [musical director] and I recorded it and out it up against the film and discovered it wasnt accurate enough. So we began using computers to move the vocal line around til it synched with the lips, and then I had to rewrite the music in order to achieve a better synchronization." (5)

Glass is no longer a minimalist but in the mid-late 60s and early 70s he was writing repetitive, tonal music with a strong sense of pulse. Minimalism perhaps influenced electronic bands such as Kraftwerk. Kraftwerk encountered 'La Monte Young, whoin 1969, constructed a non-stop sound environment using sine wave oscillators that ran for 13 days and Terry Riley, who was playing concerts of lengthy duration'. (Toop, 205) Kraftwerk were also able to experience the repetitive, rhythmic and durational structures of Javanese gamelan in 1972. La Monte Young cites Balinese and Javanese Gamelan as one of his influences (Toops, 1995, p177)

"We didnt play three-minute singles...[T]he music would be long - building and vibrating."

Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky) understands the need for people to search for ways of "gigs that pay" (8) such as ringtones, web jingles, film music and TV adverts. As mobile technology advances, it allows us to hear tunes as heard on the radio. The development of game computers, such as the Nintendo® Gameboy®, for which some composers, including Howard Fredrics (former lecturer at Kingston University), have composed music using lots of notes to give the illusion of harmony because the computer could only play a certain number of notes at the same time.

Mobile media

Like the transmediale.05 festival of art and digital media, I am interested in "artistic reflection about the socio-cultural impact of new technologies" and 'shaping the way in which we think about and experience these technologies'. Some musicians feel that relying on technology means that music loses "the live interactive aspects, in some ways, like playing with somebody else." (2) The festival is also partly about the belief that "Internet and mobile phones transform social relations". It would be hard to deny that mobile technology (laptop, PDA, phone, portable media players such as the iPod®, (CD/tape) walkman®) have changed where we can listen to music and where we can communicate. Monophonic, polyphonic and 'real' ring tones mean we can hear (pop) tunes in new arrangements, and many phones allow us to compose our own ring-tone(s). Some may argue that the ability to use pop songs as mobile phone ring tones should lead to an increase in royalties included in CDs for artists. mobile phone users can also download ring tones. There are computer programs (such as...) that allow people to convert their own tunes into ringtones. Will this mean the (pop) tunes will be written specifically for use as ring-tones?


Brian May, Queen's quitarist collaborated with the late composer Michael Kame on music for the film Highlander and Queen also wrote music for the film Flash Gordon. Queen first used a synthesiser in 1980 for their album Play The Game, and continued to use them for their 1984 release The Works in the songs Radio Ga Ga and I Want to Break Free, which both went on to be big hits for the band...Why did they use synths?

Darren Tate ("one of Britains leading house and trance producers" [SoS]) understands that

"We need to be making the most of technology to get the most effectiuve results...On top of having your melodies right and your arrangement and production, you've got to come up with something fresh too". (Secrets Of House and Trance, SoS, Nov 2004).

Tate explains how much of a role production plays in house and trance, and discusses a number of different elements of sound editing. He can, for example, combine elements (e.g. pitch, attack) of different kick (bass) drums to create the sound he wants.


I asked composer Richard Evans, who I met whilst working on transitstation, if he thought technology has affected music and, like Howard Shore, he said that he combines "tradition and technology".

"I would say it has affected music hugely, especially in the last 10 years. From a personal level, nearly all my music making now involves music tech in some form or another. For me, the increased accessability of music tech has been a big factor in allowing me to do more of my own work. I now run a Pro Tools LE system based around my PC, and with one good mic, I now have the capability to produce entire projects within a completely self-contained environment"

Rich (1995) also suggests that "The 'pioneers' of electronic music, like the die-hard serialists around Milton Babbitt, earn their fame bit by bit, even as some of their electronic discoveries have begun to ooze into pop-music areas." (p217) In 2002 Subotnick (8) admitted that 'digital technology helps me make my work more complete. It's hard for me to say exactly how that change comes because I have been working with technology from the beginning.'

And Peter Gabriel experimented with interacive media in Xplora 1.

