The birth of digital computer generated music, or electronic music, can be traced back as far as the eighteenth century in France; however, the first truly electronic instrument was invented in the twentieth century. The use of electronics in music started slowly, after the invention of the Telharmonium in 1906; in its infancy, electronic music was limited to those creating the instruments and the very wealthy. Instruments were very large and could not be easily transported and so they were used little in mainstream music.
It wasn't until the invention of the Hammond organ that electric and electronic instruments and music were commercially feasible. The Hammond organ brought electric music into the homes of the general public. It was incorporated into rock and jazz, and used by musicians and composers such as Gershwin. The first truly electronic instrument was the Moog synthesizer, which used circuit and circuit boards to create sound waves and different sounds. The sounds, or patches, as they were called, were created by the circuit board and thus the term synthesizer was born. At first these instruments were used as only part of the band or piece of music, but that soon changed as technology advanced, allowing an individual to be the entire ensemble.
During the seventies, technology got smaller and allowed for electronic devices to become more portable and far more extensive. Musicians were moving towards a fully electronic sound, and a few achieved this feat. A composer by the name of Vangelis, who worked on "Chariots of Fire" and "Bladerunner," was the first composer to use electronic instruments to compose and produce a film score. The first fully electronic mainstream band is up for debate, with several artists being credited. During this time period synthesizers and electronic instruments took on attributes of percussion instruments as well as strings, guitars, horns and various other analog instruments, which greatly improved their usability and complexity.
As computers advanced and processing power increased, electronic music began to be controlled and augmented by PCs and processing units. This allowed for more effects, such as a swirling sound or thunder crash, to be used in the music and compositions. Computers also allowed for a virtually unlimited amount of different instruments that could be emulated and used for various applications. Rock songs started to have string and orchestral introductions, and classical and contemporary music began incorporating synthesizers and the above mentioned effects into their written manuscripts. One of the first widely popular and successful mainstream electronic bands was Depeche Mode, in the nineteen eighties.
A single person is now capable of writing, producing, performing and recording every aspect of any song they deem desirable. A computer can handle, and in most cases is built to handle, sound processing, signal flow theory, amplification and customizable sound construction. Essentially, the computer can do everything that only a full orchestra could do 20 years ago. The developments in electronic music have led to the creation of new career paths and degrees, as well as new areas of electrical and electronic engineering. Guitars and basses can now be outfitted with electronic components, making them into computers and synthesizers. Today, bands such as Daft Punk, Front 242, KMFDM, and Underworld create all of their music by means of electronics and computers.
Electronic Music Timeline
Auditory Research Resource
Research on the Human Ear and How it Functions
Electronic Composition at the University of Virginia
The Advent of Electronic Music
Interactive Sonification - Dsiplaying Sound as an Image
Audio and Sound Manipulation in Virtual Environments
A Large List of Publications Covering Electronic Music
Electronic Music Research GUide
Electronic Music Department at Indiana University Southeast - Sound Engineering
List of the Top US Electronic Music Schools
Sound Engineering and Recording
Claculating 3D Sound Fields
Article on the New Pacarna Computer for Use in Electronic Music
Electronic Music and Sound Design at Berklee College of Music
List of Albums by the electronic Group Underworld
Daft Punk's Home Page
David Bowie Home Page
Depeche Mode Home Page
Electronic Musician Publication Home Page