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

Thomas Patteson: Instruments for New Music: Sound, Technology, and Modernism (2015)

25 November 2015, dusan

“Player pianos, radio-electric circuits, gramophone records, and optical sound film—these were the cutting-edge acoustic technologies of the early twentieth century, and for many musicians and artists of the time, these devices were also the implements of a musical revolution. Instruments for New Music traces a diffuse network of cultural agents who shared the belief that a truly modern music could be attained only through a radical challenge to the technological foundations of the art. Centered in Germany during the 1920s and 1930s, the movement to create new instruments encompassed a broad spectrum of experiments, from the exploration of microtonal tunings and exotic tone colors to the ability to compose directly for automatic musical machines. This movement comprised composers, inventors, and visual artists, including Paul Hindemith, Ernst Toch, Jörg Mager, Friedrich Trautwein, László Moholy-Nagy, Walter Ruttmann, and Oskar Fischinger. Patteson’s fascinating study combines an artifact-oriented history of new music in the early twentieth century with an astute revisiting of still-relevant debates about the relationship between technology and the arts.”

Publisher University of California Press, Nov 2015
Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 4.0 license.
ISBN 9780520963122 (EPUB), 9780520963122 (PDF)
250 pages



Douglas Kahn: Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts (2013)

15 March 2014, dusan

Earth Sound Earth Signal is a study of energies in aesthetics and the arts, from the birth of modern communications in the nineteenth century to the global transmissions of the present day. Douglas Kahn begins by evoking the Aeolian sphere music that Henry David Thoreau heard blowing along telegraph lines and the Aelectrosonic sounds of natural radio that Thomas Watson heard through the first telephone; he then traces the histories of science, media, music, and the arts to the 1960s and beyond. Earth Sound Earth Signal rethinks energy at a global scale, from brainwaves to outer space, through detailed discussions of musicians, artists and scientists such as Alvin Lucier, Edmond Dewan, Pauline Oliveros, John Cage, James Turrell, Robert Barry, Joyce Hinterding, and many others.”

Publisher University of California Press, 2013
ISBN 0520956834, 9780520956834
343 pages

Reviews: Alessandro Ludovico (Neural, 2013), Christopher Haworth (Organised Sound, 2015).


PDF (removed on 2014-3-19 upon request of the publisher)