How Did Electronic Music Start?

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A look at the origins of electronic music and how it has evolved over the years.


The history of electronic music is a long and complicated one, filled with false starts, experimentation, and dead ends. But out of this complicated history, a few key moments stand out as turning points that helped shape the electronic music we know and love today. Here are four of those key moments.

The first electronic instruments

The first electronic instruments were invented in the early 1800s. These instruments, called electronic keyboards, were used to create sound by using electricity to play notes on a keyboard.

In 1876, Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. The telephone was the first device that could transmit and receive sound through electrical signals. This invention paved the way for the development of other electronic devices that could transmit and receive sound, such as the radio and television.

In 1897, Guglielmo Marconi invented the radio. The radio was able to transmit sound through the air by using electrical signals. Radio signals are able to travel long distances, so people could listen to distant events as they happened.

In 1907, Lee De Forest invented the vacuum tube. Vacuum tubes are used to amplify electrical signals. This invention made it possible to amplifiy radio signals so that they could be heard clearly over long distances.

The vacuum tube was also used in the first electronic computers, which were developed in the 1940s. These computers used vacuum tubes to perform calculations quickly and accurately.

The first electronic music

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when electronic music was first created. In the early 1900s, composers began experimenting with new ways to create music using electricity. This led to the development of early electronic instruments, such as the theremin and the Ondes Martenot. These instruments were used by avant-garde composers such as Olivier Messiaen and Edgar Varèse, who incorporated them into their experimental works.

In the 1950s, several important milestones were achieved in the world of electronic music. In 1953, engineer Gerald O’Donnell developed the first tape recorder that could be used to record and playback sound. This made it possible for composers to create works that included pre-recorded sounds or noises, which could be manipulated and manipulated using different techniques.

In 1955, German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen composed “Studies for Electronic Music,” which marks an important step in the development of contemporary electronic music. In this work, he used tape recorders to create layers of sound, which he then manipulated using various techniques. This was one of the first examples of multi-track recording in music.

In 1957, another German composer, Gottfried Michael Koenig, developed a composing technique called “serialism.” This technique uses a series of numbers or symbols to organize pitches, rhythms, and timbres. Serialism was later adopted by many other composers, including Steve Reich and Philip Glass.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a number of important electronic music studios were established, including those at Stanford University (under the direction of Pauline Oliveros), Mills College (under the direction of Darius Milhaud), and University of California at Berkeley (under the direction of Robert Ashley). These studios provided a space for composers to experiment with new ways of making music using electronic instruments and technology.

The first electronic music composers

The first electronic music was composed in the early 20th century, long before the advent of synthesizers and programmable sound generators. The earliest composers used mechanical devices to create sounds that were then manipulated by human performers.

Some of the earliest electronic music was composed for the Theremin, an instrument that produces sound without being touched. The most famous Theremin player was Clara Rockmore, who performed with the instrument in the 1920s and 1930s.

In the 1940s, composers began using vacuum tubes to create sounds. These early electronic instruments were called tone generators or frequency generators. They were used to create experimental music, which was often described as eerie or otherworldly.

One of the most famous pieces of early electronic music is “I Am Sitting in a Room” by Alvin Lucier. In this piece, Lucier records himself speaking into a microphone, and then plays back the recording over loudspeakers. The sound is distorted as it is played back, and eventually all that is left of Lucier’s original voice is a low drone.

Other important early electronic music composers include Pierre Schaeffer, Luc Ferrari, and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

The first electronic music festivals

The first electronic music festivals started in the late 1970s, with events like The Berlin Love Parade and Britain’s Glastonbury Festival. These early festivals were small, intimate affairs, with only a few thousand people in attendance. But as the popularity of electronic music grew, so did the size and scale of the festivals. By the 1990s, events like Germany’s Loveparade and the U.K.’s Glastonbury were attracting hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world.

Today, electronic music festivals are some of the biggest and most popular events on the planet. From Ultra Music Festival in Miami to Tomorrowland in Belgium, these festivals attract millions of people every year. And as the popularity of electronic music continues to grow, it’s likely that these massive events will only get bigger and better in the years to come.

The first electronic music clubs

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a new type of club started to appear in cities around the world. These clubs were built around a new type of music that was created using electronic instruments and controllers. This music was often played by DJs who mixed together different tracks to create a continuous flow of music. These clubs became known as “electronic dance music” (EDM) clubs.

The first electronic music club is thought to have opened in New York City in 1977. This club, called “The Loft”, was created by DJ Francis Grasso. The Loft became very popular and spawned many imitators. By the early 1980s, EDM clubs were appearing in major cities all over the world, including London, Paris, Berlin, and Tokyo.

EDM quickly became popular with young people who were looking for a new type of music to dance to. The popularity of EDM clubs led to the development of a new form of electronic music called “house music”. House music is based on a 4/4 beat and often features synthesizers and drum machines. House music became popular in the mid-1980s and was often played in EDM clubs.

Today, electronic dance music is enjoyed by millions of people all over the world. It has spawned numerous sub-genres, including techno, trance, Drum & Bass, and dubstep. Electronic dance music is also now widely available on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music.

The first electronic music DJs

Some of the first electronic music DJs emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when new technologies allowed DJs to play music from vinyl records without having to cue up the tracks manually. This gave DJs a lot more freedom to mix and scratch records, and helped them create new sounds and rhythms.

One of the first electronic music DJs was Giorgio Moroder, who is credited with creating disco music. Moroder used a drum machine and synthesizers to create his signature sound, which was widely imitated by other DJs and producers.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a new generation of electronic music producers began experimenting with synthesizers, drum machines, and other new technologies. These musicians helped pioneer genres like techno, house, and hip-hop. Some of the most famous electronic music producers of this era include Afrika Bambaataa, Kraftwerk, and Jean-Michel Jarre.


Electronic music has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the early 20th century. Today, it is one of the most popular genres of music, with a wide variety of subgenres and styles. It has also had a profound impact on other genres of music, particularly in the last few decades. There is no doubt that electronic music is here to stay, and it will continue to evolve and grow in popularity in the years to come.

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