The History of Electronic Music

Electronic music is a broad category of modern music that incorporates a variety of styles like dubstep, disco, and house. It is music that employs electronic musical instruments like the electric guitar, Hammond organ and electronic music technology in its production.


The 1920s; Origins


Some of the first electronic instruments were introduced in the 1920s and 1930s leading to the first compositions. Joseph Schillinger composed First Airphonic Suite for Theremin and Orchestra in 1929 which premiered with the Cleveland Orchestra. Nikolai Obukhov then invented the Croix Sonore while Maurice Martenot inventing the Ondes Martenot in 1928. In the early 1930s, the German electronics company AEG came up with the first practical audio tape recorder.


The 1940s to 1950s; Development


The emergence of magnetic audio tape in the 1940s brought a lot of ideas to producers, composers, and even musicians. It eventually led to the emergence and development of electroacoustic tape music. The advent of computers led to new developments in composing music. Lannis Xenakis developed the computer system UPIC for the purpose of translating musical results. CSIRAC was the first computer to play music and was built by Maston Beard and Trevor Pearcey. It was programmed to play music as early as the 1950s. Another technological development in that era was the invention of the Clavivox synthesizer by Raymond Scott which was sub-assembled by Robert Moog. The first electronic piece to be published as a score was composed by Stockhausen in 1954 leading to the emergence of electronic studios.




The 1960s were the most productive years as synthesizer technology now became more accessible. By now, very strong groups of musicians and composers were growing, working with new sounds and instruments. In 1964, Moog’s synthesizer paved the way for musicians by making it simple for them to incorporate synthetic sounds into their recording. It was regarded as the first iconic instrument of electronic music. Some of the earliest adopters of the Mog synthesizer were The Byrds, The Doors, and The Monkees. Though Moog could be accredited as being responsible for the starting of the modern understanding of electronic music, his synthesizer had it’s foundation from the 1800s technology.


Rise of popular electronic music


It was until the 1970s that it entered the mainstream. This was through iconic bands like the Kraftwerk which introduced electronic music to the wider audience. Electronic music started growing; however, it still used the structure of rock and roll or pop.


The 1980s; The synth Era


Many of today’s popular electronic music genres like dance and synth pop and house emerged in the 1980s. This was a year of new styles as well as new technology emerging including the MIDI. Due to the emergence of the MIDI, popular bands now started combining rock music with the new forms of music like the alternative dance and dark wave. The foundation for dance music genres like techno and trance were set by bands like Orbital in the late 1980s. It was in 1990 that it now grew into the popular and massive genre that it is today. This was the first decade in which anyone could now do electronic music composition. The popularity of PCs and emergence of software like Fruity Loops now made it even possible for home users to do this. Since then, electronic dance music has become a popular and influential genre of music both in and out of the mainstream.