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Short-Circuited: Three Times Electronic Music Failed

Electronic music has been part of culture for going on almost fifty years now. We might have got into it sooner if a couple of inventors/composers/pioneers been a little luckier. This paper from Cambridge Core explains.


This article counters the canonical histories of electronic music that traditionally begin with Cahill’s Telharmonium and find their historical centre in the activities of the Paris and Cologne studios of the mid-twentieth century. The concept of ‘failed histories’ is introduced here with three important examples. The first chronicles the career of electromusical innovator Johann Baptist Schalkenbach (1824–1910). The second example examines Britain’s earliest electronic sound performance in 1895, signalling a rupture between electromusical bombast and the detailed, quiet work of the experimental laboratory. The third episode looks at the wireless oscillation outrages of the 1920s and 1930s, where electronic tone prematurely trespassed upon musical culture. Taken together, these failed histories offer an alternative narrative of electronic music finding its voice (and losing its voice) in turn-of-the-century Britain.

I know that intro sounds a little dry, but the whole article is rather fascinating. Continue reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37438 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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