Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This research examines early live electronic works by Gordon Mumma, David Tudor, and John Cage—three influential American experimental music composers who designed, built, and recontextualized electronics for live performance—and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) aesthetic embodied by their instruments and the compositions written for them. This dissertation serves as a presentation of original research into the earliest composers of live electronic works and the necessary DIY approach used in building independent systems. Previous research on the DIY perspectives in music often touch on the grass-roots nature of contemporary electroacoustic systems but there is not yet research specific to the DIY approach taken by these three composers, who collaborated together on the earliest live electronic systems used in performance in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Composers today continue to be influenced by the works of Mumma, Tudor, and Cage as they follow the same DIY traditions in the experimentation and implementation of circuitry and adaptation of emerging technologies in instrument design. The DIY tradition continues within the circuit design and engineering techniques that continue to be implemented in systems that are customized and tailored specifically for music performance. These individualistic and self-built systems are reflective of the composer’s skills in and adaptability to nascent technologies.

Innovation and experimentalism have become standard procedure for today’s composers, who are driven forward to create, as well as to adapt, electronics for performance and the underlying DIY aesthetic of electroacoustic systems can be credited as far back as the instruments and systems build for live performance in the late 1960s and 1970s (known as live electronics), which was a period of transition of electronics from the studio to live performance. The efforts of Mumma, Tudor, and Cage remain influential on composers and performers today and it is important to recognize how the concept of DIY existed in their works as well as push forward a new area of research into the significance of DIY in music and technology.



Committee Chair

Beck, Stephen David