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Electronic Music Timeline

  • Invention of the Vacuum Tube

    Invention of the Vacuum Tube
    John Ambrose Fleming develops the first vacuum tube diode, patented in 1905. Diodes are constructed to allow current to flow in only one direction.
  • Theory of Special Relativity

    Theory of Special Relativity
    Albert Einstein published his Theory of Special Relativity in 1905, introducing ideas such as mass-energy equivalence, time dilation, and space expansion.
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    World War I

    Also known as the Great War, World War I was a conflict involving much of Europe sparked by the assassination of Austro-Hungarian heir Franz Ferdinand.
  • Invention of the Theremin

    Invention of the Theremin
    Using research done on proximity sensors, Leon Theremin created an instrument that could be played without touching it. The theremin was patented in 1928
  • Magnetic Tape Invented

    Magnetic Tape Invented
    Magnetic tape was developed in Germany, building off the technology used in magnetic wire recording. Magnetic tape is the oldest method of computer storage.
  • First Airphonic Suite

    First Airphonic Suite
    Joseph Schillinger's First Airphonic Suite was composed for Leon Theremin, the inventor of the instrument that bears his name. Leon performed the theremin at the piece's premier. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_x2QcWKtRMk
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    The Great Depression

    In 1929, a stock market crash in the United States of America led to a worldwide economic depression that, for most countries, lasted throughout the 1930s. Global GDP dropped and unemployment rates skyrocketed.
  • Nuclear Fission Discovered

    Nuclear Fission Discovered
    Physicist Enrico Fermi conducted several experiments in Rome that demonstrated neutrons splitting various different types of atoms apart, eventually leading to the discovery of nuclear energy.
  • First Wideband FM Broadcast

    First Wideband FM Broadcast
    Edwin Armstrong, the inventor of FM broadcasting, received a patent for wideband FM broadcasting in 1933. He conducted a series of wideband broadcast tests throughout 1934 and 1935 from New York City.
  • Imaginary Landscape No. 1

    Imaginary Landscape No. 1
    John Cage composed his first piece in the Imaginary Landscapes series in 1939. The piece involves two players who would manipulate records producing a single tone by increasing and decreasing the speeds at which they are played alongside a percussionist and a pianist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-3iLnXV90s
  • DNA Double Helix Structure Discovered

    DNA Double Helix Structure Discovered
    Molecular biologists James Watson and Francis Crick discover the three-dimensional configuration of genes and DNA and construct the first physical model of the double helix out of cardboard.
  • Déserts

    Déserts is a piece by Edgard Varèse written for winds, percussion, and electronics. It was noteworthy for Varèse's ability to combine acoustic and electronic timbres. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q__g0tgC2wE
  • First Commercial Transistor Radio

    First Commercial Transistor Radio
    The Regency TR-1 transistor radio was the first portable electronic device to incorporate the transistor, previously only having practical applications in industrial environments. The transistor radio laid the way for numerous portable electronic devices throughout the rest of the twentieth century into the twenty-first.
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    Vietnam War

    Widely believed to be a Cold War proxy-war, the Vietnam war was fought between North Vietnam with its communist allies (including the USSR and China) and South Vietnam with its anti-communist allies (including the United States of America).
  • Symphonie magnétophonique

    Symphonie magnétophonique
    Danish composer Else Marie Pade was one of the first in Europe to experiment with electronic music. Her Symphonie magnétophonique was constructed from recorded sounds, representing the daily noises and rhythms of Copenhagen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0D-9smZWKsU
  • Cuban Missile Crisis

  • Moog Modular Synthesizer

    Moog Modular Synthesizer
    The Moog Modular Synthesizer, developed by Robert Moog and Herb Deutch, was the first commercial synthesizer.
  • Philomel

    Milton Babbitt's Philomel is one of the first compositions to incorporate a synthesizer. The piece combines live acoustic performance (voice), live electronic performance, and tape recording. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SMR5WIgSUg
  • Telemusik

    Karlheinz Stockhausen's Telemusik is a piece that combines electronically generated sound with recordings of a variety of ethnic instruments. The piece is strictly structured according to the Fibonacci sequence and uses various electronic sounds to mark the beginning of each of the thirty-two "moments" of the piece.

