Re: electroacoustics - rap to tap to zap

Subject: Re: electroacoustics - rap to tap to zap
Date: Mon Jul 19 2004 - 15:34:58 EDT

We (or, at least, I) care about this definition because definitions are
important and music is important. More precise terms, not recondite, for
the overlapping definitions are easy to propose:

Acoustic music -- music played without electronics or amplifiction, e.g. a
live Robert Johnson or J.S. Bach performance.

Amplified music -- music played without electronics, except for
amplification, e.g. early Bob Dylan on stage with a P.A.

Electric music -- music played with electrically augmented instruments,
typically electric guitars, e.g. late Bob Dylan on stage with an electric

Electronic music -- music played with electronics but without software,
necessarily including amplification, e.g. a Theremin recital.

Computer music -- music played and/or composed with software: algorithmic
synthesis, algorithmic composition, usually a mixture of algorithmic and
manual composition with algorithmic synthesis.

All these musics come in two flavors, "live" and "studio", e.g. "studio
electronic music" (such as some early Stockhausen or Erasure), "live
computer music" (such as some Ikue Mori), or "studio computer music" (such
as Robert Normandeau or BT) and there can be a mixture of these flavors.

This is a purely technical or instrumental classification. The instruments
constrain but do not define the styles. I have scant expertise in music
history but a clear categorization of recent styles would be interesting to
attempt -- and probably a LOT more interesting!

"electro-acoustic" could mean anything from "electronic and computer music"
to "styles descending from musique concrete and early electronic music" to
"all amplified and recorded music".

Original Message:
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 15:02:31 -0400
Subject: Re: electroacoustics - rap to tap to zap

Quoting Dennis Bathory-Kitsz <>:

> At 07:34 AM 7/19/04 -0400, Kevin Austin wrote:
> >They may not know the word or the label 'electroacoustic', but I
> >imagine they are continuously aware of the presence of the
> >loudspeaker.
> That sounds awfully much like Mormons" and the conversion of dead
> folks to Mormonism. Or maybe Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme discovering
> that he spoke prose. Or that academic music is... oops, better
> not go there. :)
> Dennis

One's reluctance to be defined does not obligate others not to use the

In any case, not to play peacemaker too much, but it seems to me
'electroacoustic' like any other qualitative term can have multiple
coexiting definitions, some of which overlap. It's not the term's fault
if people disagree over a precise definition; it just requires
additional effort to ensure clarity of meaning.

"Electro-acoustic" refers to a musical style (or three or four) just as
much as it does a compositional technique, as well as to a generic,
broadly-inclusive categorization of medium. Like "Musique Concrete" or
even a term like "Classical," saying there's only one fixed definition
we must all acknowledge is pretty absurd.

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