Impact of Computers on Music

An Outline
  • Ernst Terhardt


Since the early days of programmable computers, i.e. for at least 30 years, it has been said that the computer provides a means to overcome the technical and acoustic limitations of conventional musical instruments, to explore and occupy new musical worlds, and thus to heavily affect our musical life and experience. Nowadays, computers are everywhere present and we have become accustomed to use their data and signal processing power in many areas of human life. However, the computer’s role in music actually as yet is very limited. The music we normally hear from the radio, from records, and in concert, is largely independent of computers. If new musical worlds have been discovered, they do not appear to be specific of computers. It might seem thus that the euphoria of the early computer pioneers has led them to over-estimate the real significance of computers for music. Yet this conclusion would probably be a grave mistake. There are several indications that the forthcoming decade will bring an enhanced and almost explosive infiltration by computers of all life domains, and the musical domain will no longer be an exception. History readily shows that everything technologically realizable actually is realized if it is commercially promising, no matter whether a comprehensive scientific and conceptual basis exists, or not. Cheap, yet powerful programmable pocket calculators, computer-controlled TV games, chess computers that can be beaten only by expert chess players, language translators, speech-understanding and talking computers, and digital music synthesizers are now on the market.


Music Theory Musical Tone Musical Sound Auditory Representation Tone Scale 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ernst Terhardt
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of ElectroacousticsTechnical University, MunichMunichFederal Republic of Germany

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