women in early electronic music

7 Extraordinary Women of Early Electronic Music

Take a moment to learn more about some of the important women who developed early electronic music in the 20th century and join the conversation on Instagram.

Johanna Magdalena Beyer

Johanna Magdalena Beyer (1888-1944) is the first female composer to create work for electronic instruments back in the 1930s. Although she did not reach notoriety during her lifetime, her compositions — especially her percussion music — have been immensely influential. Recommended listening: Sticky Melodies and Percussion Suite.

Clara Rockmore

Clara Rockmore (1911-1988) is arguably the most accomplished artist on theremin to this day. She was instrumental (no pun intended) in establishing both the theremin and experimental music in general as art to be respected and revered. Recommended listening: Theremin and Music In and On the Air.

Pauline Oliveros

Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016) is a multi-instrumentalist (although the accordion was one of her main weapons), electronic music composer, teacher, and author who developed not only a unique setup of digital signal processors for her live performances but also musical concepts such as “deep listening” and “sonic awareness.” Recommended listening: Accordion & Voice and the improv work of the Deep Listening Band.

Delia Derbyshire

Delia Derbyshire (1937-2001) is an electronic music composer whose career is defined by her long stint at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and for her contribution to the famous Doctor Who theme music. She has greatly influenced subsequent British electronic musicians. Recommended listening: Standard Music Library: Electronic Music and The Dreams.

Wendy Carlos

Wendy Carlos (b. 1939) is an early modular synthesizer pioneer and electronic music composer. She helped Robert Moog develop his namesake synths and scored several hit film soundtracks.  Recommended listening: Switched-On Bach and the original Tron soundtrack.

Pauline Anna Strom

Pauline Anna Strom (1946-2020) is a self-taught electronic music composer and synth performer who also went by the moniker Trans-Millenia Consort. She explored various complex themes and “inner worlds” through her work. Recommended listening: Trans-Millenia Consort and Angel Tears in Sunlight.

Suzanne Ciani

Suzanne Ciani (b. 1946) is a synth maestro whose work can be best defined as electronic or new-age music but also includes sound effects and jingles. She has composed and produced on a wide variety of electronic instruments but is best known for using Buchla synths. Recommended listening: Seven Waves and LIVE Quadraphonic.

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