An Introduction to Drone Composition

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

Drone composition encompasses a variety of music, all of which use long, slow-moving pitches as a vehicle for questioning how we perceive sound. Composers create these transfixing pieces by manipulating tape, layering acoustic instruments, and even inventing whole new instruments; but regardless of the nuts-and-bolts of their creation, the aim of drone composition is have us reconsider the role of sound in our day-to-day lives.

The genre is garnering new attention thanks to the documentary Sisters With Transistors (2020), which sheds light on the work of female electronic musicians, many of whom were pioneers in the field of drone composition. Books like Jennie Gottschalk’s Experimental Music Since 1970, published in 2016, have further codified our understanding of sonic perception by illuminating the different ways Western classical composers have built their own musical universes. Although today the field encompasses everything from ambient music to sound baths, drone composition first began attracting attention through the work of Pauline Oliveros, whose album, Deep Listening, and subsequent “deep listening” philosophy, became a touchstone for the genre.