A Guide to Generative Electronic Music

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

It’s a simple rule of physics: Music can’t last forever. Every song and album comes to a close, every concert or listening session eventually gives way to silence, and the artist’s spell is broken. Practitioners of the electronic subgenre known as generative music see things a bit differently. When crafted and arranged correctly, the album as we know it can transcend that supposedly linear fate and embody a sort of permanence. In other words, the ecosystem will flourish and proliferates without you, bursting with life. It doesn’t begin and end; it just is.

The term entered the public lexicon in 1995, introduced by the ultimate music-genre namer, Brian Eno; Eno had been using generative techniques since his 1975 record, Discreet Music. Inspired by early works like John Cage’s Imaginary Landscape Vol. 4 and the I Ching-inspired Music of Changes—along with Terry Riley’s performative generative piece In C and Steve Reich’s tape manipulation masterpiece It’s Gonna Rain—Eno modernized and popularized generative techniques with now legendary records like Ambient 1: Music for Airports, which showcased how, with strategic timing, an artist could make a handful of short loops repeat in different ways with each go-round.