The Evolution of Electronic Instruments


If time permits, read this tone discussion for a better understanding of how to approach this paper. ..........tone.

For this paper, I would like to focus on the evolution of electronic instruments. I would like to include some of their physical evolution of their appearance, as well as their effects and their cause of revolution within the music world. It is more important to me to understand the place and role of these electronic instruments in the world of music. The focus here is not only history, but evolution, thus bringing the changes of these instruments and the people and places that witness them.

the nature of the paper-importance of the discussion
Why is it important to discuss electronic instruments in detail? On a personal level, electronic instruments have been a part of my life for quite some time. The consideration of analyzing these instruments has been brought to my attention by classes at CCRMA, in music 151, 154, 220A and 220B. On a scholastic level, this topic is interesting to me and hopefully to others in the way that many different aspects of cognition and creativity come into play. The way the mind works and the acoustic world give many different and interesting examinations into the study of electronic instruments, and it has become apparent to me that this topic is large enough to require the work of many dedicated researchers. Desain and Honing have come up with ways to help us examine this rather broad topic from the distinct areas of music, mind, and machine., and Ernst has approached this area with a timeline and discussions of the evolution as a problem difficult to approach without the proper methods.

towards a definition of "electronic instruments"
what is the definition of electronic instruments? First, I will begin with what my own definition means. I believe that instruments that are amplified by microphones do not fall into the category of electronic instruments, nor do instruments that are recorded and then played back on a tape or other recordable medium. I do, however, consider the use of tape recorders themselves as electronic instruments, so long as the tape recorder itself and not the instrument recorded on it to be the unit of music to be considered. Some others consider electronic instruments to be anything that use electricity to induce magnetic fields with which sound is generated, captured and played back, or instruments that use electricity to move parts of the instrument to produce the sound. Their definitions seem to come from what you are considering to be the instrument.

Ernst considers a large problem with any survey of electronic music to be the fact that it is hard to categorize the diverse compositional styles (Ernst xiii). He argues in favor of a stylistic division, and although his work dates from the 1970s, his categories are valid for reasons of classification. Solo tape, performer with tape, and live electronics (Ernst xiv).

the beginning of the timeline: electronic music and "they laughed at Edison"
Since the use of electricity began, people were not always aware of the importance of respecting this strange new force that threatened to destroy those who experimented with it. The realization of the energy that is being harnessed to help make sound pressure waves is understood by a large number of people at times. At these times, writers like Hunter S. Thompson, who stress to keep our thinking up to date, point out that we are making use of strange forces and we are breaking the traditional methods existing before electricity, while taking the new devices for granted. And writers like Thompson offer a reality check for the builders and users of the devices that are moving forward unaware of the nature of the forces at hand. With electronic instruments, the electricity is far less than a lightning bolt. However, this is no reason to forget that there can be as large a change, however less deadly and more aesthetically pleasing, as the one caused striking of a lightning bolt.

new kinds of music and shapes possible within both the physical and the mental aspects of the instruments.
Instruments like the Theremin were larger than usual, and had speakers built in. The idea of music coming from electricity, and not an amplified or modulated touching of an object was important for many reasons. Structural and functional ideas come into play here. Instruments are not just attractive in their respective settings anymore. They serve amplification purposes, have wires connected to them, and electronic appearances at times of their display and invention. How could this be that you cannot touch the Theremin but get sound? As far as the mental aspect of many electronic instruments, they necessitated a few hours to grasp the meaning of their function. The Theremin required no touch. The instruments in Xenakis' structure couldn't be seen and were accompanied by wild visual displays. electronic instruments required different thought processes altogether. Throw out some of what you know, say 10% becuase it isn't relevant anymore and learn this new 200% and you have the problem of understanding these "strange new objects of electric instrumentation".

revolution in retrospect!? are we seeing patterns of revolution?
The ideas of revolution that I speak are at once possibly silenced by the studies done by Ernst which offer a timeline of events leading up to electronic instruments that stretches back to Homer himself. This timeline displays the knowledge that it is possible for the electronic music to have had its place and function as a large project of many scholars for quite some time, as a part of the world of those who create the music. As a student of instruments both acoustic and electronic, there are things that I could not previously bring to the table to understand about the way that the way of the music world is. There are things that were just not obvious about the electronic instruments, which we did not know before, that those in the world of pioneering and research can explain. In this, let us grasp the importance of the class discussions. These creators were mostly the inventors and the technologically minded. At the same time, however, I believe that my idea of revolution can be best begun as a discussion of those who were to create the music in the face of dissent, and this dialectic was only possible when these instruments enter into the public and all people are able to see the abilities of the instruments and understand what they mean as well as whet they do. Ernst's timeline of related events takes an approach from the area of technological advances, and the approach of evolution in general. I want to use this discussion at this point to offer an understanding of the public's opinion. A revised timeline will probably include some very different dates and occurrences. The results of the face of dissent may be delivered. You could see the beginnings of the revolutionary aspect that electronic instruments were bringing to the music world from the interviews of the people in the documentary on Theremin. People were surprised to see the change towards using electronic instruments for many reasons, and the revolution today occurs more when something is introduced, and less when it is assimilated into the musical world.


There are pages that we can find for moments of inspiration as we realize that we can use technology's advances to study its products in music, and that others are in the search for knowledge in the computer music world as well.

Written evidence of the difference between electric and other musical ideas:


Gabriel J. Serrano
Last modified: Fri Feb 26 16:48:23 PST 1999