Artist Pro/ProMusic Press
Introduce a New Book
Covering a Comprehensive History of Electronic Music:
Electronic Music Pioneers
Author Ben Kettlewell
Copyright 2002, 288 pages, softcover
Selected excerpts from the book reprinted with permission of the author.
Introduction to the Book: An Overview
Electronic Music Pioneers is based on a radio series originally produced in 1986-87 by writer and musician Ben Kettlewell, at NPR affiliate WOMR-FM in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities. The title of the radio series was Electronic Pioneers - The Roots of a Musical Revolution. The programs were aired over a two-year period on thirty-nine public radio stations across the United States and Canada.
This book expands a great deal on that radio series, as the author explores the development of instruments that create and shape sounds electronically. Electronic Music Pioneers focuses on the human side of this history by including interviews with the inventors of electronic instruments, and the musicians conceiving the music produced with them.
It has been said by many that to play an instrument from another culture properly, the musician must first understand the tradition of that instrument and then go beyond it to find his/her own voice. This way of thinking has much in common with the philosophy of electronic music. The entire aesthetic concept of music is perpetually being redefined, and our expectations from music are greater than ever before.
Electronic Music Pioneers gives comprehensive insight into the historical context of the explorers of electronic music to show how the music and the instruments evolved to open up new, exciting horizons of music creation, inspiring generations to come. As new forms of music emerged, the technological medium for their creation also advanced at a rapid pace. From the earliest days, innovators focused on the nature of the sounds the instruments produced, rather than on the music that musicians and composers created with them.
In the twentieth century, new advancements in technology allowed a much more diverse musical palette for the musician or composer to choose from. The combination of traditional instruments and new breed of musical instruments have opened up exciting new possibilities for interaction between musical cultures.
As a result of these new forms of exploration, by the mid-1970s, music created with synthesizers and other electronic instruments quickly became the most influential development in the modern musical panorama.
Electronic Music Pioneers features interviews with artists and inventors. Together they give the reader a clear picture of the development and incorporation of these instruments in every form of music.
It would take many volumes to cover every instrument, every genre, every musician involved in the many facets of electronic music. As in the analogy of many layers of an onion, every time we think were really getting a grasp on the history and evolution of music technology, we discover another layer of reality, and realize were just scratching the surface.
back to top
As you read the interviews, you will see that the majority of them have been conducted in two stages: first, in 1986, and again in 2000/2001. What was new and exciting in the late 1980s may seem amusingly archaic compared with the quantum leap made in technology since the time of the first round of interviews. Keeping that perspective is vitally important since electronic music is still emerging within the current state of the art in music technology. The insights and predictions of the early inventors, composers and performers featured in Electronic Music Pioneers take us deep into the inner workings of contemporary music. I'm sure you will find their observations visionary, educational, and entertaining.
The following is a brief description of some of the key figures interviewed for the book. We begin with a bio of Professor Joseph Paradiso from MIT, who wrote the forward to Electronic Music Pioneers.
Forward by Dr. Joseph A. Paradiso
Principal Research Scientist, MIT
Technology Director, Things That Think Consortium, MIT
Director of the Responsive Environments Group, MIT
Joseph Paradiso joined the MIT Media Laboratory in 1994, where he is now a principal research scientist directing the Responsive Environments Group, which explores the development and application of new sensor technologies for human-computer interfaces and intelligent spaces. He has developed and fielded a wide variety of systems that track human activity using electric field sensing, microwaves, ultra-low-cost laser ranging, passive and active sonar, piezoelectrics, and resonant electromagnetic tags. He has developed several low-power, wireless embedded sensor suites for the Media Lab's wearable computing and tangible interface research and directed HCI and sensor system engineering for many large, interactive, artistic projects, such as the Brain Opera, which have appeared at several worldwide venues.
