Glitch (music)

Glitch (music)
Glitch (music)
Stylistic origins IDM
Musique concrète
Cultural origins 1990s Germany
Typical instruments Hardware: circuit bending, Elektron Machinedrum, Elektron Monomachine, Software: Ableton Live, Audiomulch, Reason, Bidule, Jeskola Buzz, Max/MSP, Pure Data, Reaktor, Super Collider, Usine, and ChucK
Mainstream popularity Low with underground followings in U.S. and Europe, especially Germany and Sweden[1]
Microhouse, Glitchcore, Glitch-hop
(complete list)

Glitch is a term used to describe a genre of electronic music that emerged in the mid to late 1990s. The glitch aesthetic is characterized by a deliberate use of glitch based sonic artifacts that would normally be viewed as unwanted disturbances reducing the overall sound quality and are thus usually to be avoided in audio recordings.

Sources of glitch sound material are usually malfunctioning or abused audio recording devices or digital technology, such as CD skipping, electric hum, digital or analog distortion, bit rate reduction, hardware noise, computer bugs, crashes, vinyl record hiss or scratches and system errors.[2] In a Computer Music Journal article published in 2000, composer and writer Kim Cascone classifies glitch as a sub-genre of electronica, and used the term post-digital to describe the glitch aesthetic.[3] Another term for Glitch is Clicks & Cuts (sometimes only Clicks) deriving from the Clicks & Cuts Series released by the Mille Plateaux music label, which played a leading role in the development of the genre.



The origins of the glitch aesthetic can be traced to the early 20th century, with Luigi Russolo's Futurist manifesto The Art of Noises, the basis of noise music. He also constructed noise generators, which he named intonarumori. Later musicians and composers made use of malfunctioning technology, such as Christian Marclay who used mutilated vinyl records to create sound collages from the mid-1970s. Yasunao Tone used damaged CDs in his Techno Eden performance in 1985, Storks crafted their sound with noise generators and game fx in 1987,[4] while Nicolas Collins's 1992 album It Was A Dark and Stormy Night included a composition that featured a string quartet playing alongside the stuttering sound of skipping CDs.[5]

Glitch originated as a distinct movement in Germany with the musical work and labels (especially Mille Plateaux) of Achim Szepanski.[6][7] While the movement initially slowly gained members (including bands like Oval),[1] the techniques of Glitch later quickly spread around the world as many artists followed suit. Trumpeter Jon Hassell's 1994 album Dressing For Pleasure — a dense mesh of funky trip hop and jazz — features several songs with the sound of skipping CDs layered into the mix.

Oval's Wohnton, produced in 1993, helped define the genre by adding ambient aesthetics to it.[8] Though Oval may be the first in which the techniques of Musique Concrete were applied to the subtleties of Ambient, glitch is also informed by techno and industrial music.

The mid-nineties work of Warp records artists Aphex Twin (Richard D. James Album, Windowlicker, Come to Daddy EP) and Autechre (Tri Repetae, Chiastic Slide) were also influential in the development of the digital audio manipulation technique and aesthetic.

Production techniques

Glitch is often produced on computers using modern digital production software to splice together small "cuts" (samples) of music from previously recorded works. These cuts are then integrated with the signature of glitch music: beats made up of glitches, clicks, scratches, and otherwise "erroneously" produced or sounding noise. These glitches are often very short, and are typically used in place of traditional percussion or instrumentation. Skipping CDs, scratched vinyl records, circuit bending, and other noise-like distortions figure prominently into the creation of rhythm and feeling in glitch; it is from the use of these digital artifacts that the genre derives its name. However, not all artists of the genre are working with erroneously produced sounds or are even using digital sounds. Some artists also use digital synthesizer such as the Clavia Nord Modular G2 and Elektron Machinedrum and Monomachine.

Popular software for creating glitch includes trackers, Reaktor, Ableton Live, Reason, AudioMulch, Bidule, Super Collider, Usine, FLStudio, Max/MSP, Pure Data, and ChucK. Circuit bending, the intentional short-circuiting of low power electronic devices to create new musical devices, also plays a significant role on the hardware end of glitch music and its creation.

Notable Artists

See also


  1. ^ a b "Glitch", "Allmusic"
  2. ^ Cox, Christoph and Warner, Daniel, eds. (2004). Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music. Continuum Books. pp. 393. 
  3. ^ "The glitch genre arrived on the back of the electronica movement, an umbrella term for alternative, largely dance-based electronic music (including house, techno, electro, drum'n'bass, ambient) that has come into vogue in the past five years. Most of the work in this area is released on labels peripherally associated with the dance music market, and is therefore removed from the contexts of academic consideration and acceptability that it might otherwise earn. Still, in spite of this odd pairing of fashion and art music, the composers of glitch often draw their inspiration from the masters of 20th century music who they feel best describe its lineage." THE AESTHETICS OF FAILURE: 'Post-Digital' Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music, Kim Cascone, Computer Music Journal 24:4 Winter 2000 (MIT Press)
  4. ^
  5. ^ 1995 Interview with Nicolas Collins, by Brian Duguid
  6. ^ "First championed by the ideological German techno figure Achim Szepanski and his stable of record labels -- Force Inc, Mille Plateaux, Force Tracks, Ritornell -- this tight-knit scene of experimental artists creating cerebral hybrids of experimental techno, minimalism, digital collage, and noise glitches soon found themselves being assembled into a community."Allmusic
  7. ^ "Random Inc.", "Allmusic"
  8. ^ "Although Oval are perhaps more well-known for how they make their music than for the music they actually make, the German experimental electronic trio have provided an intriguing update of some elements of avant-garde composition in combination with techniques of digital sound design.[...]" Allmusic

Further reading

  • Andrews, Ian, Post-digital Aesthetics and the return to Modernism, MAP-uts lecture, 2000, available at authors website.
  • Bijsterveld, Karin and Trevor J. Pinch. "'Should One Applaud?': Breaches and Boundaries in the Reception of New Technology in Music." Technology and Culture. Ed. 44.3, pg 536-559. 2003.
  • Byrne, David. "What is Blip Hop?" Lukabop, 2002. Available here.
  • Collins, Adam, "Sounds of the system: the emancipation of noise in the music of Carsten Nicolai", Organised Sound, 13(1): 31-39. 2008. Cambridge University Press.
  • Collins, Nicolas. Editor. "Composers inside Electronics: Music after David Tudor." Leonardo Music Journal. Vol. 14, pgs 1-3. 2004.
  • Prior, Nick, "Putting a Glitch in the Field: Bourdieu, Actor Network Theory and Contemporary Music", Cultural Sociology, 2: 3, 2008: pp 301–319.
  • Thomson, Phil, "Atoms and errors: towards a history and aesthetics of microsound", Organised Sound, 9(2): 207-218. 2004. Cambridge University Press.
  • Sangild, Torben: "Glitch — The Beauty of Malfunction" in Bad Music. Routledge (2004, ISBN 0-415-94365-5) [1]
  • Young, Rob: "Worship the Glitch", The Wire 190/191 (2000)
  • Noah Zimmerman, "Dusted Reviews, 2002"

External links

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