Electronic music was first used by avant-garde composers in the early part of the 20th century, most notably Varese. These guys would record and transplant the sounds they choose to create their “organized sound” such as in Poême Électronique:
As time went on and the abilities to create different sounds and explore timbre grew, electronic art music still remained on the fringe as far as importance in influence goes. Serialists, minimalists and now world music composers all have enjoyed a period of cultural dominance while electronic compositions only rarely are projected into our collective consciousness (I would consider Poême Électronique one such work, but this may be because of it’s placement in a world’s fair where a large number of people would interact with it). There are a few reasons that this may be:
- There are fewer electronic composers than traditional instrumental composers, limiting the talent pool and number of works created. The fact of the small composer pool is likely do to the technical expertise required to compose electronic works.
- There is a particular style to composing electronic music that was helped defined by The Futurists and other composers like Varese who emphasized “organized sound”. These composers were essentially the first samplers but the organization of the samples is what is likely to turn off casual listeners.
When listeners get turned off, there is no economic incentive, even for adventurous non-profits to put on a work, because it kills their listening base and offends the ears of the principal donors.
The art music in the classical tradition created electronically either seems silly or just downright boring. On the other hand, lots of interesting things have been done with electronic music in rock/pop music. Bands like Radiohead or Sigur Rós have really gone a long ways in creating an alternative, ethereal electronic sound which is in direct contrast to disjointed, grotesque sound of classical electronic composers.