An Electronic Music Bookshelf

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Within the last few years, literature about electronic music has proliferated. Some of this literature is highly technical, and is useful chiefly to experienced practitioners of the art; it will find its place most logically on a special bookshelf within the electronic music studio, available for ready reference. A great deal of it, on the other hand, belongs in the college or university music library, where it will be accessible to readers of varying degrees of background and interest in the subject. This article is intended as a helpful guide to some of the recent publications.

Two important reference works recently issued complement each other well. The International Electronic Music Catalog, edited by Hugh Davies (Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1968), aims to document all the electronic music ever composed. Though such an ambitious aim must fail, the catalog does contain a wealth of information—listing compositions, composers, and studios all over the world, in addition to giving a very complete list of recordings through 1967. Documenting another phase, A Bibliography of Electronic Music, compiled by Lowell Cross (Toronto: U. of Toronto Press, 1967), lists books and articles about the subject. Entries, alphabetized by author, are not annotated, but an index by subject is helpful in locating articles pertinent to special topics.

An earlier book, Electronic Music and Musique Concrète by Frederick C. Judd (London: Spearman, 1961), is still a helpful introduction to the subject. More recently, chapters on electronic music appeared in three books issued in 1967, each of which places this subject within a different and broader context. Music, Physics, and Engineering (New York: Dover, 1967) is a presentation for the layman by a noted acoustical engineer whose achievements include the development of the RCA Synthesizer, Harry F. Olson; it is a revision of his earlier book, Musical Engineering. Psychoacoustics, a focus of experiment in many electronic music centers, is the general subject of Fritz Winckel's Music, Sound, and Sensation (New York: Dover, 1967); while Robert Emmett Dolan's Music in Modern Media (New York: G. Schirmer, 1967) includes electronic music along with information on a variety of recording techniques and the production of scores for motion pictures and television.

A handbook specifically intended for studio use is Ronald Pellegrino's An Electronic Studio Manual (Columbus: Ohio State University Publications, 1968), which has an accompanying tape. It deals in particular with the electronic studio equipment manufactured by the R.A. Moog Company. Moog equipment is found in many studios and is now known to a large public through the Switched-on Bach recording.

Certain other books, while not about electronic music per se, cover closely related topics. The electronic medium has focussed new interest on acoustics and made new forms of acoustical experiment available. An excellent recent book on acoustics which takes notice of some of these new developments is C.A. Taylor's The Physics of Musical Sounds (London: English Universities Press, 1965). A fine book of practical advice which many electronic composers have found useful is Joel Tall's Techniques of Magnetic Recording (New York: Macmillan, 1958). Here the technique of tape recording is closely allied to the production of electronic music.

Book treatments of such a contemporary topic as electronic music, however, are not nearly so extensive as the periodical literature. An extremely large number of articles on electronic music have been published in both scholarly and popular journals and even in newspapers—with treatment ranging from the superficial to the highly technical. To find one's way about in this literature, a work like the Cross Bibliography, mentioned above, is a most welcome guide. Some of the most important periodical literature is described below.

The Music Educators Journal (November, 1968) was a special issue devoted to electronic music (still available from NEA Publication Sales, 1201 16th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, at $1 per copy). It contains articles on many phases of the subject by a variety of experts, plus lists of records, readings, scores, terms, and equipment; and a disc recording. Altogether, it forms perhaps the most suitable introduction to the entire field for the non-specialist that has yet been published, in addition to having material of interest to specialists as well.

The Electronic Music Review, a quarterly which began in January 1967, unfortunately ceased publication after its seventh issue; back issues are still available, however, from the publisher, the Independent Electronic Music Center, Trumansburg, N.Y. 14886. (The International Electronic Music Catalog, mentioned above, was a special double issue of this journal, and is available, as noted above, from the M.I.T. Press.) It is indeed regrettable that financial support could not be found for the continuance of this valuable journal, the only one to take electronic music as its special province. Articles covered a wide range, from highly technical treatments of equipment design to more generally accessible essays on aesthetics and on the appearance of electronic effects in rock music. The Review was also a helpful source of current news in the field, listing new recordings (some of which were reviewed), publications, and special events such as seminars and important concerts.

Other journals which frequently publish articles on electronic music include Perspectives of New Music, Die Reihe (which appears in English translation under its German title), the Journal of Music Theory, the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, and the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. The American Society of University Composers (c/o Department of Music, Columbia University, New York, N.Y. 10027) makes frequent mention of electronic music, including computer music, in its two publications, the Proceedings (an annual collection of papers read at ASUC conferences) and the Newsletter (which features up-to-date short news items).

In a more popular, or practical, vein, magazines for the "hi-fi" enthusiast, like High Fidelity and Audio, and for the experimenter (hobbyist-technician) like Radio Electronics and Electronics World, have many articles, and also advertisements, which are of interest in the electronic music studio, especially when it comes to selecting, servicing, and building studio equipment. Along similar lines, the larger radio and high-fidelity equipment stores often carry a good selection of paperbacks on many topics of potential interest—books on high fidelity, tape recording, building and servicing equipment, interpreting schematic diagrams, basic electrical theory, and the like. Such books, frequently updated and covering a wide range from those aimed at beginners to those intended for technicians, are a good source of information for self-study and reference.

Keeping up with the ever-expanding repertoire of electronic music on records is not easy. Until recently, electronic music as such was difficult to locate with any thoroughness, in the Schwann Record Catalog, which indexes mainly by composer. However, Schwann has now begun to carry a special section of electronic music records in the back of each issue. Consequently certain composers who were represented on records only with electronic music have disappeared from the main body of the catalog, but appear in the electronic music section, where information on the contents of individual records is now more complete than before. Much electronic music from foreign record companies and other specialized sources does not appear (but cross-check the Schwann Supplementary Catalog), so the section is by no means a complete listing of all the electronic music available; but within its limitations, the new special section is a distinct help. The Contemporary Music Newsletter (c/o Department of Music, New York University, Washington Square, New York, N.Y. 10003) also lists, and sometimes reviews, new records of contemporary music, among which it is usually possible to discern those using electronic equipment.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 14/11/2018

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