Curtis Roads: Composing Electronic Music: A New Aesthetic (2015)

8 July 2018, dusan

“Electronic music evokes new sensations, feelings, and thoughts in both composers and listeners. Opening the door to an unlimited universe of sound, it engages spatialization as an integral aspect of composition and focuses on sound transformation as a core structural strategy. In this new domain, pitch occurs as a flowing and ephemeral substance that can be bent, modulated, or dissolved into noise. Similarly, time occurs not merely as a fixed duration subdivided by ratios, but as a plastic medium that can be generated, modulated, reversed, warped, scrambled, and granulated. Envelope and waveform undulations on all time scales interweave to generate form. The power of algorithmic methods amplify the capabilities of music technology. Taken together, these constitute game-changing possibilities.

This convergence of technical and aesthetic trends prompts the need for a new text focused on the opportunities of a sound oriented, multiscale approach to composition of electronic music. Sound oriented means a practice that takes place in the presence of sound. Multiscale means an approach that takes into account the perceptual and physical reality of multiple, interacting time scales-each of which can be composed. After more than a century of research and development, now is an appropriate moment to step back and reevaluate all that has changed under the ground of artistic practice.

Composing Electronic Music outlines a new theory of composition based on the toolkit of electronic music techniques. The theory consists of a framework of concepts and a vocabulary of terms describing musical materials, their transformation, and their organization. Central to this discourse is the notion of narrative structure in composition-how sounds are born, interact, transform, and die. It presents a guidebook: a tour of facts, history, commentary, opinions, and pointers to interesting ideas and new possibilities to consider and explore.”

Publisher Oxford University Press, 2015
ISBN 9780195373233, 0195373235
xxvii+480 pages

Reviews: Nick Collins (Music and Letters, 2016), Gregory Taylor (Cycling74, 2016), Warren Burt (SoundBytes, 2016).


PDF (24 MB)
Companion website

Die Reihe: A Periodical Devoted to Developments in Contemporary Music, 1-8 (1957-1968)

26 July 2017, dusan

Die Reihe was a German-language music journal, edited by Herbert Eimert and Karlheinz Stockhausen between 1955 and 1962. An English edition was published, under the original German title, between 1957 and 1968.

“The journal, whose title means “The Row” or “The Series”, owes its genesis to the founding of the electronic music studio of the Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk (NWDR) in Cologne (later WDR) under the influence of Werner Meyer-Eppler, and the realisation that technology was becoming an important element in the work of younger composers. The contributions from composers working in the studio were frequently based on their projects there, and in the early stages of competing with the radio-play department for resources, Eimert found having such a journal useful. It helped to raise the studio’s educational and academic profile above the entertainment aims of other departments of the radio station, as well as providing opportunities to young authors for publication.”

Contributors included György Ligeti, Mauricio Kagel, John Cage, Pierre Boulez, and others.

Reviews: Dika Newlin (of 1st DE issue, Notes, 1956), Dika Newlin (of 1st EN issue, Notes, 1958), Dika Newlin (of 2nd EN issue, Notes, 1959), Dika Newlin (of 3rd EN issue, Notes, 1960), George Perle (of 3rd EN issue, J Music Theory, 1960), Dika Newlin (of 5th EN issue, Notes, 1962).
Commentary: John Backus, “Die Reihe—A Scientific Evaluation” (Perspectives of New Music, 1962).
Tables of contents of German edition

Edited by Herbert Eimert and Karlheinz Stockhausen
Publisher Theodore Presser, Bryn Mawr, PA, with Universal Edition, London, 1957-68.
800 pages

Each of the eight issues was dedicated to a different theme, announced in a subtitle (with links to sections in PDF):
Electronic Music, 1957, vi+62 pp
Anton Webern, 1958, vii+100 pp
Musical Craftsmanship, 1959, 88 pp
Young Composers, 1960, 135 pp
Reports—Analyses, 1961, 121 pp
Speech and Music, 1964, 95 pp
Form—Space, 1964, 87 pp
Retrospective, 1968, 98 pp

All 8 issues in single PDF (17 MB, no OCR)

Charles W. Turner: Xenakis in America (2014)

18 October 2014, dusan

Iannis Xenakis had a long-standing interest in the U.S., but given the five years he spent there, little has been written about his experiences. This study attempts, through archival research and interviews, to document Xenakis’ time in the United States. Its subject is his relationship to American cultural institutions, and the attraction of America for his musical composition and research.

Xenakis in America treats the period from Copland’s invitation to Tanglewood in 1963, through Xenakis’ 1972 investment by France as a state-supported artist. While he visited the U.S. many times thereafter, he no longer sought long-term engagement with U.S. institutions, but presented work completed elsewhere. After his summer at Tanglewood, performances of Xenakis compositions by Schuller, Foss and Bernstein (among others) are tracked throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Xenakis’ association with George Balanchine is examined, along with the reception of Xenakis’ theoretical writings, culminating in the publication of Formalized Music. in 1971. Xenakis’ collaboration with Alexis Solomos on Aeschylus’ Oresteia, produced in 1966 by the Ypsilanti Greek Theatre, is explored, as well as the founding of Xenakis’ research center CMAM at Indiana University in 1967, which he would build over the next five years.

Concerning Xenakis’ reasons for coming to America, there are two major motivations. First, there were reasons to look beyond France: its state institutions, up to the late 1960s, provided little support for avant-garde composition. Later, there were reasons to return: with the Polytope de Cluny of 1972, the Ministry of Culture signaled a policy change that favored Xenakis, and established his CeMAMu as a state-supported research center. Second, Xenakis’ opportunities in the U.S. satisfied his interest in working outside the boundaries of autonomous composition. The collaboration on the Ypsilanti Oresteia offered Xenakis involvement with both ancient and modern Greek theater, and Bloomington’s sponsorship of CMAM, which included the equipment necessary for computer synthesis of sound, gave Xenakis access to technology unavailable in France at the time.

Publisher One Block Avenue, Tappan/NY, October 2014
Open Access
ISBN 9780692267165
146 pages



The printed book is available from Proceeds go to The Friends of Xenakis Association.