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Electronic Music

subtractive synthesis, electronic organ, tape recorder, compact disc, creating music

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Electronic Music, music that requires the use of electronic devices to produce or manipulate sound during its composition and performance. The sound may be produced entirely through electrical means, as by an electronic sound synthesizer, a complex system of generators that can originate and control sound. Sounds also may be produced by nonelectric means and then altered and combined by electronic devices such as a tape recorder. The essential feature is that electronic devices are necessary in composing. Electronic music is thus distinguishable from music composed in the traditional manner but played on an electronic instrument such as the electronic organ or electric guitar, and from music played through an electronic medium such as a compact disc (CD) player or radio.

Part of the Mainstream

With the arrival of inexpensive personal computers in the late 20th century, the technology for creating music electronically became available to anyone who had a computer. By the 1990s all electronic music involved the use of computers. Many composers regularly used electronic means to listen to and modify pieces as they wrote them. Computer software offered additive and subtractive synthesis and made it easy to create electronic sounds or transform them. Filters used in subtractive synthesis, for example, could be used to accentuate specific pitches or harmonies, to stretch sounds in time, or to raise and lower their pitch. The Internet enabled composers and musicians to freely exchange computer music programs and even recorded sounds. Many composers worked in collaboration with other media, such as video, film, or dance. Electronic music by the year 2000 was no longer a separate branch of modern music but part of the mainstream.

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