As Technology Director for the Things That Think Consortium, a group of Media Lab researchers and industrial sponsors examining the extreme future of embedded computation and sensing, he identifies and pursues new areas of technical development for injection into devices and projects.
Paradiso received a B.S. in electrical engineering and physics summa cum laude from Tufts University in 1977, and in 1981 completed a Ph.D. in physics from MIT as a C.T. Compton Fellow in the Nobel Prize-winning group headed by Samuel C.C. Ting at the Laboratory for Nuclear Science. His dissertation research was based on an experiment measuring high-energy muon pair production at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. From 1981 to 1984 he conducted postdoctoral research at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, where he developed precision drift chambers and fast electronics for the inner tracker of the L3 experiment at CERN/LEP. From 1984-1994 he was a physicist at the Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where, as a member of the NASA Systems and Advanced Sensors and Signal Processing Directorates, his research encompassed control algorithms for orbital and re-entry spacecraft, sonar systems for advanced underwater applications, fractal-based image processing, and high-energy physics detectors. From 1992-1994, he directed the development of precision alignment sensors for the GEM muon detector at the Superconducting Supercollider, and was a visiting scientist at ETH-Zurich in 1991 and 1992 to design fast pattern-recognition algorithms for triggering an electromagnetic crystal calorimeter at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC). He is currently involved with the ATLAS experiment.
back to top
In addition to his physics career, Paradiso has been designing electronic music synthesizers and composing electronic music since 1975, and long been active in the avant-garde music scene as a producer of electronic music programs for non-commercial radio. He has built (and still uses) one of the world's largest modular synthesizers, and has designed MIDI systems for internationally-known musicians such as Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays. Paradiso has published and internationally lectured in many areas, including high-energy physics, spacecraft control, sensor systems, and electronic music.
The book is divided into two sections: Analog and Digital
Part One: Analog
The following text highlights just a few of the dozens of inventors and inventions discussed in Part One of Electronic Music Pioneers.
Before the innovators who reinvented music throughout the sixties and seventies could make their mark, technological innovators had been working on the concept of creating sound with electronics for more than a century. This portion of the book gives a thorough overview of the earliest inventors and inventions that led to the development of the first commercially available synthesizer in 1964. It presents a chronicle of the significant musical and scientific events that led to a revolution in many aspects of music during the twentieth century.
French physicist Charles-Augustin de Coulomb (1736-1806) introduced the concept of electrical charge to the world in 1785 when he published the results of his experiments on the quantitative description of force. The work of English scientist Joseph Priestly, whose research introduced the laws of electrical repulsion, inspired Coulombs research. Technically, Coulomb demonstrated that the force between two electrical charges is proportional to the product of the charges and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. To put it more simply, two like electric charges, either positive or negative, will repel each other; two unlike charges, one positive and one negative, attract each other along a straight line joining their centers. This phenomenon became known as the Coulombs force, or Coulombs interaction, and a unit of electric charge was named a coulomb in his honor. One of the main forces in atomic reactions in known as the Coulombic force.
In 1831, Michael Faraday discovered electric induction when he found that by changing a magnetic field he could induce an electric current in a nearby circuit, thus converting mechanical energy to electrical energy. Within two years the first hand-turned generator, using magnets around coils, was demonstrated in Paris. This was followed by an English model, which used rotating coils revolving in the magnetic field of a fixed magnet. By 1850, electric generators were widely manufactured using permanent magnets, until, in 1866, self-excited generators were created by using electromagnets powered by the generator itself.
Understanding the laws of electrical force became the new science of the nineteenth century and had reverberations across all studies, from science to the arts.
back to top
Europeans contributed the most consistent major force to the development of early music technology through the application of the laws of electricity to electronic technology, which could synthesize sounds by breaking tone down to its component parts and putting it back together by electronic synthesis.
