Historical Techniques for Composing Electronic Music

In electronic music, one has the opportunity not only to compose, but also to but also to pioneer new audio experiences.
— Thom Holmes

Composing music has never been a simple task. While there may be times the muse speaks to us more fluidly and things seem to come effortlessly; every composer, from the most to least gifted, has experienced a time when they are absolutely and utterly dumbfounded. This article is dedicated to the individuals in that place.  

Below is a list of techniques electronic musicians have historically engaged to move them from that uninspired place into one where they may look at things with fresh ears and eyes. Please note, this is by no means a comprehensive list of techniques--rather the ones the author found most interesting on a personal and artistic level.

Sound Crafting

This is probably the most common method modern sound sculptors use to compose. The composer sits at an instrument or digital audio workstation (DAW) and works with the audio to create something compelling, arranging by instinct until a general structure forms.

While sound crafting is a good place to begin, it can sometimes lead to mediocre or at least familiar results. (If you always make music in the same manner, with the same tools, aiming for the same aesthetic, stagnation is probably looming.)

Graphical Scores and Instructional Composition

These different approaches to scoring come from classical roots, but could be good in shaking up your process. A graphic score allow the composer to map out a series of changes in the technical components of the sound as the piece progresses. Traditional notation is usually jettisoned in favor of other symbols and visual systems to depict the timbrel evolution of sound in the piece.

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One of the most interesting variations on a graphical score is the listening score, which was created as a visual aid to help listeners follow more experimental compositions. In 1970, the artist Rainer Wehinger created such a score for Gyorgyi Ligeti’s 1958 tape piece, Artikulation. It was later animated.

How to Be a Lightworker

A Lightworker is someone who puts their energy and efforts into making the world a better, more connected place. This is something that has been on my mind for a long time, but it’s only recently that I’ve begun to feel like I’m actually moving in that direction.

Not all of us may feel they have the opportunity to make a living doing something that makes a difference in the world. Most of us feel we have to make a living where we find it. I certainly felt like that for a long time. It’s only recently that I opened my eyes to the fact that many of the tasks that I do in my daily life do actually make the world a better place, even if it’s a small improvement. But each of us doing something small, making the world incrementally better, can have a big effect if we do it consciously and know that others are working with the same goal in mind.

Whether it’s sharing your talents with someone who needs them, volunteering at a local charity, or contributing to a cause that means something to you, it’s critical to look for ways to make the world a better place, and act on them.

Doing so, we are able to imbue life with meaning, even when we are feeling a little stuck. 

Manifesto: Make Your Own Fate, Construct Your Own Happiness

I didn’t want this life. I didn’t choose the situation I fell into. But like every person needs to, I made the best of what was given to me. I made my own happiness.

I created a situation in which I could sustain myself and my loved ones, in which I could make music with beautiful instruments, travel the world, practice yoga with incredible teachers, and eat fabulous vegetarian food. I used my brain and the skills I acquired to support myself and contribute to the world in a positive way.

This is the life I’ve chosen.

This is the life I lead intentionally.

This life is no mistake.

There are no mistakes.

This isn’t a plan B.

Yes, I could have chosen to spend my life clawing toward the bleeding edge as a writer, as a musician, as a yoga teacher, as an artist... I could have chosen that bitter path, and lived a frustrated life, struggling to eat, struggling to get paid, drifting from one situation to the next in anonymity.

I could have done that and perhaps been a better writer, a better musician, a better artist or teacher.

Instead, I chose to take the tools I was given, the talents and skills I forged myself, and made the most of life. I took the brains I was born with and the instincts that came built into this body and used them to be happy and loving, and to try to imbue the world with positivity, joy, and wonder.

I’m not perfect - no one is. But I try to live consciously, comfortably, and I do try to use the resources at my disposal to contribute to the world in a positive way.