click on timeline to jump
- 1902 Thaddeaus Cahill sets up
the Telharmonium or Dynamaphone, a 200-ton array of
Edison dynamos that produced different pitched hums
according to the speed of the dynamos. The electrical
output was "broadcast" over telephone lines.
- 1906 Lee DeForest invents the Triode Vacuum Tube
which led to amplification of electrical signals.
- 1907 Ferruccio Busoni publishes Sketch for a
New Aesthetic of Music discussing the use of
electrical and other new sound sources in future music.
He was to have a profound effect on his pupil, Edgard
- 19teens Italian futurists
investigate, classify, and produce noise instruments.
Most notable was Luigi Russolo.
- 1920's Varese writes Ionisation
and George Antheil writes Ballet Mecanique: Both use
percussion and noise instruments and deal with the
"liberation of sound" and a new view of
- Electronic instruments invented during this period
- Theremin (1919-20)
- Ondes-Martenot (1928)
- Trautonium (1928)
- Hammond Organ (1929) based on technical
principles of the Telharmonium
for an unbelieveably complete description of these and
many other instruments.
Messiaen wrote Fete des belles eaux (1937) for
six ondes-martenot as well as featuring the instrument as
soloist in Trois petites liturgies de la Presence
Divine (1944) and Turangalila-symphonie
(1946-8). Strauss, Hindemith and Varese (2 used
originally in Ecuatorial) composed for the
- 1930's Improvement of
amplifiers and invention of the Tape Recorder. John Cage
composes Imaginary Landscape no.1 (1939) and no.
2 (1942) using test-tones from recordings, which were
played on variable-speed turntables.
- 1948 RTF
(Radiodiffusion-television Francaise) broadcasts Pierre
Schaeffer's Etude aux Chemin de Fer on Oct. 5th.
This marks the beginning of studio realizations and
musique concrete. Pierre Henry collaborates with
Schaeffer on Symphonie pour un homme seul (1950),
the first major work of musique concrete. In 1951
the studio was formally established as the Groupe de
Musicque Concrete, which included other composers such as
Messiaen, Boulez and Stockhausen.
- 1951 Studio established in
Cologne -- NWDR (Nordwest Deutsche Rundfunk). Karlheinz
Stockhausen most influential.
RTF primarily concerned with manipulation of acoustic
sound sources (Musique Concrete). NWDR studio equipped
with electronic sound generators and modifiers
- 1952 Four compositions for tape recorder, composed
by Vladimir Ussachevsky and Otto Luening, presented at
the Museum of Modern Art, New York (10/28). Raymond Scott
designs possibly first sequencer
which consisted of hundreds of switches controlling
stepping relays, timing solenoids, tone circuits and 16
individual oscillators. Also invents Clavivox
synthesizer with subassembly by Robert Moog (1956).
- 1953 Edgard Varese receives Ampex tape
recorder as gift and begins work on Deserts, for
orchestra and tape. Stockhausen completes Studie I
- 1955 Milan Studio de Fonologia RAI
established, with Berio as artistic director. Mayuzumi
founds studio in Tokyo. Phillips studio established at
Eindhoven, Holland, shifted to University of Utrecht
Institute of Sonology in 1960.
- 1956 Lejaren Hiller and
Leonard Isaacson compose Iliiac Suite for string
quartet, the first complete work of computer-assisted
composition (also algorithmic composition). Stockhausen
composes Gesang der Junglinge, the first major
work of the Cologne studio, based on text from the Book
- 1958 Varese Poeme
Electronique played over 400 loudspeakers at the
Phillips Pavillion of the 1958 Brussels World Fair.
- 1959 Columbia-Princeton Studio
established in New York with the help of a $175,000
Rockefeller grant. Incorporated the RCA Mark II
synthesizer, the first major voltage-controlled
synthesizer. Composers included Babbitt, Davidovsky,
Luening, Ussachevsky, Wuorinen, Smiley, Druckman
Development of large mainframe computer synthesis. Max
Mathews of Bell Labs perfects MUSIC V, a direct digital
synthesis language. Development of smaller
voltage-controlled synthesizers by Moog and others make
instruments available to most composers, universities and
popular musicians. Most well-known use Switched-on
Bach album by then Walter, now Wendy Carlos.