Experiments in electronically produced music can be traced back to the 1870s. Elisha Gray, an American electrician and engineer, was born in 1835 in the town of Barnesville, Ohio. After graduating high school, he studied physical science at Oberlin College, and later taught in the Physics department from 1873 to 1900. The first electronic instrument was Elisha Gray's Musical Telegraph, which evolved out of his experiments with telephone technology. In February 1876, Elisha Gray arrived at the U.S. Patent Office to file a caveat announcing his intention to patent his invention for transmitting vocal sounds telegraphically. Alexander Graham Bell arrived at the patent office an hour or two before Elisha Gray, to actually patent his invention designed to achieve the same end. After years of litigation, Bell was named the inventor of the telephone, even though Grays apparatus as described in his caveat was proved to work, while Bells apparatus would not have worked as described in his patent.
History will remember Bell as the inventor of the telephone, while Elisha Gray will be remembered for his invention of the first electronic musical instrument.
By the 1920s, basic electronic music technology, such as amplifiers, filter circuits and loudspeakers had been invented. Basic circuits for sine wave, square, and sawtooth wave generators had been invented to isolate and define sound. A sine wave was defined as signals made up of pure tones, without overtones. Square waves consisted of component tones in the natural harmonic series of notes. The square shape of each fluctuation of the component tone indicates that voltage or current immediately increases to its maximum or peak value and polarity, and remains there throughout that fluctuation. Then the voltage waveform instantly changes its polarity, or the current waveform reverses its direction. Sawtooth waves were defined as fundamental tones and related overtones produced when a voltage or current increases from zero to its positive peak value at a linear rate, and rapidly changes to its negative peak value. The waveform then decreases back to zero at a linear rate.
This inter-disciplinary technological and conceptual exploration has made every aspect of the creation, recording, reproduction and marketing of music accessible from the home studio. Any individual who is interested in new spheres of musical creativity can contribute to this ongoing wide-open exploration of creative expression.
back to top
Serious research began in 1950, when The Milan Studio was established by Luciano Berio (b. 1925, Italy). In 1953, Robert Beyer, Werner Meyer-Eppler (b. 1913), and Herbert Eimert began experimenting with electronically generated sounds. The Cologne studio came into being through the collaboration of several individuals contributing their different skills, technologies and backgrounds.
Dr. Werner Meyer-Eppler, a mathematician, physicist, and director of Phonetics at Bonn University, was one of the leading chroniclers of electronic music technology. In 1948, Homer Dudley, who had just invented his Vocoder (Voice Operated recorder,) designed for analyzing and synthesizing speech, brought his new invention to show to Meyer-Eppler, who was impressed. He made reference to it in his account on the history of electronic instruments (Elektrische Klangerzeugung.) Dudley was invited to play a recording of Vocoder sounds at a lecture on electronic sound production at North-West German Music Academy. In the audience was Robert Beyer from West-German Radio. Beyer, an inventor and author, was also interested in the use of electronics in music production. He and Meyer-Eppler joined forces and gave a lecture on ' The Sound World of Electronic Music' at Darmstadt. Beyer concentrated on design and manufacturing of electronic equipment, and Meyer-Eppler concentrated on research in speech synthesis. Composer, Herbert Eimert, a devotee of 12-tone music, soon joined them. In 1950, Harald Bode brought along his Melochord. They used it to produce music by layering tracks of tones. In 1951 they presented their results at Darmstadt in a lecture entitled, The Possibilities of Electronic Sound Production. Beyer gave a paper on Music and Technology, and Eimert discussed Music on the Borderline.
In 1952, Harry Olsen and Hebert Belar, both electronic engineers employed at RCA's Princeton Laboratories, invented the RCA synthesizer, also known as the Olson-Belar Synthesizer. Belar and Olsen wanted to produce an instrument that generated music based on a system of random probability. Their efforts were inspired by the controversial 1948 publication, A Mathematical Theory of Music by Joseph Schillinger, who proposed that new forms of commercial music could be created by combining random variations of existing popular music.
