Top 20 Electronic Music Composers of the 20th Century


Top 20 Electronic Music Composers of the 20th Century

A blog about electronic music composers and their biographies/reviews.

Top 20 Electronic Music Composers of the 20th Century

This is a list of composers who have a special relation to electronic music as one of their central creative tools. It does not include classical composers who may have experimented with electronics in a minor way, or people like Karlheinz Stockhausen, who are better known for other work. Included are people whose work is primarily electronic, and whose work is more than just an interesting one-off experiment.

The list is in no particular order. The only criterion for inclusion is that in my opinion the composer has made significant contributions to the field of electronic music and deserves wider recognition.

This blog will take a look at the top 20 electronic music composers of the 20th century. Each composer will get their own post with a biography and a review of their work. I will start with the most influential, in my opinion, and move down from there.

When I say “electronic music” I mean anything that was created with any type of electronic equipment. This includes analog synthesizers, digital samplers, drum machines, etc… The only limitation is that whatever equipment used had to be available during the 20th century. So any music recorded on magnetic tape or vinyl is ok but music that utilizes compact discs or digital downloads are not eligible for this list.

The criteria for this list is based off of influence and personal preference. If you think another composer should be added to this list then leave a comment below!

Top 20 Electronic Music Composers of the 20th Century

1. Karlheinz Stockhausen

2. John Cage

3. Steve Reich

4. Pierre Schaeffer

5. Iannis Xenakis

6. Luciano Berio

7. Gyorgy Ligeti

8. Morton Subotnick

9. Edgard Var?se

10. Isao Tomita

11. Jean-Claude Risset

12. Morton Feldman

13. Paul Lansky

14. Alvin Lucier and David Tudor (tie)

15. Brian Eno

16. Kees Tazelaar, Gottfried Michael Koenig, Peter Zinovieff (tie)

17. La Monte Young

18. David Behrman, Pauline Oliveros (tie)

19. Ryoji Ikeda

20. Max Mathews

1. John Cage

2. Pierre Schaeffer

3. Karlheinz Stockhausen

4. Iannis Xenakis

5. Brian Eno

6. Morton Subotnick

7. Alvin Lucier

8. Pauline Oliveros

9. Robert Ashley

10.Steve Reich

11.David Tudor

12.Conlon Nancarrow

13.La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela

14.John Chowning

15.Joji Yuasa and Toshiro Mayuzumi

16.Tom Johnson, Tristan Murail, and Philippe Manoury

17.Michele Tadini and Pietro Grossi (Italian)

18.Isao Tomita (Japanese) 19-21: Toshiro Mayuzumi, Takemitsu Toru, Maki Ishii (Japanese)

This group of composers is best known for their contributions to the field of electronic music and their pioneering work in musique concrete, a term that refers to music composed from recordings of real world sounds, as opposed to the use of electronic instruments.

Varèse’s landmark composition Intégrales was one of the first prominent works to make extensive use of sine tones. In Poème électronique he used recorded sounds and manipulated them with filters, reverberation and other tools to create a soundscape for the Philips Pavilion at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels.

Cage’s musical works often involved the use of indeterminacy, or chance procedures, as a compositional technique. In Imaginary Landscape No. 1 he had performers tune their radios to different stations and play them simultaneously, creating a collage effect similar to musique concrete. His seminal piece 4’33”, composed in 1952 and first performed in 1954, became an iconic work of modern art that represented Cage’s philosophy that any sound can be music if it is listened to attentively.

Stockhausen was a prolific composer who was known for developing serialism and electronic techniques further than his musical peers. One of his most famous pieces is Gesang der Jüngling

Electronic music is a form of music which has been produced using electronic musical instruments, digital instruments and circuitry-based music technology. It is a type of experimental music that emerged in the 20th century and incorporates the use of sound synthesis and new technology.

I have been a fan of Schulze’s music since the mid-80’s. His music has often been described as one of the most influential composers in electronic music history. He was born in Berlin Germany. He was a member of the legendary group Tangerine Dream and was known for his use of synthesizers, sequencers and computers to create electronic music. His work is deeply influenced by Krautrock which is a German form of avant-garde rock created by bands such as Can, Neu!, Kraftwerk, Popol Vuh and Amon Düül II.

Schulze was part of the Berlin School scene that emerged in Germany in the 1970’s. Although there is no real definition for what this style of music is, it does contain a variety of characteristics that we associate with electronic music today. It usually consists of long songs with an emphasis on rhythms and synthesizers over traditional instruments. He also used sequencers and tape loops to create unique sounds that were not possible with normal synthesizer techniques at that time.

The song he is most known for is “Floating” which appeared on his album Timewind in 1975. The song starts out with a mellow keyboard sound


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