Glitch (music)

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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 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 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. The title track of OMD's popular 1981 album Architecture & Morality makes use of invasive computer- and industrial noise snippets, and has been cited as an early incarnation of glitch.[3] 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'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[edit]

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[edit]

Glitch hop is a subgenre of glitch and fuses it with hip hop elements. While it does not necessarily include rap it fuses funky hip hop beats with glitchy effects and techniques[9] such as beat repeaters, sweeps cutting, skipping, repeating, chopping and bit crush reduction.[10] The genre took shape at about the year 2001 with the early works of Prefuse 73 on Warp Records and became popular at about the year 2004.[10][11]

Notable artists[edit]

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "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)
  2. ^ a b Cox, Christoph and Warner, Daniel, eds. (2004). Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music. Continuum Books. pp. 392–398. 
  3. ^ The Pioneers of Electropop. 23 September 2001. 17 minutes in. Channel 4. Channel Four Television Corporation.  Paul Gambaccini: There's even a track on there [Architecture & Morality]—the title cut, in fact—that, when you listen to [it], is really like an early incarnation of glitch techno."
  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. ^ 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 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. 
  10. ^ a b Michael, John (1 July 2010). "What is Glitch Hop?". Retrieved 5 July 2015. 
  11. ^ Duthel, C. Pitbull - Mr. Worldwide. p. 155. ISBN 9781471090356. Retrieved 5 July 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Andrews, Ian, Post-digital Aesthetics and the return to Modernism, MAP-uts lecture, 2000, available at author's 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, pp. 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, pp. 1–3. 2004.
  • Krapp, Peter, Noise Channels: Glitch and Error in Digital Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 2011.
  • 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"