Electro-acoustic History – Futurism


So, one of the  great things about a formal education in electronic/electro-acoustic  music is the background history you get. Behind every filter, every synth, every piano roll is hours, days, years of experimentation in which that particular style was conceived to be the best. This EA history series will look at some of the Major contributors to synthesis, DAWs and the roots of Electronic music starting in the 20th century. Hopefully I will be able to make it interesting, unlike any history class… ever.  🙂


So this journey begins in the earliest moments of the 20th century. As Orchestral music hits its peak and blues and roots music starts to take… root? *facepalm*  in America. Half way across the world, a small collective of mostly visual and (a few) musical artists smoke pipes, drink a suitably cheap alchoholic beverage in great quantity and most of all, consider loftily the world which they lived in. They took note of the fact that as the Industrial Revolution took hold, the natural world is being replaced by machinery and noise, sharp edges and grime. They (being a bunch of alchoholic artists… not much has changed, right???) go on a bender one night and think outloud.. very out loudly to themselves… Why is it that the music of the day reflects a natural environment rather than the mechanical and edgy world of the industrial landscape. Then they crash their car. This has no relevance. They are just that drunk.

In some ways you could say they created the first truly “urban” music. 😉 no. Actually. You can’t. But you are welcome to think it.

What they created was well… awful. It was an instrument called the “Intonarumori”

check it out here if you like ->

if you don’t like, (many didn’t) please sit back and use your mind to imagine this picture that I will paint with less than one thousand words.
Imagine an electric grinder, or drill, or a circular saw. (sounds lovely right?) It is next to a string strung horizontally front to back in a box (this string vibrates with sympathetic resonance when the circular saw turns. Then the string is connected to an old school horn speaker. It has a lever on the side of the box which can be set to two speeds. It sounds terrible. It was terrible. check it out here if you like, or more to the point.. you hate your ears.

Now, All aesthetic considerations aside it was a monumental moment in Electro-Acoustic music and one that should not be missed as it set up the ideas later expressed by the likes of John Cage or even Mr Bill. It is the idea that a sound can be harsh and yet be musical, it can not be derived from a string or a stretched hide and can be musical.. It can not be a specific “pitch’ AND STILL BE MUSICAL. From this we can see Electro-Acoustic music begin to define itself, especially once brilliant and slightly less “sauced” musicians start to explore the rich tapestry of sound that we now take for granted on a daily basis.

Yep. And there you go. Lesson 1 over. I hope you enjoyed my rambling recollections…




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