From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"De Natura Sonorum (1975) by Bernard Parmegiani is the masterpiece of electroacoustic music." --Sholem Stein
Electroacoustic music includes several different sonic and musical genres or musical techniques. The genre is dated to the 1940s and early 1950s, and in particular to the work of two groups of composers whose aesthetic orientations were radically opposed, Musique concrète group was centered in Paris and the Studio für elektronische Musik located in Cologne.
Many date the formal birth of Electroacoustic music to the late 1940s and early 1950s, and in particular to the work of two groups of composers whose aesthetic orientations were radically opposed.
The Musique concrète group was centered in Paris and was pioneered by Pierre Schaeffer; their music was based on the juxtaposition and transformation of natural sounds (meaning real, recorded sounds, not necessarily those made by natural forces) recorded to tape or disc.
In Cologne, elektronische Musik, pioneered in 1949–51 by the composer Herbert Eimert and the physicist Werner Meyer-Eppler, was based solely on electronically generated (synthetic) sounds, particularly sine waves. The precise control afforded by the studio allowed for what Eimert considered to be an electronic extension and perfection of serialism; in the studio, serial operations could be applied to elements such as timbre and dynamics. The common link between the two schools is that the music is recorded and performed through loudspeakers, without a human performer. While serialism has been largely abandoned in electroacoustic circles, the majority of electroacoustic pieces use a combination of recorded sound and synthesized or processed sounds, and the schism between Schaeffer's and Eimert's approaches has been overcome, the first major example being Karlheinz Stockhausen's Gesang der Jünglinge of 1955–56.
Isolated examples of the use of electroacoustic and prerecorded music exist that predate Schaeffer’s first experiments in 1948. Ottorino Respighi used an (acoustical) phonograph recording of a nightingale’s song in his orchestral work The Pines of Rome in 1924, before the introduction of electrical record players; experimental filmmaker Walter Ruttmann created Weekend, a sound collage on an optical soundtrack in 1930; and John Cage used phonograph recordings of test tones mixed with live instruments in Imaginary Landscape no. 1 (1939), among other examples. In the first half of the Twentieth Century, a number of writers also advocated the use of electronic sound sources for composition, notably Ferruccio Busoni, Luigi Russolo, and Edgard Varèse, and electronic performing instruments were invented, such as the Theremin in 1919, and the Ondes Martenot in 1928.
Electroacoustic music is a diverse field. Important centers of research and composition can be found around the world, and there are numerous conferences and festivals which present electroacoustic music, notably the International Computer Music Conference, the International Conference on New interfaces for musical expression, the Bourges International Electroacoustic Music Festival (Bourges, France), and the Ars Electronica Festival (Linz, Austria).
A number of national associations promote the art form, notably the Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC) in Canada, the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS) in the US, ACMA in Australasia and the Sonic Arts Network in the UK. The Computer Music Journal and Organised Sound are the two most important journals dedicated to electroacoustic studies, while several national associations produce print and electronic publications.
- Electronic art music
- Experimental music
- Electroacoustic improvisation
- Prepared guitar
- Sound sculpture
- Acousmatic music