Composing Electronic Music: A New Aesthetic

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


This book is about the how to create music using computers. It is aimed at people who are new to the world of electronic music composition.


With the advent of digital technology, a new form of music has emerged: electronic music. This genre encompasses a wide range of styles, from the subtle and atmospheric to the downright danceable. And while electronic music has been around for decades, it has only recently begun to be taken seriously as an art form.

Today, composers are using electronic sounds and effects to create pieces that are both aesthetically intriguing and emotionally powerful. If you’re interested in exploring this fascinating world of music, this article will give you a crash course in the basics of composing electronic music.

What is Electronic Music?

Electronic music is a type of music that is made with the help of electronic devices. It is a relatively new genre of music and has only been around for a few decades. Electronic music can be divided into subgenres like EDM, house, techno, etc. In this article, we are going to focus on the composition of electronic music.

A Brief History of Electronic Music

The first electronic musical instruments were developed in the early 1900s. The earliest were developed by scientists and engineers working in the new field of radio technology. These instruments, called theremins, were played by waving the hands in the air near two metal antennae. The sound was produced by an electronic oscillator that was controlled by the movement of the player’s hand.

In the 1920s, composers began experimenting with new ways to create music using electricity. They connects loudspeakers to electric circuits and create sound by turning the power on and off, or by varying the strength of the current. This type of music was called musique concrete.

In 1955, German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen creates one of the first pieces of electronic music using tape recorders. He splices together recorded sounds of everyday objects like glass and metal to create a new type of music that he called “electronic music.”

In the 1970s and 1980s, composers increasingly used computers to generate sounds and compose music. This type of music is now called “computer music.” Today, electronic music is created with a wide variety of electronic instruments and computers.

The Birth of Electronic Music

In the late 19th century, composers and engineers began to explore the potential of using electrical devices to create and manipulate sound. The first electronic musical instruments were developed around this time, and the first electronic music was composed in the early 20th century.

The first electronic music was made possible by the invention of the telegraph in 1837, which allowed electrical signals to be transmitted over long distances. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, which allowed for two-way communication between people. These inventions laid the groundwork for the development of electronic musical instruments and systems.

The first electronic musical instrument was the theremin, invented by Russian physicist Lev Theremin in 1920. The theremin was played without being touched, using an electromagnetic field to control its pitch and volume. The theremin became popular in the 1930s, particularly in America, where it was used in film scores such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945) and Bernard Herrmann’s score for The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

Thenext important breakthrough in electronic music came with the development of synthesizers in the 1950s. Synthesizers are devices that generate sound electronically, using a variety of methods such as oscillators (sine waves), filters (to modify timbre), and envelope generators (to control amplitude). The first commercial synthesizer was built by German engineer Robert Moog in 1964. Moog’s synthesizers were used extensively by American composer Wally Pinkerton in his 1967 composition “Cellophane”, one of the first pieces of music specifically written for synthetic instruments.

During the 1960s and 1970s, a number of key figures emerged in the world of electronic music, including German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen and English composers Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel. In 1977, Gabriel released his album “Solitaire”, which featured synthetic sounds generated using a variety of different instruments, including a Moog synthesizer. This album signaled a new direction for popular music, one that would come to be known as “electronic dance music” or “EDM”.

The Aesthetics of Electronic Music

Electronic music is a genre of music that often uses electronic devices to create or reproduce sounds. It can be produced using a variety of instruments and techniques, and often incorporates elements from other genres, such as Rock, Hip Hop, and Classical. In this article, we’ll explore the aesthetics of electronic music and how it can be used to create a new musical experience.

The Avant-Garde Aesthetic

The Avant-Garde Aesthetic is an approach to composition that emphasizes experimentalism, innovation, and/or modernism. This aesthetic is often associated with the international movement known as the Avant-Garde, which began in the early 20th century and continued into the post-WWII era.

The Avant-Garde Aesthetic can be applied to any style or genre of music, but it is most commonly associated with art music or “serious” music. This is not to say that all avant-garde music is art music—in fact, many avant-garde composers have been influenced by popular music and other non-artistic genres. However, the Avant-Garde Aesthetic does tend to value abstract or intellectual concepts over traditional song structure, melody, and/or harmony.

One of the defining features of the Avant-Garde Aesthetic is a focus on innovation. This can manifest in a number of ways, such as using new or unusual sounds, employing novel compositional techniques, or pushing the boundaries of traditional genre conventions. Many avant-garde composers have also been interested in exploring alternative ways of performing and distributing their music—for example, by creating pieces that can be performed without any traditional instruments at all.

The Avant-Garde Aesthetic has sometimes been criticized for being cold, impersonal, or elitist. However, many avant-garde composers have also been interested in using their work to promote social change or to create a more inclusive sonic environment—for instance, by working with found sound or environmental noise. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the Avant-Garde Aesthetic among younger composers and performers; however, it remains an approach that often provokes strong reactions—both positive and negative—from listeners.

The Experimental Aesthetic

The experimental aesthetic of electronic music is characterized by a focus on process and experimental techniques, rather than on finished products or traditional musical structures. This approach is often associated with avant-garde or contemporary classical music, but it can be found in any number of genres and styles.

In general, experimental music places more emphasis on the creative process than on the finished product. The goal is often to explore new sonic possibilities or to create unique soundscapes, rather than to write catchy tunes or create traditional song forms.

Experimental composers may use a wide range of unusual or nontraditional musical elements, such as found sounds, field recordings, noise, static, and other non-musical sounds. They may also employ unusual methods of composition, such as aleatoric (random) composition, chance operations, and graphic notation.

The experimental aesthetic has its roots in the early history of electronic music, when composers were first exploring the potential of new technology. In the early days of synthesis and tape manipulation, composers were often more concerned with the process of creation than with the final product. This attitude has persisted in the electronic music community to this day.

When we talk about “the aesthetics of electronic music,” we are referring to the ways in which this music is experienced and judged. In other words, aesthetics refers to the study of beauty. And, just as with any art form, people have different ideas about what makes electronic music beautiful.

One popular aesthetic is what we might call the “popular” aesthetic. This is the kind of electronic music that is designed to be popular with a wide range of listeners. It often features simple melodies and harmonies, along with a catchy beat that is easy to dance to. This aesthetic is often associated with genres like pop, rock, and hip-hop.

Another popular aesthetic is the “avant-garde” aesthetic. This type of electronic music is designed to be experimental and unconventional. It often features complex textures and abstract soundscapes. This aesthetic is often associated with genres like ambient, noise, and industrial.

Which of these two aesthetics do you prefer? Or do you like both equally? There is no right or wrong answer – it’s all a matter of taste!


In summary, the new aesthetics of electronic music is characterized by a focus on sonic experimentation, a DIY ethic, and a DIY culture. This has led to a music that is more accessible and diverse than ever before. There are no rules in this new era of electronic music, which means that anyone can be a part of it. Whether you’re a bedroom producer or a professional musician, there’s a place for you in this new world.

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