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Electronically Modified Voices as Expressing the (Post)Human Condition in Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories (2013)

Authored by: Jane Piper Clendinning

The Routledge Companion to Popular Music Analysis

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138683112
eBook ISBN: 9781315544700
Adobe ISBN:


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Electronically manipulated voices have been a part of avant-garde electronic music composition since Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Gesang der Jünglinge (1955–56) and Luciano Berio’s Thema (Omaggio a Joyce) (1958) and Visage (1961). In composing Gesang der Jünglinge, Stockhausen combined elektronische Musik techniques of the German electronic music studios (where music was created from electronically generated and processed sounds) with the French studio techniques of musique concrète (where sounds were recorded on tape, then processed) for the first time, resulting in a haunting musical landscape where recordings of the voice of a 12-year-old boy are interwoven with and merge into electronic sounds. Berio’s compositions, which were prepared in the Studio di fonologia musicale in Milan, Italy, likewise depend on a blending of both types of techniques and are based on recordings of a human voice—that of Cathy Berberian, his wife at that time. These compositions provide a foundation for musical use of electronically manipulated voices in a wide variety of later works in both art music and popular genres.

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