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The range of resources is similarly diverse with material found in the popular, scientific, engineering, and academic arenas. Given the recent rapid pace of developments and the increasing use of often evanescent websites for documentation, finding quality up-to-date sources can be challenging. Still, for the study of the history of vintage instruments and technologies, some older resources can be superior to newer sources and popular publications sometimes superior to scholarly ones.


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This article guides the reader through the available literature on subject areas related to electronic musical instruments. These sources provide a general overview, definitions and a survey of the development and evolution of electronic instruments, each with a distinctive approach and focus. Holmes and Manning provide the most general overviews suitable for introductory courses as well as general study or reference. Davies and Quanten contains the most up-to-date formal definitions and categorization systems, important for musicologists and other researchers, as well as for a detailed understanding of how the instruments evolved and components interrelate.

Davies , an extensive, updated, well-researched version of the same article from the 1st edition, is comprehensive and detailed, making it an essential resource for general information, history, and social, commercial, and economic aspects as well as for further references. Chadabe uniquely provides an overview that includes interviews with practicing developers and musicians from the important period of the middle to the end of the 20th century.

Collins, et al. It serves as an important supplement to the other references cited here. Dean provides yet another approach to history and overview, including excellent coverage of electroacoustic development as well as unique coverage of sensor-based instruments and laptops as performing instruments.

Chadabe, Joel.

Selected publications

Unique overview especially of the period from the middle to the late 20th century using many interviews with developers and performers to present the history of electronic musical instruments. Useful at every level. Collins, Nick. Introduction to Computer Music. Chichester, UK: John Wiley, Up-to-date work, characterized by extreme breadth; introductory but fast moving.

Despite the title, very much about the resulting electronic instruments. Useful for students or professionals, not recommended for novices; features algorithms and use of pseudo-code to keep programming examples from being language specific. Superb references for deeper study.

Electronic Music. DOI: Excellent if selective summary of the history and development of both popular and academic arenas.

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Well-written, introductory-level volume suited to non-specialists requiring no mathematical, scientific, or technical knowledge yet discusses topics and questions rarely found elsewhere, so useful at every level. Addresses live electronic music, sound art, and multimedia; great photos and diagrams. Davies, Hugh. Edited by Laurence Libin, — New York: Oxford University Press, Comprehensive, up-to-date overview yet with copious details regarding terminology, methods, history, and development by region, types of instruments, and social and commercial aspects. Large and varied bibliography for deeper study.

Important reference for context and for pointers to deeper, more focused research. Davies, Hugh, and Maarten Quanten. This article clarifies the formal definition and distinctions of electrophones and their subcategories as well as their historical and practical evolution. It also provides an excellent summary of the instrument category though at a level most useful for graduate students and other scholarly researchers.

Dean, Roger T. The Oxford Handbook of Computer Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, A collection of essays by experts in electronic and computer music-making that surveys the history and development of the field to the present time. Includes a broad introduction to the electroacoustic field and its history.


  1. The Oxford Handbook of Computer Music by Roger T. Dean.
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  6. Unique coverage of sensor-based musical instruments and laptop computer music performance. The book is divided into two parts: the first dealing with cultural identity, the second with cultural experience. In the second, three: urban, aural and print culture; symbols, icons and sites of collective memory or ritual; politics, aesthetics and transmission.

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    This expresses well the ground covered by the book. Although it gives but a bare indication of some of the riches that are to be found in essays such as those on music and pain by Andreas Dorschel , Music, Violence and the Stakes of Listening Richard Leppert , the Strange Landscape of Middles Michael Beckerman and an essay by Joseph Lam on Chinese state sacrificial music. It could be argued that a selection of topics as diverse as this and Song Dynasty China 12 th and 13 th century , seventeenth century Venetian opera, the jazz clarinetist Sidney Bechet, and Music as History after the Age of Recording emphasizes specifics and particularities at the expense of the all-encompassing aim that is usually associated with a "handbook"… a handbook to a new computer had better cover every aspect of using it.

    Clearly, once you become as disparate and eclectic in your coverage as this volume does, it's not comprehensive.

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    Yet Fulcher goes some way towards defending this rationale in her pointed and nicely-distilled introduction. The basis of this book, the expertise of whose contributors is a delight to follow, takes as its starting point the new convergence between historians' and musicologists' work in the context of commitments in equal parts towards explaining and illustrating the ways in which "cultural objects" music is treated as such in this book communicate and construct meaning, understanding and experience of those involved. Significantly, major advances the so-called "new cultural history" and "new musicology" as they evolved 30 years ago at least seem to have made necessary fundamental re-assessments, adjustments and altogether new paradigms.

    These have also been thrown up by a sense of crisis in the field as a result. The Oxford Handbook of the New Cultural History of Music does a good job of setting out the scene in the light of such changes and doubts, of identifying some major trends, and of suggesting where ideological and methodological developments are likely to lead. At the very least, the writers as representatives of their various disciplines make their contributions fully aware of the huge extent to which the fields interact and overlap — and influence one another.

    How far, for example, can music be described as the "outcome" the "product", even of the social and cultural circumstances which exist at the time when it is conceived, developed, performed probably and received? What can or must be understood as meaning in music when meaning can be argued to be the "result" of political, ideological, racial, sexual and other social impetuses and patterns? To what extent must patterns anyway be seen as more illuminating than instances? But what makes this book such a useful corrective, or potential corrective, to the more dogmatic tendencies in history and musicology is its contributors' insistence on a retreat from too great a reliance on theory and interpretation at the expense of a more empirical approach.

    Music might be "text" but it's living, breathing text. At best, this might lead to an understanding, an encouragement even, of ways in which the arts influence politics and not the other way around. More specifically still, the thrust of the volume and its implicit arguments is that the two disciplines have much to offer each other; much can be gained for all of us when their practitioners refer both to what they have in common, and to what is unique to each as well. Although some prior knowledge and understanding of the issues and key trends in the field of cultural history as well as music and musical history is an advantage, is probably actually necessary to make the most of this book, the style, substance, use of illustrations and references between chapters also serve to make much of its material available to the reader prepared to persevere with some admittedly specialist and quite specific ideas, theories and narratives.