(sonicArts) what is computer music?

Although the course is titled “An Introduction to Sonic Art,” a large part of what we will be studying and working on will be computer music. Your reading assignment addresses the issue of what is sonic art. Let’s address what is computer music.

Defining Computer and Electronic Music

Technically, anything reproduced through a computer or electronic means is computer or electronic music. The two terms, computer and electronic, used to have distinguishing features about thirty years ago (and more) when working with analog electronics was distinctly different from working with computers. Our technical definition means that listening to music on a digital player (iPod), CD, or radio could be computer music. A more useful definition would refer to the means of production, so that music produced through computer or electronic means.

Defining Through Listening

Some very old listening:

  • Tchaikovsky: Valse Sentimentale, performed by Clara Rockmore on the Theremin.
  • Pierre Henry: Variations for a Door and a Sigh (1963)
  • Louis and Bebe Barron: Main Title from Forbidden Planet (1956)
  • Edgard Varese: Poem Electronique (1958)

Stuff that was made while your parents were alive:

  • Mario Davidovsky: Synchronism No. 6 (1970)
  • Steve Reich: Come Out (1966)
  • John Chowning: Stria (1977)
  • Brian Eno: Unfamiliar Wind (Leaks Hills) (1978 – 1982)

Ok, some even the new stuff is sort of old, but at least you were alive for most of this:

  • Paul Lansky: idle chatter
  • Nine Inch Nails (Trent Reznor): Into the Void (from The Fragile)
  • Radiohead: Kid A and Idioteque
  • Bjork: Cocoon from Vespertine
  • Aphex Twin: Ventolin (video version, from I Care Because You do)


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