Electronic Music Dreams and Designs: Learning from the history of synthesized sound

A presentation by Tara Rodgers

Inventors of electronic musical instruments over the last century have worked toward the possibility of making entirely new sounds, or any sound imaginable.

Knowledge about sound – ever entwined with historical and cultural ideas about bodies and social relations – is embodied in the designs and forms of their musical instruments. Their novel devices are products of their times as well as speculative gestures toward musical and technological futures.

This presentation will draw on archival materials to uncover histories of key elements of synthesized sound, including waveforms, envelopes, timbre, and touch sensitivity.

The ideas of 20th-century electronic musical instrument inventors, including Hugh Le Caine, Daphne Oram, and Harry F. Olson, will provide some context for interpreting aesthetics and politics in contemporary electronic music cultures.