Andrey Smirnov. 2013. Sound in Z: Experiments in Sound and Electronic Music in Early 20th-Century Russia

Patteson, Thomas

The history of experimental sound technologies in the early twentieth century has long been standardized into a well-trodden tour of the same familiar highlights: Thaddeus Cahill’s Telharmonium, Russolo’s Art of Noises, the prophetic visions of Busoni and Varèse, the novelties of Theremin. In both general histories and specialized accounts of “electronic music,” these topics are generally treated as appetizers preceding the main course, which commences promptly after World War II with the emergence of the dueling schools of musique concrète and elektronische Musik. In recent years, this narrative has been questioned and extended in a number of important ways, and the previously unsuspected depths of early twentieth-century musical technoculture have begun to be sounded.1 This is not merely a matter of quibbling over whether electronic music began in the 1950s or the 1920s; broadening the historical scope to include earlier phenomena makes for a new image of electronic music, one that highlights the social and cultural contexts that are often written out of canonic histories.


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August 18, 2022