"We wanted to pack it full of ideas...over 100 minutes of video, 30 minutes of audio, more than a book's worth of text and over 100 still images, so there's lots of stuff to play around with and get lost in....giving you the chance to get inside the music and videos and start playing with the material yourself,...interactive...a lot of fun...a few surprises...some interesting journeys."

He experimented further by developing Noodle. Noodle is

"an attempt to create a form that allows a musician to make a piece of music that could be reinterpreted by a player/listener to create something like a live experience. The intent wasn't to create a sequencer or a drum machine, it's more like an unsequencer - a way to pull music apart and recreate it for yourself, to get deeper into the music, to listen in a different way. We wanted to create something like dancing, a way to respond to music that included you in the process of creating it."

The American composer Steve Reich has been making use of technology for many years. Between 1998-2002 he worked on Three Tales with Beryl Korot, a 'video 'opera' about technology in the twentieth century. Reich felt that "Computers, videotape, samplers, and so on are all part of our culture." and explained that "they are what is used to make our folk music-rock and roll." (4). Reich went on to explain that he could 'slow down a speaker or other sound without changing the pitch or timbre', something that he was unable to do for Different Trains in 1988. "While one of the interviewees is speaking on videotape I make an extension of a single vowel in time so that it becomes part a kind of audible vapor trail and, in fact, becomes part of the harmony." (Reich, 2002)

And it isnt just 'art' music where machines are having an impact. Bjork believes that 'in popular music today people are trying to combine machines and humans and trying to marry them in a happy marriage: trying to be optimistic about it." The musician-composer Michael Riesman suggested that 'many still write with pen and paper, but what has changed is what they write for.' (8) What has allowed musicians to record/produce music in their bedrooms? Descreased price of Computers, software and samplers.

The composer John Adams combines improvising at the piano with the use of computer music software and manuscript paper;

"I usually get my first ideas when I’m walking or on a hike in the mountains...But when it comes time to write something down, I usually start with improvising. I might improvise at the piano. I’m a very poor pianist, but the piano nevertheless tends to give me a helpful harmonic picture. ... The next step is to move over into the computer environment where I have a very flexible software system, Digital Performer, a program originally developed for film scoring. It has flexibility of the sort that allows me to take musical structures and stretch them, transpose them, squeeze them, distort them—move large or small structures around in ways that would be extremely tedious on paper ... after I’ve made a MIDI realization of my piece, I go back and do a pencil score on manuscript paper,..."


Home Studios

"Working in solitude can nurture more eccentric, more private songs. Keren Ann recorded the hushed ballads of her new album, "Nolita" (Metro Blue), in two private studios: her soundproofed apartment in Paris and one in the downtown Manhattan neighborhood that gave the album its title, often working in the predawn hours when the city was quietest. Guest musicians could drop by after the last set at a jazz club...Keren Ann said "It happens that I have this idea on an instrument or an arrangement, and I'll wake up and turn everything on and record. It's also different when you can record your own vocals and nobody hears you. You can confess more. If I had not done 'Nolita' this way, it would have been less intimate, less naked." " Pareles, J, 20/3/2005

What has allowed musicians to compose/record/produce music in their bedrooms? Increased performance of Computers/software/samplers

Computer Music;


Whilst studying TV & film composition I developed more of an understanding of how (software) samplers affects film & TV music - some of my fellow students were exploring the use of samplers in their projects/dissertations. Whilst the use of these samplers may not have absolutely affected peoples ideas, it has meant composers have been able to realise much more music than they would have had they had to employ a real orchestra. Some programs allow composers to manipulate sound in ways that musicians can not.

"[A] systematic approach to sound itself had to wait for the invention of sound recording and the accurate computer analysis of sounds. Studios, and then computers, also provided powerful new tools for musicians to work directly with sound."

John Cale, who has worked in film music, rock, classical and "conceptual" music, also felt liberated by working with samples in 2003;

"Working with the samples really freed me up... a method I first used when I was doing film music. If I have a band in the room, trying things out is a lot more difficult. The immediacy of what I was doing cut me loose."

