Niche it!
BobbyGs Info


Electroacoustic music

Music Sound

Electroacoustic music

Home | Up

The terms Electroacoustic or Electroacoustic music have been used to describe several different musical genres or musical techniques.

While generally seen as a branch of electronic music, the definition and characteristics of electroacoustic music have been subject to much debate.

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 in Canada, SEAMUS in the US, and Sonic Arts Network in the UK. The Computer Music Journal and Organised Sound are two important journals dedicated to electroacoustic music.


Questions of Definition

There is no consensus for the definition of "Electroacoustic music". Some contend that any sound played over a loudspeaker is "electroacoustic", while for others, the term also entails some aesthetic specifications.

While all electroacoustic music is made with electronic technology, the most successful works in the field are usually concerned with those aspects of sonic design which remain inaccessible to traditional musical instruments played live.

In particular, most electroacoustic compositions make use of sounds not available to, say, the traditional orchestra; these sounds might include prerecorded sounds from nature or from the studio, synthesized sounds, processed sounds, and so forth.

Electroacoustic compositions also often explore spatial characteristics of sound, as sounds can be given trajectories, and can be placed in distant or near fields of listening. Electroacoustic music is typically less preoccupied with the 'traditional' concerns of score-based music- rhythm and melody- and more concerned with the interplay of gesture and texture, and what Denis Smalley has termed 'spectromorphology'- the sculpting of the sound spectrum in time.


Many date the birth of electroacoustic music to the late 1940s and early 1950s, and in particular to the work of two groups of composers who generally were at strict odds with each other. The Musique concrète group was centered in Paris and was pioneered by Pierre Schaeffer; their music was based on the juxtapositon of natural sounds (meaning real, recorded sounds, not necessarily those made by natural forces) recorded to tape or disc. In Cologne, Elektronische Musik, pioneered by Herbert Eimert, was based around the construction of tones using only 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 and Eimert's approaches has been overcome.

It should be noted that isolated examples of electroacoustic music exist which predate Schaeffer's first experiments in 1948. Ottorino Respighi used a phonograph recording of a nightingale's song in his orchestral work 'The Pines of Rome' in 1924; experimental filmmaker Walter Ruttmann created 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 Edgar Varese.


Many self-described "electroacoustic" pieces include live performers, either as a performer playing along with a tape, or, more recently, with live electronic processing of the performer's sound. Saxophonist Evan Parker has won acclaim for his recordings using live electronic processing. The term "acousmatic music" is often used to refer to pieces which consist solely of prerecorded sound. There are dozens of other terms which are either synonymous with "electroacoustic music", or which describe subsets or offshoots from the genre. These include: sonic art; computer music; electronic music; microsound; lowercase; soundscape; audio art; radiophonics; live electronics; musique concrète; field recording; experimental electronica.

Electroacoustic music is closely related to Electronica by technique; recently many popular electronica artists have been influenced by electroacoustic composers, for instance Amon Tobin, Autechre, Aphex Twin, Gescom, and Squarepusher.

See also


  • Chadabe J., (1997), "Electric Sound: The Past and Promise of Electronic Music", Prentice Hall, NJ.
  • Emmerson S., (1986), "The Language of Electroacoustic Music", Macmillan Press, London.
  • Emmerson S., (2000), "Music,Electronic Media and Culture", Ashgate Publishing,Hampshire,UK.
  • Griffiths P., (1995), "Modern Music and After: Directions Since 1945", Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Heifetz R.J., (1989), "On The Wires of Our Nerves:The Art Of Electroacoustic Music" ,Associated University Presses Inc., Cranbury, NJ.
  • Kahn D., (1999), "Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts", MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
  • Licata T., (2002), "Electroacoustic Music: Analytical Perspectives", Greenwood Press,Westport,CT.
  • Roads C., (1996), "The Computer Music Tutorial", MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
  • Wishart T., (1996), "On Sonic Art", Routledge, London.

External links

  • CEC — Canadian Electroacoustic Community / Communauté électroacoustique canadienne.
  • SAN — Sonic Arts Network is a UK-based organisation that promotes and explores the art of sound.
  • EARS — the Electro Acoustic Resource Site.
  • EMS — Electroacoustic Music in Sweden.
  • empreintes DIGITALes — Recordings of musique concrète, acousmatic music, electroacoustic music.
  • NIME — conference on new interfaces for musical expression
  • SEAMUS — Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States.
  • STEIM — Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
  • VIBRÖ — Chronicles of contemporary sound experiments
  • Electroacoustic Music — style reference at Synthtopia.
  • Art of the States: electroacoustic electroacoustic works by American composers
  • Musiques & Recherches — Belgium association dedicated to the development of electroacoustic music
  • SEAMS — Society for Electro Acoustic Music in Sweden
  • SONUS — online listening library (jukebox) of 1700+ electroacoustic works

Home | Up

Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

Sign up for PayPal and start accepting credit card payments instantly