Glitch (music)

Glitch is a genre of electronic music that emerged in the late 1990s. It has been described as a genre that adheres to an "aesthetic of failure," where the deliberate use of glitch-based audio media, and other sonic artifacts, is a central concern.[1]

Sources of glitch sound material are usually malfunctioning or abused audio recording devices or digital electronics, such as CD skipping, electric hum, digital or analog distortion, bit rate reduction, hardware noise, software 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 subgenre of electronica and used the term post-digital to describe the glitch aesthetic.[1]


The origins of the glitch aesthetic can be traced to the early 20th century, with Luigi Russolo's Futurist manifesto L'art dei rumori (The Art of Noises) published in 1913, the basis of noise music. He constructed mechanical noise generators, which he named intonarumori, and wrote multiple compositions to be played by them; two of which were Risveglio di una città (Awakening of a City) and Convegno di automobile e aeroplani (The Meeting of Automobiles and Airplanes). In 1914, a riot broke out at one of his performances in Milan, Italy.[3] Later musicians and composers made use of malfunctioning technology, such as Michael Pinder of The Moody Blues in 1968's "The Best Way to Travel," and Christian Marclay, who used mutilated vinyl records to create sound collages beginning in 1979. Yasunao Tone used damaged CDs in his Techno Eden performance in 1985, 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.[4] Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima's electronic soundtrack for 1994 video game Streets of Rage 3 used automatically randomized sequences to generate "unexpected and odd" experimental sounds.[5]

Glitch originated as a distinct movement in Germany with the musical work and labels (especially Mille Plateaux) of Achim Szepanski.[6][7]

Oval's Wohnton, produced in 1993, helped define the genre by adding ambient aesthetics to it.[8]

Production techniques

In the latter half of the 20th century before the 90's, the experimental music that was the precursor to glitch contained distortions that were often produced using manual manipulation of the audio media. This came in the form Yasunao Tone's "wounded" CD's; small bits of semi-transparent tape were placed on the CD to interrupt the reading of the audio information.[9] Another example of this manual tampering is Nicholas Collins' modification of an electric guitar to act as a resonator for electrical signals and the adaption of a CD player so recordings played on it could be altered in live performance.[10] Today, 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 like Jeskola Buzz and Renoise, as well as modular software like Reaktor, Ableton Live, Reason, AudioMulch, Bidule, SuperCollider, FLStudio, Max/MSP, Pure Data, and ChucK. Circuit bending, the intentional modification 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.

Glitch hop

Glitch hop is a subgenre of glitch that fuses hip hop elements. While it does not necessarily include rap, it fuses funky hip hop beats with glitchy effects and techniques[11] such as beat repeaters, sweeps cutting, skipping, repeating, chopping and bit crush reduction.[12] The genre took shape around the year 1997 from the early works of Push Button Objects on Chocolate Industries, and grew in popularity around 2001.[12][13] While it was initially based on fusing the lo-fi aesthetics of early hip hop and glitch, it has increasingly taken influence from the maximalist, bass-focused sound of dubstep and the drum and bass subgenre neurofunk with whose neurohop variant it shares many similarities.[14][15] With glitch hop's adoption among EDM DJs, many of its producers have instituted a common tempo of 110 BPM. Popular artists of the genre include David Tipper, The Glitch Mob, KOAN Sound, Pretty Lights, GRiZ, Opiuo, TheFatRat, Mr. Bill, Skope, and Shurk.

Notable artists

Artists associated with the growth of the genre in the mid to late 1990s:[2]

See also


  1. 1 2 "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, and 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)
  2. 1 2 Cox, Christoph and Warner, Daniel, eds. (2004). Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music. Continuum Books. pp. 392–398.
  3. Flora Dennis. "Russolo, Luigi." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web.
  4. 1995 Interview with Nicolas Collins, by Brian Duguid
  5. Horowitz, Ken (February 5, 2008). "Interview: Yuzo Koshiro". Sega-16. Archived from the original on 21 September 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  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
  9. Stuart, Caleb. “Damaged Sound: Glitching and Skipping Compact Discs in the Audio of Yasunao Tone, Nicolas Collins and Oval”. Leonardo Music Journal 13 (2003): 47–52. Web.
  10. Kyle Gann. "Collins, Nicolas." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web.
  11. FutureMusic - Issues 178-182. Future Pub. 2006. Even when it's beautiful, Glitch Hop is disturbing. It's the wrinkle in the bedsheet, the sand in the vaseline. Artists like Push Button Objects, Prefuse 73, Telefon Tel Aviv, Matmos, Kid606, and others fuse hip hop beats with clicky, digital tones that are as gorgeous as they are defective. Glitch Hop producers are not content to make mathematical abstractions. Instead they combine this with funky, head-nodding beats to make a music that is both challenging and instinctively booty-shakin'. And now Big Fish Audio and producer Brian Saitzyk have distilled the essence of this sound into Glitch Hop.
  12. 1 2 Michael, John (1 July 2010). "What is Glitch Hop?". Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  13. Duthel, C. Pitbull - Mr. Worldwide. p. 155. ISBN 9781471090356. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  14. "Glitch Hop Guide". TheDanceMusicGuide. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  15. "What Is Neurohop? Its Beginnings, Pioneers and Future". BassGorilla. Retrieved 26 August 2015.

Further reading

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