A short history of electronic music: the instruments and innovators that defined a genre

Ora Sawyers

Where do you begin a history of electronic music and the synthesizer? The popular and somewhat easy view is that the two are entwined, that electronic music started with the invention of the synthesiser and its use in the 60s and 70s. But actually the synthetic manipulation of sound, and the machines that did it can be traced back further. Much further.

In fact, both experimentation with sound and some weird and wonderful sonic manipulators go back hundreds of years. OK, the fun really started when people started recording and releasing the results a few decades back – not to mention making accurate records of the machines that they created – but before we get to the 60s, there’s a couple of hundred years to cover (albeit briefly), including some claims to discuss, some to dismiss and some others that are just, well, shocking… in all the wrong ways.

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