Electric Storm: Inventions, Systems and Techniques in Electronic Composition (1950-80s)
Lecture Theatre 1, School of Music
The speaker is composer Jo Hutton
Much has been written on gender issues within electronic music, but very little research exists on women as music engineers. Audio technology is an essential element of electronic music and women are increasingly taking centre stage in contemporary electronic music performance (Mira Calix, Kaffe Matthews, Christina Kubisch) so it is important to address the lack of female role models as inventors as well as composers in its early history. This research will examine the influence of the inventions, operating systems and composition techniques from these composers on future generations of electronic composers. Now is an important time for this research as some of the composers and those who worked with them are still living, although in their later years.
In the 1950s, music for broadcast was almost entirely orchestral and acoustic. In the UK, Daphne Oram first introduced the concept of electronically-generated music for radio and television, when she opened the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and went on to design and build her own recording machine based on ‘drawn sound.’ Working at the Groupe de Recherches Musicales under Pierre Schaeffer in Paris, Ferreyra was amongst the first composers to experiment with music made from recorded sounds on tape machines. Rampazzi, working at the Darmstadt school with Stockhausen, devised music based on mathematical systems. Spiegel, working at Bell laboratories in the US designed one of the first domestic computer programmes for composing music. My research covers new ground in forming a ‘technomusicology,’ a discussion of technology within the creative music process and is important in highlighting the contribution of women in this field. It will explore the ways in which these new technologies, once anathema to the music-making world, changed the notion of music composition in a new genre of Electronic Music where the methods of creating sound are as important as composition technique.