Beginning of live electronic performance. The Synket, a
live performance instrument used extensively by composer
John Eaton in works such as Concert Piece for Synket
and Orchestra (1967). Once Festivals, featuring
multimedia theater music, organized by Robert Ashley and
Gordon Mumma in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
- 1963 San Francisco Tape
Music Center established by Morton Subotnik, soon
incorporating a voltage-controlled synthesizer based
around automated sequencing by Donald Buchla, used in
album-length Subotnik pieces such as Silver Apples of
the Moon (1967) and The Wild Bull (1968).
- 1967 Max Mathews and F.
Richard Moore develop GROOVE, a real-time digital control
system for analog synthesis, used extensively by
composers Laurie Spieglel and Emmanuel Ghent in the
Mini-Moog, a small affordable integrated synthesizer make
analog synthesis easily available and affordable, along
with newcomers ARP and Oberheim. Development of real-time
digital synthesis. Charles Dodge composes Speech
Songs (1972) bases on early speech synthesis
research. Jon Appleton (with Jones and Alonso) invents
the Dartmouth Digital Synthesizer, later to become the
New England Digital Corp.'s Synclavier. Barry Vercoe
writes Music 11, a next-generation music synthesis
program (later evolving into csound, which is still
widely used). IRCAM (Paris) becomes a major center for
computer music research and realization and develops 4X
computer system, featuring then revolutionary real-time
digital signal processing. Pierre Boulez's Repons (1981)for
24 musicians and 6 soloists uses the 4X to transform and
route soloists to loudspeaker system.
- 1980's MIDI
instruments and software make powerful control of
sophisticated instruments easily affordable by many
studios and individuals. Acoustic sounds are reintegrated
into studios via sampling and sampled-ROM-based
instruments. Miller Puckette develops graphic
signal-processing software for 4X called MAX (after Max
Mathews), later ports it to Macintosh (with Dave
Zicarelli extending it for Opcode) for real-time MIDI
control, bringing algorithmic composition availability to
most composers with modest computer programming
background. Yamaha introduces DX-7 MIDI keyboard, based
on FM synthesis algorithms developed by John Chowning at
Stanford University. MIDI Specification 1.0
published in 1985 by the MIDI Manufacturers Association.
Also in 1985, Digidesign releases Sound Designer software
for the Macintosh, the first consumer-level hard-disk
recording and editing software. David Jaffe, Julius Smith
and Perry Cook (CCRMA studios of Stanford University)
prototype physical modeling, a method of synthesis in
which physical properties of existing instruments and
represented as computer algorithms which can then be
manipulated and extended.
- 1990's Interactive
computer-assisted performance becomes popular. Tod
Machover's (MIT, IRCAM) Begin Again Again for
"hypercello," an interactive system of sensors
measuring physical movements of cellist premiered by
Yo-Yo Ma. Max Mathews perfects Radio Baton to compliment
his Conductor program for real-time tempo,dynamic and
timbre control of a pre-input electronic score. Morton
Subotnik releases multimedia CD-ROM All My
Hummingbirds Have Alibis. MIDI sequencing programs
expand to included digital audio. Large number of works
for instrumentalist (or ensemble) and tape composed, such
as James Mobberley's Caution to the Winds for
piano and tape, pioneered by Mario Davidovsky's Synchronisms
series several decades earlier.
Jon H. Appleton and Ronald C. Perera The
Development and Practice of Electronic Music, Prentice
Joel Chadabe Electric Sound, Prentice
Charles Dodge and Thomas Jerse, Computer
Music, 2nd. Ed., Schirmer Books, 1997.
Paul Griffiths A Guide to Electronic
Music, Thames and Hudson, 1979.
Herbert Russcol The Liberation of Sound, Prentice
Barry Schrader Introduction to
Electro-Acoustic Music, Prentice Hall, 1982.
Elliot Schwartz Electronic Music: A
Listener's Guide, Praeger, 1973.
Glen Watkins Soundings, Schirmer,
This document prepared by Prof.
Jeffrey Hass, Indiana University School of Music, Center for
Electronic and Computer Music, August 24.1999.
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