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Contemporary Electronic Music

What is MIDI?

The MIDI language allows different electronic instruments and computer interfaces to "talk" to each other. Before the invention of MIDI, musicians had a difficult time syncing up their instrument set-ups because the instruments were not compatible with each other. MIDI was developed in 1982 and was shared freely as open source. Today most music studios and professional software programs operate off of MIDI. At first MIDI sounds were limited to 127 specific sounds that you would most likely recognize from some of the earliest video games of the 1980s.

Ghostbusters Atari Music

Composers like Laurie Anderson took MIDI and found new ways to express music and art through technology like the Drum Suit, samplers, CD-Rom, vocoder, and video.

O Superman

Pamela Z BodySynth

Contemporary Electronic Music

Technology, the Internet, computers, microchips, virtual reality, sensors, etc. have all revolutionized music technology and electronic music. Composers from all around the world use technology to compose and perform their works. There are a variety of new musical styles in the contemporary electronic genre.

Electronic instruments and music technology in general has helped composers and musicians create many musical sounds in a variety of situations:

  • Film composers can create entire orchestras and choirs using computer software
  • MIDI instruments like the Malletkat and electronic drum sets allow a percussionist to become a string orchestra
  • Dancers can "compose" music through their dance movements in a live concert through sensors using MIDI data
  • Composers can have a computer transcribe their music and send copies to an orchestra with a single click of the button
  • Indie musicians can share their newest album without having to worry about an agent through the internet
  • Music students can listen to music from all over the world without leaving their home
  • Musicians can collaborate internationally with musicians across the ocean
  • Music teachers can create fun music activities with music education software
  • Difficult to find instruments like bagpipes or full organs can be played on a keyboard in live performance
  • Video, video games, and audiovisual technology is combined with electronic music in a variety of hybrid arts.

Where does classical music end and technology begin?

You can read more about the importance of Music Technology in this article:

Eric Whitacre Virtual Choir Piece:

Interactive MIDI Sequencer using MaxMSP

Turing Machine Opera:

The Manekin "I'm Table Live":

Synthesized work:

iPhone Orchestra:

laptop orchestra:

Musical Tesla Coils:

Here is a sample of a vocal synthesizer singing using Vocaloid:

The animated character singing is called Miku Hatsune, and she is actually a virtual music superstar!

The You Tube Symphony Orchestra is only one example showing how the internet has changed the classical world. Comprised of 100 members who auditioned online through YouTube, the You Tube Symphony Orchestra premiered at Carnegie Hall with a work by composer Tan Dun (composer of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the Beijing Olympics).

"Internet Symphony" by Tan Dun:

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Rebecca Allen
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