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History of Computerized Music
by Alex Cosper (12/22/12)


The computer began to become a part of music in the 1980s, although it can be heard on music as far back as the sixties. One of the instruments widely used for experimental sounds in the sixties was the Mellotron. The early electronic keyboard played samples, using computer cardridges, of symphonic instruments. The Moog synthesizer also contributed to the experimntal sounds of the sixties, especially The Doors. The Hammond Organ, invented in 1934, also became a part of psychedlia in the 60s, particularly on the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album in 1967.

In 1969 an album called Switched On Bach by Walter Carlos (who later took the name Wendy Carlos after a sex change) was a groundbreaker for both classical music and synthesizer music. The Moog synthesizer was used for the multitrack recording. Although it was meant to just be an experiment, the album went gold, which was unheard of for classical music at that time. It also won three Grammy awards. Carlos went on to record popular movie soundtracks for A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and several other films. Another influential Moog synthesizer recording of 1969 was Gershon Kingsley's album Music To Moog By. It contained the instrumental song that sounded like an electronic popcorn machine called "Popcorn," which became a big cover hit by Hot Butter in 1972.

In the 1970s one of the main developers of electronic music was Kraftwerk from Germany. Their 1975 hit "Autobahn" stands in history as a prototype of the electronic music that would follow in electronic dance music. The Human League's hit "Don't You Want Me" in 1981 marked the first all electronic instrument record to make number one on Billboard. In the years that followed digital recording began to surpass analogue recording in terms of the predominant sound of current music. By the end of the decade, electronic music clearly dominated the charts.

Electronic dance music became very big in the eighties. It had been ushered into the mainstream through the disco explosion of the late seventies and permeated through the development of house and rap music. By the early nineties many hits featured computer samples or other recordings. This trend became controversial when copyright issues were debated in court, which culminated in rulings that permission was required from copyright owners to use recording samples of popular hits or other soundbites.

By the 1990s most recorded music involved a computer as 2 inch tape reels were replaced by hard drives. CDs, which debuted in the early eighties, had replaced vinyl in the late eighties as the most popular medium for music, while cassettes were slowly phased out. By 1999 many people were downloading music on their computers and storing them as WAV or MP3 files. Apple introduced the iTunes Music Player in 2001 along with the iPod, revolutionizing the way people store and playback their music. A few years later iTunes became a music store.

By 2012 many people still lived in the world of CDs, although digital downloads had become the norm. Thanks to websites like YouTube and Facebook, it is now easy to share music through the internet. The idea that a computer could be an all in one media center began to take shape in the late nineties with streaming and the improvement of broadband by 2004 made music more listenable on the computer. When the iPhone was released in 2007 digitally streaming music went mobile.





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