The RCA synthesizer was capable of producing four musical tones simultaneously. Encoded in binary form on a perforated paper roll, made with a special typewriter-like keyboard, were pitches, tone colors, vibrato intensities, envelope shapes, and portamento for each of the four tones. The perforations specified the sounds' properties for every 1/30 second, which enabled the composer to produce musical changes faster and more precisely than traditional musicians could play.
Two RCA synthesizers were built; the second, the MK II, was installed at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in New York City in 1959.
back to top
Twelve vacuum tube oscillators provided the sound source in the Mark I, while the larger Mark II incorporated twenty-four. Mixdown of the tracks from the instrument was monitored on a pair of speakers, while they were copied onto an internal lacquer disk cutter. This process created six concentric grooves, with a total running time of three minutes per groove. The grooves were then combined, and recorded onto a separate lacquer disk. By a means of recycling and bouncing the existing tracks back and forth, the disk was capable of creating up to 216 tracks.
Dr. Harry F. Olson was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award (1996) and the UI Alumni Association's Distinguished Achievement Award (1982.) He died April 1, 1982, in Princeton, N.J., only days before the announcement of his Achievement Award reached him.
In 1957, Max Mathews, of Bell Laboratories directed research into developing analysis and synthesis of sound using computers. Dr. Mathews is known as the Father of Computer Music. His team conducted behavioral and acoustic research. His collaborative research community developed the first software-based computer synthesis programs. His work in speech synthesis led him to realize that it should be easier for a computer to make music than the human voice.
In the 1960s, Paul Ketoff , Don Buchla, Tom Oberheim, Serge Terrapin, and Robert Moog constructed the first generation of practical synthesizers. During the 1970s the production of commercially available synthesizers accelerated to a larger scale.
From the mid 1960's, the first generation of commercially available synthesizers were based on analog technology using moving controls, like buttons, sliders or bars to control simple analog modules such as amplifiers, filters, and oscillators to generate sounds. During the 1970's the first digital synthesizers and samplers were developed. These instruments could be connected to each other, to computers, effects and processing units, recording consoles, etc. The Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) was developed in 1983 to send information about pitch, timbre, velocity, and so on. MIDI is now present in all personal computers. The most common sound source for modern synthesizers are samples, i.e. digital recordings of real sounds from acoustic and electric instruments, or from analog synthesizers. Different techniques are combined to produce various hybrids of tone generation.
A vital part of these instruments is the sequencer, a component that records and plays back a series of notes and events in a particular order. A book about the first generation of synthesizers would not be complete without mention of sequencers.
Composer/musician/inventor, Raymond Scott is credited with inventing the first sequencer back in the early 1950s. It was an electro-mechanical instrument comprised of stepping replays controlled by hundreds of switches, tone circuits, solenoids used to time the events, and 16 oscillators. He aptly named his invention The Wall of Sound. It measured six feet high and thirty feet long. Today, a sequencer of much greater complexity could fit in the palm of your hand.
back to top
The sequencer gained international recognition when groups like Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream began recording and touring with them in the early 1970s. The first generation of sequencers used analog technology, inspired by the same principles used in creating tape loops. An analog sequencer is capable of producing short loops or patterns of melodies or rhythms, usually not more than 12-16 steps or notes in length. These notes, or patterns, repeat in an endless cycle until the machine is reset. This technology became indispensable for many practical applications, particularly for live performance situations. In a live application, the sequencer was used to create polyrhythms and fluctuations in tempo by patching a sequence of control voltages into its own internal voltage controlled clock. Chris Franke (Tangerine Dream) was a master at refining this technique.
Below are short biographies of some of the key figures interviewed.
Each of these artists and inventors cover the main aspects of what we hear when we listen to a performance or a recording featuring synthesizers, samplers, and associated technology. Together they give the reader a clear picture of the development and incorporation of these instruments and how they have found their way into every form of music.
