What is Glitch Music?

Glitch music is an electronic music genre that dates back to the early 1990s. It’s a highly experimental form of music that’s far from mainstream, but has a devoted following.

Glitch music can be traced back to the philosophical underpinnings of Luigi Russolo’s The Art of Noises, decades before it was formalized as a musical style. In a letter to a friend, Russolo, a Futurist in the early twentieth century, laid out many of his beliefs about the future scope of music. Humans have grown accustomed to the aural qualities of the urban landscape, with its frenetic speed and energy, as well as high volume constant noise, according to his manifesto. He goes on to say that, in order to accommodate the virtually infinite expanse of the post-industrial soundscape, future musicians will have to expand greatly on their traditional instruments and ranges.

Oval is a German band that formed in the early 1990s. Markus Popp, Frank Metzger, and Sebastial Oschatz, the original members of Oval, are all considered pioneers of glitch music. Oval avoided using synthesizers, which were popular in electronic music during the 1990s, instead damaging CDs with pens and using the resulting mangled sounds as the foundation of their music.

The use of digital artifacts rather than more traditional intentional sounds characterizes the glitch aesthetic of glitch music. Glitch music makes use of a variety of roughly chaotic sounds, ranging from disc skipping to hardware crashing in the middle of a note to various bugs that give previously arranged songs unexpected sounds. Glitch music incorporates these different sounds with spliced together samples from other songs, where more traditional music would use percussion or instruments.

A plethora of software has emerged in recent years to assist musicians in creating their own sounds for use in glitch music. These programs and program suites, ranging from Reaktor to FLStudio, allow for a high level of fine tuning to achieve the “glitched” sound the musician desires. Circuit bending, which involves intentionally short-circuiting electronic devices to create instrumentation, is also widely used in glitch music.

In recent years, a sub-genre of glitch music known as glitch hop or click hop has emerged on the scene. Glitch hop develops its instrumentation using many of the same techniques as glitch music, but in a more traditional hip hop framework rather than the more electronica-oriented framework of glitch. Los Angeles has the fastest-growing glitch hop scene, with bands like Dabrye, Jahcoozi, and Edit.