Glitch is a genre of electronic music that emerged in the 1990s which is distinguished by the deliberate use of glitch-based audio media and other sonic artifacts.[1]

The glitching sounds featured in glitch tracks usually come from audio recording device or digital electronics malfunctions, such as CD skipping, electric hum, digital or analog distortion, circuit bending, bit-rate reduction, hardware noise, software bugs, computer crashes, vinyl record hiss or scratches, and system errors. Sometimes devices that were already broken are used, and sometimes devices are broken expressly for this purpose.[2] In Computer Music Journal, composer and writer Kim Cascone classified 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'arte dei rumori (The Art of Noises, the basis of noise music, published in 1913)[citation needed]. He constructed mechanical noise generators, which he named intonarumori, and wrote multiple compositions to be played by them, including Risveglio di una città (Awakening of a City) and Convegno di automobili e aeroplani (Meeting of Automobiles and Airplanes). In 1914, even a riot broke out at one of his performances in Milan, Italy.[3]

Later musicians and composers who made use of malfunctioning technology include the 1968 song "The Best Way to Travel", by Michael Pinder of The Moody Blues, and works by Christian Marclay, who began in 1979 to use mutilated vinyl records to create sound collages. Yasunao Tone used damaged CDs in his Techno Eden performance of 1985, while 1992 album It Was a Dark and Stormy Night by Nicolas Collins included a composition featuring a string quartet playing alongside the stuttering sound of skipping CDs.[4] Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima's electronic soundtrack for the 1994 video game Streets of Rage 3 used automatically randomized sequences to generate "unexpected and odd" experimental sounds.[5]

Glitch music properly originated as a distinct movement in Germany and Japan during the 1990s,[6] with musical works and labels (especially Mille Plateaux) of Achim Szepanski in Germany,[7][8] and works of Ryoji Ikeda in Japan.[6]

Nuno Canavarro's album Plux Quba, released in 1988, incorporated pristine electroacoustic sounds that resembled early glitch. Oval's album Wohnton, published in 1993, helped define the genre by adding ambient aesthetics.[9]

The earliest uses of the term glitch as related to music include electronic duo Autechre's song "Glitch", released in 1994, and experimental electronic group ELpH's album Worship the Glitch, published in 1995.

Production techniques

In the latter half of the 20th century, the experimental music that served as the precursor to glitch contained distortions that were often produced by manual manipulation of audio media. This came in the form of Yasunao Tone's "wounded" CDs; small bits of semi-transparent tape were placed on the CD to interrupt the reading of the audio information.[10] Other examples of this manual tampering include Nicholas Collins' modification of an electric guitar to act as a resonator for electrical signals, and his adaption of a CD player to allow recordings played on it to be altered during live performance.[11] Skipping CDs, scratched vinyl records, circuit bending, and other distortions resembling electronic noise 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, glitch today is often produced on computers using 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 erroneous-sounding noise. The glitches are often very short, and are typically used in place of traditional percussion or instrumentation. Popular software for creating glitch music 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. Some artists also use digital synthesizers like the Clavia Nord Modular G2 and Elektron's Machinedrum and Monomachine.

See also


  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, 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) Archived 2017-06-08 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Cascone, Kim (2004). "The Aesthetics of Failure: 'Post-Digital' Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music". In Cox, Christoph; Warner, Daniel (eds.). 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 Archived 2023-03-06 at the Wayback Machine, 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. ^ a b Christoph Cox & Daniel Warner (2004), Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, page 396 Archived 2023-10-22 at the Wayback Machine, A&C Black
  7. ^ "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
  8. ^ "Random Inc.", "Allmusic"
  9. ^ "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
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Kyle Gann. "Collins, Nicolas." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web.

Further reading