Some composers do not use electronic instruments or equipment in music but some, like Soul Tribe Sector 9, have been using computers as live instruments. STS9 "have never thought about genres, classifications or labels. They’ve followed their passions and talents, exploring different soundscapes, instruments and musical philosophies." What interests me is the way that the "electronic wizardry" changes the way musicians approach their music. Do musicians start out with an idea of the music and then find appropriate tools (e.g. a particular software program or synthesiser) to produce/perform it or use certain tools to find the music they want to make.

"That curiosity inevitably led them to electronic samplers and software sequencers, which they used to create the album “Artifact” in 2005....“Right now, everyone on the stage except the drummer has a PowerBook. They have really become live instruments for us, a way to do new things and improvise in ways we never thought possible before"..Loaded with sound samples from the band and equipped with Ableton Live, the PowerBooks have become an essential part of every STS9 live performance...The band members started running Reason, Pro Tools and Ableton Live on PowerBooks and Power Macs. They recorded samples of their own instruments and ambient sounds from their days on the road. Their latest album, “Artifact,” is jam-packed with those samples and some electronic wizardry that changed the way they approach their music. It was a complete studio project,” says Phipps. “If there needed to be another guitar line or another layer of keyboards, we didn’t limit ourselves whatsoever. All of a sudden we had this album with several layers of keyboards and three guitar lines. When it was all done, we asked ourselves, ‘How are we going to do this live?’” The simple answer was, of course, bring the PowerBooks on stage."

Driver, D. ; David Phipps:PowerBook as Live Instrument accessed 18/12/05)

Live Electronic Music

STS9 are by no means the only musicians who electronics in performance. Karlheinz Stockhausen used electronics at least since 1953 and the short biograohy on his website lists "Live Electronic Music" amongst the genres/styles he has worked in. His website list a timeline [pdf] which includes many of his works and explains what instruments they are for.

"Experiments in the “musique concrète” group at the French radio station in Paris, and realisation of an ETUDE (musique concrète). First synthesis of sound-spectra with electronically generated sine tones...Since 1953 Permanent collaborator at the Studio for Electronic Music of the West German Radio in Cologne (artistic director from 1963–1977, artistic consultant until 1990)...The first compositions of purely Electronic Music: Elektronische STUDIEN I und II (Electronic STUDIES I and II),...1958 Experiments in new electronic sound synthesis and spatial projections for KONTAKTE (CONTACTS)...1960 World première of KONTAKTE (CONTACTS) for electronic sounds, piano and percussion...From 1964 Director of a group for performing Live Electronic Music: numerous compositions for this group (MIKROPHONIE I [MICROPHONY I], PROZESSION [PROCESSION], KURZWELLEN [SHORT-WAVES] etc.). 1965 Guest professor of composition at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). 2nd part of MOMENTE world premièred in Donaueschingen. World première of MIXTUR (MIXTURE) in Hamburg (live-electronic orchestra music)..1966 In Tokyo, realised two works commissioned by the Japanese Radio (NHK) Studio for Electronic Music (TELEMUSIK [TELEMUSIC] and SOLO)..1967..World première of HYMNEN (ANTHEMS) electronic music with soloists...1988 World premières of...WINGS-OF-THE-NOSE-DANCE for percussion and synthesizer...ca, 200 works of lectronic or electro-acoustic music..."

I wondered if Richard Evans, who I met whilst working on transit station, would have had the ideas for the music he produces with his Pro Tools® system if he did not have the setup: whether having the technology merely allowed him to realise the ideas or actually inspired them.

"Alot of my music is still sketched out on paper and played on instruments (or sung) before it gets to the recording stage. However, when it comes to creating arrangements technology plays a pretty big part. Especially if I am doing stuff in the area of sound composition, or using synth or processed audio sounds. Prime example is probably "Faust's Fugue" which I did at the last transit station. That was edited and mixed in Cubase, using recorded sounds which had been processed in various software programs."

So for Evans, technology is the means to the end rather than the end to the means.

The internet has probably played a part in the development of new music. Someone in London can send text, images, audio andvideo electronically to someone in Tokyo. Instant messengers have recently enabled used to use the software, essentially, as phones, so that they can talk to eachother in real time as well as typing or sending files. Voip (Voice over Internet Prtotocol) means that users can play/sing music together. Skype™ is probably the most popular voip program "for making free calls over the internet to anyone else who also has Skype. It’s free and easy to download and use, and works with most computers."

