Listen: Electronic Music

Listen: Electronic Music
Nowadays, holding hours and hours of music in the palms of our hands, we often forget how much access to music has evolved with technology, not to mention the effects of technology on composers.

20th-century composer Milton Babbitt co-founded the Computer Music Center (CMC) in New York in the 1950s, now the oldest center for electronic and computer music research in the US. His composition, Ensembles for Synthesizer, will be performed on Wednesday, January 27th at the Juilliard School in New York City in its 32nd annual festival: Focus! 2016 Milton Babbitt's World. Babbitt wrote Ensembles for Synthesizer using the RCA Mark II Synthesizer at the CMC. In order to create sounds artificially with this electronic instrument, bits of tape had to be spliced individually, one sound at a time, while other buttons and knobs were programmed — a labor-intensive task involving skilled technicians and patience. The resulting product, however, was electronic music characterized by a wide spectrum of unusual timbres.

In celebration of Milton Babbitt's centennial, we wanted to share a playlist of 21st-century music featuring electronic sounds. We start this electric journey with Babbitt's Correspondences for string orchestra and tape. Next, we have the first movement of Kaija Saariaho's dark and eerie Circle Map for full orchestra and electronics based on poems by the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi. Missy Mazzoli takes you on a journey with Song from the Uproar exploring the surreal world of explorer and novelist Isabelle Eberhardt, succeeded by Ludovico Einaudi's Ascolta for solo keyboard. This playlist continues with more adventurous tracks for dance performances — titles by David Lang, Hauschka, and Scanner, before touching on pieces for vocal soloist and small ensemble by Nico Muhly and Daniel Wohl.

For more info on Juilliard's Babbitt performances this month, please visit

Electronic Music

Note: For David Lang's woodmans and Hauschka's dance music who lived here? (part of the album Abandoned City) only licensing rights are available.

This playlist was contributed by Thomas Wahnish