Robert Moog, founder of Moog Music, invented the first commercially available modular Moog synthesizer in 1964. The modular idea came from the miniaturization of electronics. Moog is the most legendary of the synthesizer producers with synthesizers like the MiniMoog and others, which have been used by many musicians across the world.
This device made it possible for musicians to produce completely new sounds. Moog is directly responsible for many of the music genres that exist today. He has written and lectured widely on all phases of the electronic medium. In this interview, Robert Moog discusses the building blocks of sound synthesis. He tells us of his experience working with artists such as Wendy Carlos (Switched on Bach), and Keith Emerson, (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) to increase the capabilities of the instruments he designed.
Klaus Schulze utilized synthesizers and sequencers like Bob Moogs massive modular system, to create an entirely new genre of music with his mesmerizing trance-like soundscapes. Schulze later became known as the father of ambient music, or picture music as he called it, which eventually mutated into many new musical forms. The first Tangerine Dream album, Electronic Meditation was released in late 1969, and included Edgar Froese, Conrad Schnitzler, and Klaus Schulze, who left the group in 1970 to form the band Ash Ra Tempel with Manuel Goettsching and Hartmut Enke. During this period, Schulzes work became more trance-like and introspective. In 1972, Schulze began his solo career with Irrlicht, which featured an orchestra playing just one clean continuous note: C. Its successor, the 1973 release Cyborg, was uncomplicated compositionally, but more innovative. As a result of these two recordings, a cohesive sense of identity was formed. On later recordings, such as Picture Music, and Timewind, his compositions became more expansive pieces, which slowly evolved from simple drones to dramatic classical tapestries with a deep emotional ambience. Since then and now, more than sixty album releases of his original compositions have been released. Unlike many of his electronic music colleagues, Klaus Schulze has always been an advocate of live performance, and has toured throughout Europe frequently. Klaus Schulzes music has inspired generations of new electronic music composers.
back to top
Christopher Franke: The first extensive creative surge of music incorporating electronic instrument technology happened in Europe. To this day, some of the most enduring names associated with synth based music are European composers/performers. The Germans were without a doubt, the most prolific and insightful in the way they approached this new medium in the early 1970s. One name that immediately comes to mind is Christopher Franke. Born in Berlin, Germany on April 6, 1953, Christopher Franke studied classical music and composition at the Berlin Conservatory. During this time in his early career, he was most influenced by avant-garde composers such as John Cage and Karl-Heinz Stockhausen. Christopher Franke was actively involved in shaping a hybrid of rock and jazz as a drummer with the group Agitation Free, one of the pioneering bands of progressive rock and fusion. During the first year at his studio on Berlin's Pfalzburger Strasse, Christopher met Edgar Froese and Conrad Schnitzler of Tangerine Dream. He soon joined this seminal group to perform on their recording of Zeit in 1972. His studio became the scene of many Tangerine Dream album and soundtrack recording sessions. Between 1970 and 1988, Christopher Franke, with Tangerine Dream, released 36 studio, live and soundtrack albums, seven of which became gold records. They composed the music for more than 30 American feature films including Firestarter, Legend and Risky Business.
Christopher Franke is a pioneer of modern electronic music and was one of the first Europeans to use commercially available synthesizers. Through innovative use of sequencers as percussion instruments and tone generators, live concerts became revolutionary events. Tangerine Dream's world tours brought them to the US, Japan, Australia, and much of Eastern and Western Europe.
Suzanne Ciani worked with Don Buchla to create a completely new approach to instrument design. Ciani is a composer and musician with an international profile, is one of the worlds' most prolific and sought after composers of original sounds and music for commercials. Ciani discusses Buchla's approach to instrument design and the various components of synthesis. She demonstrates how the unique features of Buchla's instruments are incorporated into her own music. The "Diva of the Diode", as her associates adoringly call her, Suzanne taught herself how to play piano, inspired by Bach and the composers of the Romantic era. She received her classical music training at Wellesley College, in Massachusetts. After graduating from Wellesley College in 1968, she earned her Masters in Music Composition from U.C. Berkeley. As a graduate student in Music Composition, Suzanne began working the pioneers of electronic music. She had her roots in both digital and analog synthesis from the beginning.
