Posted on Leave a comment

The history of electronic music

If you think about the first musical instruments made, then music instruments have changed profoundly with electricity. From a technological point of view, we can distinguish two streams of inventions that have revolutionized music – although both are closely related at the same time. On the one hand, electricity made it possible to develop electric and electronic instruments, and on the other, to accurately record sound and to reproduce sound from them.

Both aspects of technological advances in music have changed the latter on several levels. Firstly, at the level of artistic expression: new instruments enabled new sounds, sound effects, or. effects, colors, textures, new volume levels, etc. and have been a source of inspiration for both composers and performers. Second, the social structure of music has changed. Until about the beginning of the 20th century, most of the music was accessible only to the dedicated; with the ability to play recordings, especially in the second half of the 20th century, when this possibility became truly widespread and the use of radio receivers became widespread, as well as artificial and artistic music became much more accessible to the wider society – at least in the richer western part of the world. Third, the economics of music has changed. The recording of music on the recording media and the mass production of these made it possible for music to become a consumer item. It has grown into an industry, and in 2018, according to the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI), global sales of music recordings totaled nearly $ 20 billion.

Early electronic musical instruments

Instrument makers used electricity from a very early age: the first instrument still in use that used electricity was clavecin électrique, made in 1759 by the French Jesuit priest Jean-Baptiste de La Borde. These are tuned bells played by the musician by pressing the keys. Each time you press the percussionist (or cambell) with an electrostatic charge, alternately banging on a pair of equally tuned bells. The charge required to operate the musical instrument was stored in a Leiden bottle, the precursor to today’s condenser, and was created with a friction electrostatic generator – most likely by rubbing a glass ball against the wool. The appearance of this instrument further enhanced the visual effect of the sparks that were triggered each time a key was pressed.

The 18th and 19th centuries were followed by many experiments with instruments, the components of which were electromagnetic coils, electric motors, and other electromechanical components. Thus, about a century after the de La Bordeaux bells, the Prussian physicist Hermann von Helmholtz devised a device commonly regarded as the first synthesizer and described it in his groundbreaking work on the sense of tone as the physiological basis for music theory, which came out in 1863. Although It was not designed as a musical instrument, it, along with Helmholtz’s research on acoustics and sound perception in humans, was an important contribution to the further development of sound synthesizers. The largest and most advanced early electronic musical instrument was Thaddeus Cahill’s telharmonium from the turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries. These huge electromechanical organs, weighing 210 tonnes in their second and third versions, requiring 67 kilowatts of electrical power, were intended to transmit music over telephone lines, which soon proved to be impractical because it disturbed other telephone telephones.

Leave a Reply