EMS Proceedings and Other Publications

Electroacoustic Music before Language

Simon Emmerson

Simon Emmerson, Music, Technology and Innovation Institute for Sonic Creativity (MTI2)
De Montfort University, Leicester UK


The Language of Electroacoustic Music (Emmerson, 1986) was published by the Macmillan Press in late 1986 and has remained available continuously since. Expanding the Horizon of Electroacoustic Music Analysis (Emmerson and Landy, 2016) was published by Cambridge University Press almost exactly 30 years later, so I thought it pertinent to take stock – what has changed over this period? Electroacoustic music has (with some significant exceptions) developed a practitioner-led musicology – at least in the English-speaking world. In 1986 all ten contributors to The Language of Electroacoustic Music were composers. I believed at the time that this would change and that mainstream musicology would take on the challenges of this new music and develop its analytical discourse. Yet by the time of writing Expanding the Horizon of Electroacoustic Music Analysis there had hardly been any change. Possibly 2 of the 18 contributors would not claim to be composers first and musicologists/writers second. So taking stock has becomes a reflection on the overarching questions: why has nothing really changed? Why has electroacoustic music practice remained (in much part) so separate from other forms of instrumental contemporary music? Why has it remained so woefully neglected by the musicology community? Conversely why has its own musicology – or any aspect of its study - failed to make much impact in more mainstream musical discourse? Article

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EMS18 Proceedings