    Peter Grogono was tasked with developing a composition and sequencing language for Electronic Music Studios in London to assist with the composition of electronic music. MUSYS acted as a low-frequency sampler, with a sample rate of around 20 Hz.
  • Moon Landing

    Moon Landing
    During the Space Race between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, the Apollo 11 mission successfully landed on the moon.
  • First Commercial Digital Recording

    First Commercial Digital Recording
    Engineer Dr. Takeaki Anazawa completed the first-ever digital recording of Stomu Yamash'ta.
  • Persépolis

    Persépolis is a fifty-five minute electroacoustic composition by Iannis Xenakis in celebration of 2500 years since the founding of Persepolis. It premiered in the ruins of Persepolis as a multimedia experience.
  • Pope John Paul II Elected

    Pope John Paul II Elected
    Pope John Paul II was elected in 1978 after the death of his predecessor, John Paul I, and his predecessor before him, Paul VI in the same year. John Paul II was the first pope to not be Italian-born in over four centuries.
  • Sony Walkman

    Sony Walkman
    The Sony Walkman was the first personal, portable cassette player. It massively exceeded its expectations upon its first release in Japan and quickly was marketed internationally.
  • First Compact Disk

    First Compact Disk
    The first compact disk was developed by Phillips and Sony to store audio data. The format was later expanded to include a variety of electronic media.
  • MIDI

    Dave Smith and Ikutaro Kakehashi, feeling that the lack of compatibility and standardization in the electronic music world was a detriment to the progress of the creative industry. They would end up developing MIDI, a standardization for sending data between electronic instruments, synthesizers, and other musical hardware.
  • Different Trains

    Different Trains
    Steve Reich's Different Trains is a piece composed for string quartet and tape, using voice recordings of train announcers and sounds produced by trains as the source for melodies performed by the string players.
  • Pro Tools

    Pro Tools
    Pro Tools, the first modern digital audio workstation, was developed by Digidesign and OSC. The first version was launched in 1991.
  • GPS becomes operational

    GPS becomes operational
    The Global Positioning System project, which began in 1973, became fully operational in 1993 when all twenty-four of its planned satellites had entered orbit.
  • USB Implemented

    USB Implemented
    The USB industry standard was implemented, providing specifications for cables and connectors that streamlined data flow.
  • ISS Launch

    ISS Launch
    The International Space Station was completed and began operations in 1998. It has been continuously occupied since 2000.
  • Netherlands legalizes same-sex marriage

    Netherlands legalizes same-sex marriage
    The Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001. Massachusetts became the first state of the USA to legalize same-sex marriage in 2003.
  • iTunes Music Store Launches

    iTunes Music Store Launches
    The iTunes music store, one of the first widescale libraries of digital music, launches, beginning a wave of purely digital media that has slowly replaced physical audio media, such as compact disks.
  • Pluto's Planethood Revoked

    Pluto's Planethood Revoked
    After the discovery of Eris, a large body in the Kuiper Belt in 2006, the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto to the status of dwarf planet.
  • South Sudan joins the United Nations

    South Sudan joins the United Nations
    South Sudan became the newest member of the United Nations after its independence from Sudan passed in 2011.
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    COVID-19 Pandemic

    The COVID-19 Pandemic is an ongoing global health crisis caused by SARS-CoV-2. It has caused global shutdowns, but has also brought about a necessity for embracing digital media in all walks of life, to maintain communication throughout the pandemic.
  • MIDI 2.0 Specifications Adopted

    MIDI 2.0 Specifications Adopted
    The first major update to the specifications of MIDI, MIDI 2.0 was adopted by the MIDI Manufacturers Association in 2020.