Near the end of his life, Pierre Schaeffer gave an interview in which he described his attempt to develop a new musical language as a “failure.” Using Schaeffer’s dismal assessment of his life’s work as a point of departure, the conclusion considers the anxiety that experimental electronic music generates. The technical control that electronic instruments and applications afford is such that many electronic works behave nothing like conventional music. They may utterly avoid any trappings of melody, harmony, or predictable rhythm and may seem more similar to other media such as film or documentary. The conclusion argues that while its lack of musical parameters encourages a different type of listening experience, electronic music nonetheless cultivates an aesthetic awareness of sound, one anticipated in Theodor Adorno’s theory of “regressive listening.”
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