The "discovery" of the multiple-sound capabilities of woodwind instruments among composers and performers of notated music in the late 1950's and early 1960's appears to have been prompted by several factors. One was a response to the obsession with, and development of the electronic medium in musical composition, beginning in the 1950's. 2 The perception at this time was that the dawning of this "new" age (one of technology) threatened the very existence of the "live" performer and that of music for acoustic instruments, because machines were not only more "accurate" in realizing the performance of a composer's music, but were capable of performing music that was difficult beyond the range of human potential, and were capable of producing sound colors and frequencies which were not always thought of as extending traditional musical instruments, but rather as building new musical instruments. Edgard Varese precipitated this latter movement with his statement during a lecture in 1936 entitled "New Instruments and New Music." "When new instruments will allow me to write music as I conceive it, the movement of sound-masses, of shifting planes, will be clearly perceived in my work, taking the place of linear counterpoint." 3 The potential for total compositional control contributed nicely to the ultra-serial aesthetic of the 1950's.
Fortunately, as of 2004, neither live performers nor acoustic instruments have become extinct. One reason is that the lack of a stimulating visual presence in live performance of electronic tape music has limited the strength of its musical message; two or four stationery speakers in a dimly lit concert hall ignore traditionally powerful rituals of musical performance. More importantly, electronic instruments are not capable (although tremendous advances have been made) of the same degree of nuance, phrasing, or spontaneous interaction with an acoustical environment as are live performers with acoustic instruments. These represent only two reasons why electro-acoustic and acoustic music have continued to co-exist.
Another factor that appears to have prompted interest in multiple-sounds (and eventually all "extended techniques") is the logical continuation and progression of the importance of timbre and texture in musical composition, even to the point of predominance over other musical elements (melody and harmony). For the many composers who did not have significant access to expensive electronic equipment, who did not care for the accompanying aesthetic, who were conservative in their desire to learn a new craft, and/or who merely wished to respond to the new sonic world as built by electronic sounds, the revelation of multiple sounds signified a new direction. John Eaton, a composer who worked in the early sixties with clarinetist William O. Smith on developing multiple sounds, underlines the importance of this new direction. "It was, at that point, a very vital kind of research for a composer to do. Music had sort of reached a point where nearly everyone was waiting for some kind of breakthrough in the materials we were using." 4 The increasing exposure of jazz, African, Brazilian, and Cuban musics (sparked by awareness by the artistic community of the black civil rights movement, beginning in the 50's) and the use of innovative musical timbres by its artists were also contributors. This method of unconventional tone production was obviously an attempt at imitating a variety of vocal expressions and practices.