In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Music Technology

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Periodicals
  • Mechanical Musical Instruments
  • Radio and Broadcast
  • Music and the Internet

Music Music Technology
Mark Katz, Brian Jones
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 June 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0111


Technology is a broadly applied term that can be taken to mean any practical application of scientific knowledge or any tool used for a practical purpose. Technology in music can refer to instruments, whether acoustic, electric, or electronic; engraving and printing; sound recording and playback; broadcasting; software; and much else. In its most common use, the term music technology tends to evoke images of synthesizers and computer programs used to perform or compose music. This article stakes a middle ground between the broad and narrow conceptions of music technology, focusing on mechanical, electric, electronic, and digital technologies developed since the late 19th century for the purpose of creating, disseminating, and listening to music. The scholarship on music technology is rich and diverse, representing many disciplines, practices, and musical styles. It would be fair, however, to call this scholarship multidisciplinary rather than interdisciplinary; that is, although scholars from many areas of academia write about music and technology, collaboration and cross-pollination has been modest. However, the recent publication of edited volumes bringing together the work of scholars of widely varying approaches, as well as the development of sound studies—a now robust interdisciplinary field that addresses nonmusical sound as well as music—suggests a trend toward greater collaboration.

General Overviews

The writings discussed in this section cover a variety of issues, approaches, and technologies, although the bulk of the scholarship focuses on electronic music technologies of the 20th century. Braun 2002, Bijsterveld and Pinch 2004, and Pinch and Bijsterveld 2012 are multiauthor, multidisciplinary collections, whereas Albrecht 2004, Nyre 2008, and Taylor 2001 are more firmly grounded in single disciplines (communications studies, media studies, and musicology, respectively). Taylor, et al. 2012 is a reader, collecting documents related to recording, film, and radio. Holmes 2006 is an encyclopedia that covers a variety of technologies, although most of its entries address various aspects of sound recording.

  • Albrecht, Robert. Mediating the Muse: A Communications Approach to Music, Media, and Culture Change. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton, 2004.

    Posits a communications-based theoretical framework for understanding the technological mediation of music, addressing issues of orality, literacy, and mechanical and electronic mediation. Applies this framework in an ethnography of technological and musical change in a small Brazilian town.

  • Bijsterveld, Karin, and Trevor Pinch, eds. Special Issue: Sound Studies: New Technologies and Music. Social Studies of Science 34 (October 2004): 634–817.

    An interdisciplinary collection of articles addressing questions of the materiality of music technologies and their interactions with musical practice. Topics include musical instruments, studio recording practices, and audiophile listening cultures.

  • Braun, Hans-Joachim, ed. Music and Technology in the Twentieth Century. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.

    A wide-ranging collection of essays on the intersections of music and technology. Broad topics include mechanical and electronic music and musical instruments, sound recording and its influence on musical practices, the representation of technology in music, and the use of technology to analyze music.

  • Holmes, Thom, ed. The Routledge Guide to Music Technology. New York: Routledge, 2006.

    A concise encyclopedia of devices, techniques, concepts, people, and institutions associated with music technology, with particular attention to sound recording.

  • Nyre, Lars. Sound Media: From Live Journalism to Music Recording. London: Routledge, 2008.

    Examines music and sound in modern media, including the Internet, digital music recording, news and talk radio, and publicly disseminated music. Traces a “backwards history” of sound media techniques, discussing multitrack tape recording, live journalism, the electric microphone, and early forms of music recording.

  • Pinch, Trevor, and Karin Bijsterveld. The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    Expanding on Bijsterveld and Pinch 2004, the twenty-three essays in this volume cover much more than music, exploring the relationship between sound and technology in, for example, automobiles, hospitals, and video games. Music-centered essays consider a variety of technologies, particularly the Internet, iPod, phonograph, radio, and television.

  • Taylor, Timothy D. Strange Sounds: Music, Technology and Culture. New York: Routledge, 2001.

    A cultural and theoretical study of music and technology in the second half of the 20th century. Case studies address avant-garde electronic music, space-themed popular music, digital sampling, and trance music.

  • Taylor, Timothy D., Mark Katz, and Anthony Grajeda, eds. Music, Sound, and Technology in America: A Documentary History of Early Phonograph, Cinema, and Radio. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.

    Collects and annotates historical documents—ranging from 1878 to 1944—relating to the early years of recording, sound film, and radio in the United States. Collectively, the documents reveal how these technologies affected the experience of music during this time and how they came to be integrated into American life.

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