She studied at Stanford with Max Matthews, the father of computer music, and John Chowning, the father of digital frequency modulation. But what most changed her life was meeting one of the earliest designers of analog music instruments, Don Buchla, whose apprentice she became, working on the assembly line at his Oakland shipyard loft. She was to devote the next ten years of her life to exploring the possibilities of this unique instrument, the Buchla, and her mastery of it would launch her career. She says, "His designs for instruments were extraordinary. He brought the thought process of designing musical instruments right down to the origin of physical human nature and music. There is nobody like him." Suzanne has also done a great deal of television scoring, including the creation of a new library for the ABC Television Series "One Life to Live". Film scores include The Incredible Shrinking Woman, a film starring Lily Tomlin, and the Petrie sisters' movie, Mother Teresa, among others. Suzanne has garnered numerous distinctions, including five Grammy nominations and a Keyboard Magazine's New Age Keyboardist of the Year for her work as a recording artist. Her music, renowned for its romantic, healing and aesthetic qualities, has found a large audience all over the world, and her performances include numerous benefits for humanitarian causes.
back to top
Michael Stearns is one of the originators of a new genre of music that emerged in the 1970s. It has been described as space music, contemporary instrumental music, ambient music, new age music, and electronic music. Michael uses synthesizers and samplers in conjunction with instruments and sounds from other cultures, newly developed instruments, the human voice, and the sounds of nature.
His works include music for television, theme parks seventeen IMAX films and sixteen solo albums. Besides his soundtrack and television scores, Michael currently has over a dozen albums released on several different labels, including Hearts of Space, and Miramax. Michael is a master of programming modular synthesizers. He discusses the Serge modular system, invented by Serge Terrapin, undoubtedly the most complex analog synthesizer ever invented.
Steve Roach is an internationally renowned artist, who is constantly searching for new sounds that connect with a timeless source of truth in this ever-changing world. Roach has earned his position in the international pantheon of major new music artists over the last two decades through his ceaseless creative output, constant innovation, intense live concerts, open-minded collaborations with numerous artists, and the psychological depth of his music.
Inspired early on by the music of Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream and the European electronic music of the 70s, Steve began his musical explorations directly on synthesizers at the age of nineteen.
He made his recording debut with the album Now in 1982. Two years later he created one of the most pivotal albums of his early career, Structures from Silence, one of the landmark ambient releases of the 80s, presenting a new sound that lives on today. Roach has always been a fervent collaborator, and has been involved with many well known electronic/ambient artists, including: Robert Rich, Vidna Obmana, Michael Stearns, Jorge Reyes, Suso Saiz, Michael Shrieve, Kevin Braheny, Richard Burmer, Stephen Kent, Kenneth Newby and Australian Aboriginal didgeridoo virtuoso, David Hudson, to name just a few.
Recognized worldwide as one of the leading innovators in contemporary electronic music, he has released over 50 albums since 1981.
Laurie Paisley was founder and President of the International Electronic Musicians Association. Paisley focuses on sequencers, both analog and digital, and tells how many famous musicians such as Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno, Phillip Glass, etc. used them to develop their own unique style of composition. She illustrates how sequencers evolved, from early analog models, to the digital versions of the late eighties, to software based computer controlled sequencing packages we see used by every studio today.
back to top
Part Two: Digital
Computers in Music:
The following text briefly highlights just a few of the many inventors, composers and inventions discussed in
Part Two of Electronic Music Pioneers.
We will review the introduction of computers and digital technology into music, from recording technology, including hard-disk recording, to streaming audio. This brings us up to the current generation of electronic music tools, such as sampling, hard disk recording, streaming audio, MP3 technology and music on the Internet.
