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Joining Forces in Technology: Three Analytical Case Studies of Early Corporate-Sponsored Electronic Music


The close of World War II and the advent of the Cold War had effects far beyond the oft-explored realms of global alliances and domestic policy; this dissertation traces a path exploring how these grand geopolitical factors, and accompanying patterns in knowledge production, filtered from the larger intellectual climate to more localized cultural and artistic trends. I seek to show how application-focused trends in postwar knowledge and technology production (termed “Mode 2” by Michael Gibbons, Camille Limoges, Helga Nowotny, et al. in their 1994 book, The New Production of Knowledge: The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies) found an avenue into avant-garde art through the bourgeoning field of electronic music. This represents a break with historical trends, since the arts have generally functioned within older, discipline-focused, patronage-based models.

In addition to exploring how the historical context of the early Cold War informed the development of knowledge production generally, and electronic music specifically, I focus on three composers' activities at early electroacoustic studios in the years 1955-1965, as well as their accompanying sponsors: Milton Babbitt and the RCA Synthesizer at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Studio; Mauricio Kagel at the Siemens Studio for Electronic Music in Munich; and Toru Takemitsu at Sony's Electronic Music Studios in Tokyo. I hope to show how the broader intellectual climate of the United States and its satellites in the early Cold War period helped to shape both how a number of electroacoustic music studios were established, and how music was conceived of and composed there. Ultimately, I also aim to understand how these pieces fit into their composers' larger output and individual artistic goals, while at the same time using these cases to develop a more nuanced understanding of the broader cultural significance of early electronic music.

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