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“Synthesis” is a term that refers to the composition of a new whole from discrete parts. This entry follows that term across cultural fields to examine the coemergence of sound synthesis techniques with nineteenth-century waveform representations of lively bodies in motion, and with an industrial history of synthetic substitutes. It also provides a lineage of ideas and instruments that preceded commercially available analog synthesizers, along with examples of the ways inventors, musicians, and listeners have negotiated cultural understandings of synthesis and synthetics in their designs and uses of synthesized sounds.

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