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Music Technology

Mr. Costa
BHS Music



Music technology is something of a nebulous term. In most
circumstances where the term is used in today's electronically driven
culture, most people associate music technology with any endeavor in which
music's creation becomes intertwined with computers and/or the Internet.
While this generalization is not incorrect, it also glosses over the myriad
ways in which music and technological advancement have collided over the
past 100+ years through composition, instrument design, recording, and
playback. In this introduction to Music Technology, we will examine the
very meaning of the course's namesake through the stories of notable and
influential musicians, scientists, instruments, and listening devices. In
this manner, we hope to better understand how we have arrived at a moment in
time where practically anybody can create, record, listen to, and share
music at practically any time with an incalculable number of people.
Given the almost unimaginable length of time in which humans have engaged in the process of created music, the art form's fusion with
electronic manipulation is something of a recent occurrence, having only become prevalent in the past century of music making. Prior to that,
acoustic music that is, music made without any electronic ingredients or modifications was the norm. Think of a Beethoven symphony or
even a call to battle being blared from a military bugle, and you get the idea. Below are a few of the innovators that rose to prominence in the
20th century with an inspiration to shift acoustic music into electroacoustic realms. With their pioneering creativty and the burgeoning
electronic experimentation done by inventors like Alexander Bell and Thomas Edison, music would be forever changed.

COMPOSER: Edgard Varese (1883-1965)

Born in Paris in 1883, composer and conductor Edgard Varse operated his
professional life under a fairly straightforward principal: that electronics could
free music. Varse would devote much time particularly after his emigration
to the US in 1915 to the development of new instruments and new technical
means so as to generate the organized sounds of his imagination
(Prendergast, p.34). Varse felt limited by the finite number of instruments
used in most symphony orchestras. Feeling equally restrained by the limited
technological development of the time and its ability to conjure the sounds he
wanted to use, Varse instead attempted to create these new timbres and
textures with exisiting instruments. Such a mindset is present in works like
Ionisation, where Varse uses a percussion ensemble in an unconventional way
to generate images of urban landscapes. Still insatiable in his quest to bring
electronics to the compositional process, Varse would create works (Ecutorial)
that employed Theremins and Ondes Martenots. The pinnacle of his innovations
came with 1958's Poeme Electronique, which was a chorus of bells, piano,
organs, drums, and electronically altered vocals projected through 425 speakers
on an 11-channel tape machine.
Key Works:

Ionisation (1931)

Ecuatorial (1934)

Poeme Electronique (1958)

Music Technology
Mr. Costa
BHS Music

COMPOSER: Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007)

German-born composer Karlheinz Stockhausens influence on 20 th century music
and not just classical music is vast and varied. He was the first composer
who received a Western classical training and would adopt a principal of pure
electronic music. Though much of his childhood was fraught with turmoil and
darkness (both of his parents were victims of Nazi brutality in WWII),
Stockhausens early encounters with music made a lasting impression that
would transform him into one of the most revered and simultaneously
controversial figures of 20th century music composition. As an individual who
championed the avant-garde and improvisatory habits, he quickly became a
demigod among rock bands of the 1960s counterculture and psychedelic rock
scene (including the Beatles). As someone who was fascinated by the most
experimental minds in 20th century classical music (Varese, Messiaen, Webern,
and Schoenberg) it wasnt long before Stockhausen charted a course wherein
traditional orchestral timbres and textures would be eschewed for entirely
electronic ones. His first foray into electronic music simplistically titled Study
No. 1 - is a 10-minute fusion of piano, electronic sound, and frequency
generator noise. His Song of the Youths, written three years later after further
studies with John Cage and Varese, was a painstaking and fascinating piece
in which Stockhausen broke down every element of human speech and matched
it with various electronic sounds, including sine waves and bits of white noise.
Stockhausens obsession with new sounds and electronic innovation reached its
apex in 1960 with the release of Contacts, a 35-minute work comprised entirely
of tape loops. Though he would work closely with the Grateful Dead and
Jefferson Airplane in the 1960s, Stockhausens influence extended to the end of
the century, when more recent electronic innovators like Kraftwerk and Aphex
Twin took up his mantle of tireless experimentation with new electronic timbres
and colors.
Key Works:

Study No. 1 (1953)

Song of the Youths (1956)

Kontakte (1960)

COMPOSER: Gyrgi Ligeti (1923-2006)

Hungarian Gyrgi Ligetis fasciation with the colors, timbre, and texture
of music coupled with his fearless mindset and enterprising attitude
would make him a giant among the 20th century composers who
worked within the electronic medium. Though he himself didnt work
with electronics as much as some of his contemporaries, it was Ligetis
singular approach to composition that encouraged others to search for
unconventional sounds in a world that prized convention and formula.
One of his earliest works, 1958s Artikulation, is evidence of this. And,
it was Ligetis eclectic ways of altering timbre and volume in his
compositions that would make him the musician of choice for film
director Stanley Kubrick, who felt that the Hungarians chilling works
were perfectly suited to his 1968 sci-fi epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey. It
was through his partnership with Hollywood that Ligeti suddenly found
himself in the avant-garde limelight. His music, which often has a
means of suggesting a bottomless well of emptiness, has made an
impact on some of the biggest names in electronic music, including
Brian Eno to Autechre.
Key Works:

Artikulation (1958)

Atmospheres (1964)

Lux Aeterna (1966)