Origins: late 19th century to early 20th century
At the turn of the 20th century, experimentation with
emerging electronics led to the first
electronic musical instruments.
 These initial inventions were not sold, but were instead used in demonstrations and public performances. The audiences were presented with reproductions of existing music instead of new compositions for the instruments.
 While some were considered novelties and produced simple tones, the
synthesized the sound of orchestral instruments. It achieved viable public interest and made commercial progress into
streaming music through
Critics of musical conventions at the time saw promise in these developments.
Ferruccio Busoni encouraged the composition of
microtonal music allowed for by electronic instruments. He predicted the use of machines in future music, writing the influential Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music.
Futurists such as
Francesco Balilla Pratella and
Luigi Russolo began composing
music with acoustic noise to evoke the sound of
machinery. They predicted expansions in
timbre allowed for by electronics in the influential manifesto
The Art of Noises.
Developments of the
vacuum tube led to electronic instruments that were smaller,
amplified, and more practical for performance.
 In particular, the
ondes Martenot and
trautonium were commercially produced by the early 1930s.
From the late 1920s, the increased practicality of electronic instruments influenced composers such as
Joseph Schillinger to adopt them. They were typically used within
orchestras, and most composers wrote parts for the theremin that could otherwise be performed with
Avant-garde composers criticized the predominant use of electronic instruments for conventional purposes.
 The instruments offered expansions in pitch resources
 that were exploited by advocates of microtonal music such as
Olivier Messiaen and
Percy Grainger used the theremin to abandon fixed tonation entirely,
 while Russian composers such as
Gavriil Popov treated it as a source of noise in otherwise-acoustic
Developments in early
recording technology paralleled that of electronic instruments. The first means of recording and reproducing audio was invented in the late 19th century with the mechanical
 Record players became a common household item, and by the 1920s composers were using them to play short recordings in performances.
The introduction of electronic recording in 1925 was followed by increased experimentation with record players.
Paul Hindemith and
Ernst Toch composed several pieces in 1930 by layering recordings of instruments and vocals at adjusted speeds. Influenced by these techniques,
John Cage composed "
Imaginary Landscape No. 1" in 1939 by adjusting the speeds of recorded tones.
Concurrently, composers began to experiment with newly developed
sound-on-film technology. Recordings could be spliced together to create
sound collages, such as those by
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti,
Walter Ruttmann and
Dziga Vertov. Further, the technology allowed sound to be
graphically created and modified. These techniques were used to compose soundtracks for several films in Germany and Russia, in addition to the popular
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the United States. Experiments with graphical sound were continued by
Norman McLaren from the late 1930s.