cover of book

Live Wires: A History of Electronic Music
by Daniel Warner
Reaktion Books, 2017
Cloth: 978-1-78023-824-1 | eISBN: 978-1-78023-871-5

Sit through any live stage production these days and you’re bound to hear the sing-song twerping of a cell phone. We live in an electronic world, saturated with electronic sounds. Yet, electronic sounds aren’t a new phenomenon; they have long permeated our sonic landscape. In Live Wires, Daniel Warner explores how five key electronic technologies—the tape recorder, circuit, computer, microphone, and turntable—have revolutionized musical thought.

Electronic music began as the otherworldly sounds of the film score for the 1956 film Forbidden Planet and the rarefied, new timbres of Stockhausen’s Kontakte a few years later, and is now a common soundscape in technology, media, and an array of music genres. The rise of a new audio culture has enabled more people than ever before to produce and listen to electronic music, from isolated experimenters, classical musicians, and jazz musicians to rock musicians, sound recordists, and newer generations of electronic musicians making hiphop, house, techno, and ambient music. Even the electrosonic debris of the world—glitches, bursts of amplitude and frequency modulated radio transmissions, fragments of media speech, and noise—find their way into our musical lives. Warner argues that the prevalence of electronic music means we are not only listening to electronic sounds, but thinking about them, finding new meanings in them, experimenting with them, and rehearing them as listeners and makers.

The book is peppered throughout with engaging anecdotes from the artists, engineers, and creators involved in the production of electronic music. It features the work of major figures in electronic music, including Schaeffer, Oliveros, Xenakis, Eno, Grandmaster Flash, Francisco López, and Juan Atkins. Live Wires is an arresting discussion of the powerful musical ideas that are being recycled, rethought, and remixed by the most interesting electronic composers and musicians today.

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