At least one web tool allows musicians to jam with other musicians no matter how far away they are. "NINJAM is a program to allow people to make real music together via the Internet. Every participant can hear every other participant. Each user can also tweak their personal mix to his or her liking. NINJAM is cross-platform, with clients available for Mac OS X and Windows." What might this mean for 'world music'? Musicians have been travelling the globe for many years. eJamming (tm) is another application that allows musicians around the world to play together via the internet.


Flash® composition

A number of web resources allow 'composers' to create tracks from 'blocks' of music', some of these downloads use 'samples' that are all time-matched in 4-beat. One provider of these programs is Blob Productions. Various blocks stand for different basslines, guitar riffs, beats & effects, built into a long layered 'wall'. Different downloads have different samples, & arguably allow users to 'create' different styles of music, including hip-hop, electronica & funk. From here

RoundHouse Composer


"Of course technology doesn’t remove the need for talent. Ultimately,
“it’s all about you and what you are trying to do,”
Rona says. “Technology never replaces the need for inspiration.”

But it can sure help you capture it.
“Inspiration comes and goes so fast,” Rona says.
“If I don’t get my ideas down quickly, they are gone forever...." " (11)

Some musicians may use technology as a means to and end whilst others may use it to experiment with sounds whilst deciding what music to produce. If a musician buys a new piece of software or hardware, they may experiment with it to see what it can do and stumble across an effect or a sound that they then decide to use in music they produce. On the other hand, they may purchase a particular program BECAUSE it has a certain tool/sound so that they can realise music they want to produce. It is quite possible that Wishart already had ideas of what he wanted to do with sound, and the the tools merely allowed him to try out these ideas. "Over these years I've developed a very large number of procedures for manipulating sounds." So now, if he decides he wants to end up with a certain sound, he knows how to manipulate another sound. These precedures and tools have meant that music which would not otherwise have been produced, has been, and has surely infuenced other musicians. Wishart 'conceived music, such as Red Bird (1973-77), in terms of transformations between sound types' but he had to 'develop techniques to achieve the transformations on an ad-hoc basis, through discovering what was practical with analogue facilities' (Trevor Wishart). So the process of composition was a combination of pre-conceived ideas and ideas inspired by the technology.

I asked Jerry A Greene ("The Piano Music Podcast") if technology has affected/is affecting music and if so, how;

"Technology has affected the way music is both produced and delivered to the consumer. You can “hear” the changes
in production by listening to songs from different decades and comparing the way they sound…both in quality
and in instrumentation (a lot more of the things you hear are digital now-a-days). Technology is always moving forward
with respect to the way that music is found by the consumer and is constantly changing. Just a few years ago,
no-one ever heard of an iPod, but walk the streets of NYC and watch how many people walk by with one!
The next thing you will be seeing is people paying for access to music, instead of downloads.
It will be music on demand, wherever you want (wirelessly), whenever you want."

I asked Joseph Nilo (macpropodcast, podcasterconfessions, macroundtable) and 'TC'
(www.spacemusic.nl) about the advantages and dis-advantages of the use of technology in music;

"The switch to digital throughout the 80's and 90's has, in many ways, contributed to higher fidelity
and a longer lifespan of recorded music" (JN, email to author, 8/3/06)

"The "palette" available to the musician is infinitely improved...I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Robert Moog,
who is credited with inventing the synthesizer - he lived (RIP) in the same city as me - Asheville, NC. USA.
He was a pioneer in molding science with music / art and opened up a lot of doors for a lot of technologies." (JN)

TC (email to author, 9/3/06) thinks that comosers should "think of musical content before you even get started with your software/hardware tools. So, this way, you'll preserve the one and only important thing about music: a reflection of the mind/soul." Although he admitted that "it's tempting to play around with many different effects and routing possibilities to create a 'spontanious' kind of music". He encourages musicians to "take care when fooling around, as a musician you're taking the risk of not communicating what was on your mind in the first place(!)" and sumarised his view by saying "technology is there as a TOOL for helping you what you want to produce/hear, not the other way around."

Jospeh Nilo feels that:

"Music and recording has been placed into the hands of the people - 10 years ago it was a very expensive
proposition to have a home studio. Now it's very easy. More voices are being heard."