This chapter goes on to explain how computer based music systems operate, and what they are capable of achieving. It also covers instruments (specially designed computers) like the high-end Fairlight CMI and Synclavier II, which were specifically designed for sound and music production. The Pat Metheny Group, Frank Zappa, and other cutting edge musicians have incorporated these into their work. The instruments were very expensive, ranging from 25,000 dollars to upwards of 200,000. They were especially suited to movie and film work.
Over the past twenty years the computer has transformed the world and become an integral part of our everyday lives. The consolidation of computer and synthesizer technologies was the most important musical event of the 80s, and is still one of the most explored and fastest changing aspects of current music technology.
This evolution began with the contributions of Dr. Max Matthews of Bell Labs, Dr. John Chowning of Stanford University, and Peter Zinovieff, founder of the Electronic Music Studios (EMS) in London.
By the late 1960s famous pop musicians such as the Beatles and the Beach Boys used synthesizers in their recordings. In 1968 Wendy Carlos released the first synthesizer -only recording, Switched On Bach; the music of JS Bach performed on a Moog modular synthesizer. In the early 1970s, French composer Jean-Michel Jarre began working with electronic music, creating a sensation when he combined performances of opera with synthesizers. His first recording, Oxygene, instrumental electronic music inspired by both classical music and experimental music was released in 1976. By the end of the 1970s there appeared many artists, especially in England, who used synthesizer as their main instrument. For example Gary Numan, Ultravox, OMD and Human League. These artists were very much inspired by the German group, Kraftwerk, and trance/ambient pioneer, Klaus Schulze. The instruments and the music have diversified a great deal from that point on with such styles as ambient, acid, house, trip-hop, dub, techno, etc.
This section of the book features in-depth profiles and interviews that offer an insightful perspective from both sides of this exciting technology: the engineers who program and create these instruments, and the gifted musicians who utilize them in their compositions and recordings.
Dr. Max Matthews, of Bell Labs, and Dr. John Chowning, from Stanford University, are two of the leading pioneers of computer generated music. As Director of the Acoustic Research Center at Bell Labs, Dr. Max Matthews earned primary credit for the development of digital music technology. His contributions are contained in the highly technical book; 'The Technology of Computer Music' published by MIT Press in 1969.
back to top
Dr. John Chowning is the founder and director of the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Both John Chownings research and compositions have been significant developments in computer music.
Chowning was a 29-year-old graduate student, when he entered Stanford in 1962. Previously, Chowning had studied composition for three years in Paris. While in Paris, he became interested in electronic music, when he attended concerts given by the leading French and German composers of the time, such as Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen. A fellow student in the Stanford University Orchestra gave Chowning a copy of Max Mathews book, Technology of Computer Music, which described how computers could be programmed to create music. Chowning soon visited Bell Labs in New Jersey to investigate further. Stanford had a large computer, but at the time had no analog synthesis equipment; consequently, Chowning began researching the possibilities of digital synthesis creation.
Matthews, Chowning, and Zinovieff contributed a great deal to this rapidly expanding field. Since the publication in 1969, of Dr. Matthew's highly praised book on computer music,The Technology of Computer Music, digital music technology has expanded in many directions.
Dr. Max Matthews played the violin and was a telecommunications engineer at Bell Telephone Laboratories' Acoustic and Behavioral Research Department. As director of the Acoustic Research Center at Bell Labs during the 1950s and 1960s, Dr. Matthews earned primary credit for the development of digital music technology. The research began when Matthews was assigned to explore the digital transmission and recording of speech patterns for Bell. The tests were carried out to judge the quality of the sound used in telephone communications lines. Dr. Mathews constructed a converter to feed an analog sound source into a computer and another one to convert it back to an analog sound. This idea brought about the birth of analog-digital conversion, and Dr. Matthews team at Bell Labs became leaders in the field of music synthesis.