We are hearing more music. Richard Russell (who produces the " Creativity and Composition" podcast) agrees with

"Spacemusic.nl's email about how nowadays anyone can "do" music. This is both good and bad for music. I always think of becoming and author, writing a book. The technology exists whereby you can record yours story into a tape recorder, and have a voice recognition software transcribe your words into a book. But shouldn't you (at least) know how to read? You can be a brilliant story teller, but you should have the basic tools of reading and spelling at yoru coommand. Or shouldn't you? Technology can make music reation a very democratic experience. But with the democracy comes responsibility, and I'm not sure folks get that." (email to author, 9/3/06)

If alot of the music that is made 'today' lacks "soul", can we at least recover/rediscover the soul in music recorded with alot less technology? Compoared to todays music 'the digitally remastered version of Miles Davis' A Kind Of Blue, listened to with good headphones, sounds amazing' (JN).

Although we are able to record music in "higher fidelity", we are hearing less of the music

"Technologies such as digital editing / vocal auto-tune may be taking much of the recorded "soul" out of modern music.
Everything has to be perfect now - a performer full of powerful raw talent from the past, would today be edited and auto-tuned.
What would Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Janis Joplin sound like today in ProTools? I am constantly amazed by the high-quality recordings
of the past before recent advances - The Beatles (recorded on 4 tracks! Yes, that means one microphone hanging over Ringo), Queen (!).
I listen to the "last" of the analog recordings that were just amazing quality - like Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" and "Thriller".
That was a lot of hard work back then!" (Joseph Nilo)

More of the (more) music we are hearing has less "soul"

TC feels that the use of technology in "radio/commercial" music has been largely detrimental;

"Then, late 90's I gave up [listening to radio/commercial typres of music] because of the overloads of 'misformed' tracks
performed by so many many amateurs playing around with technology. Worst thing: almost every band
followed the same patterns...no more creativity was the result.

Technology isn't all bad;

"The genre I must say I started to like was Housemusic: I mean if you're going to integrate technology into making music,
housemusic is 100% 'technology-only', so there's no discussion possible."

“Technology or no technology, at the end of the day it still comes down to: How good is the tune?"
(Gerry Beckley, in Levy, D., America, apple.com, 7/1/06)

Groove Blender - Music 2000 PC demo - Expressive Software Projects - eJay - altzero - Squidsoup

Magix Music Maker 2003 - Soundtoys - Soundjunction

© Rupert Cheek 2013

(1) Quinn, P. , Edgar Varese;Arcana/Integrales/Deserts, (naxos 2001)...(2) Vere-Simmons, P.; to author, 4/11/04... (3) Ben Blaine...(4)Reich in interview with Allenby, D, 2002, Three Tales ...(5) Cott,. J. (1995) A Conversation with Philip Glass on La Belle et la Bete, from Glass; La Belle et la Bete (nonesuch, 1995)... (6) Rich, A. American Pioneers (1995) Phaidon; London, p216...(7) Adams, J. (1998) John's Book of Alleged Dances, (nonesuch, year)...(8) www.andante.com, accessed 9/8/02...(9) www.philipglass.com; 11/ 97, Interview by Claudio Chianura...(10) Sound On Sound, Aug 2005, 128...(11) Rona, J., Knowing the Score, apple.com-rona, accesed 11/3/06

About Me







Music software that lets anyone compose music. The first music software program designed to teach students and adults how to compose music simply by drawing lines on the screen


thejetty.org/thesis Hidekazu Minami; NYC as inter- active instrument


Resonance fm


Trevor Wishart; sonic arts

Groove Blender


Music 2000





Magix Music Maker


(registered) Trademarks

Steinberg; Cubase, VST

Apple Inc
Logic, iLife, Garageband, iPod, PowerBoook

Avid Pro Tools

TEAC, Tascam; Gigastudio

Sony Soundforge, Acid

Nintendo, Gameboy

Empire Interactive; eJay

Fruityloops, Reason

Highlander films


Native Instruments

Reaktor, Absynth

Vokator, Pro-53

Many thanks to;

Jospeh Nilo


TC; spacemusic

Richard D Russell

Creativity & Composition
Jerry A Greene.