Bill Rhodes, formerly a Professor of Music at Monmouth University, has been an educator for over thirty years. With a master's degree in Composition, knowledge of electronic musical instruments, Bill is an inspiration to the music industry. Bill Rhodes is currently a composer-pianist working for the Music Industries Corporation as a product specialist and consultant. In the early 1970's Bill worked for Music Technology Inc (Crumar) as well as Korg, Kawai, Akai, and other keyboard and synthesizer companies designing software and sounds for their equipment.
At the moment, Bill has released six albums on the Innovative Communications label (Hamburg, Germany) and two CDs on the Jazzical-digital label. Bill was also featured with Rick Wakeman from the mega-group "Yes" on a double CD on the Arcade label. His latest release, Concerto for the New Earth, was issued in 2000. Rhodes discusses the most important development in non-acoustic music since the voltage controlled oscillator, back in the sixties. This marvel of ingenuity is called MIDI, which is short for musical instrument digital interface. MIDI protocol has been widely accepted and utilized by musicians and composers since its conception in 1982/1983. The MIDI protocol provides an efficient format for conveying musical performance data, and the Standard MIDI Files specification ensures that different applications can share time-stamped MIDI data. While this alone is largely sufficient for the working MIDI musician, the storage efficiency and on-the-fly editing capability of MIDI data also made MIDI an attractive vehicle for generation of sounds in multimedia applications, computer games, or high-end karaoke equipment.
Rhodes defines MIDI, its development, and its functions on many levels of music production. As we already know, the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) protocol provides the user with a uniform and proficient means of conveying musical performance information as electronic data. MIDI information can be seen as a set of instructions, which tell a synthesizer or other MIDI equipped piece of gear how to perform a piece of music. The synthesizer or sampler receiving the MIDI data generates the actual sounds.
Rhodes also discusses sampling: what it is, how its done, and the many applications for sampling, including todays sophisticated hard disk recording studios, which use sampling to record albums. (All CDs, DVDs, and other forms of digital recording are produced with sampling technology.)
Bill fills in the technological gaps and shares insights into future innovations in music technology in his interview, which is presented in two parts; the first part conducted in late 1987, and the second part, in the fall of 2000.
back to top
Suzanne Ciani who was also interviewed in the first portion of the book, discusses the Synclavier II; She goes into great detail with many examples on how this instrument works, and why it was so popular in recording studios, and film production houses during the 1980s and early 1990s.
Neil Nappe, a pioneering MIDI guitarist, and well-known studio musician/recording artist, has worked with Larry Fast and many other New York area-recording artists over the last twenty years.
In 1986, Neil Nappe was one of the first people in the world to record an album with MIDI guitar. He was one of the first artists signed to the prestigious electronic music label Audion, which also featured recordings by such luminaries as Wendy Carlos, Gary Hughs and Larry Fast (Synergy.) Neils album July won critical acclaim from radio and press. He records his music on a guitar with a special pickup and MIDI converter, sending the notes he is playing to a combination of synthesizers and samplers, to create an orchestrated sound, which can be layered to produce fully scored tracks. July is a great example of what an alternate MIDI controller can do.
Neil performed live with his MIDI guitar, various synth modules, and two computers running sequencer and voicing software. This enabled him to sound exactly the same live as he did on his recording. Neil talks about his early mentor, Dr. Emile Tobenfeld, a Massachusetts engineer who developed the first commercially available music software for sequencing, storing sounds, and algorithmic composition There are versions of MIDI controllers for almost every type of instrument. Neil also discusses various aspects of recording digitally using software based sequencers and what is possible with this technology using non-keyboard controllers such as violin, woodwinds, guitar, drums, etc.
Closing Chapter: Music on the Internet and Future Trends in Music Technology:
An interview with Joel Chadabe discussing music on the Internet and future trends in the electronic medium.
Joel Chadabe is a composer, author of Electric Sound, and founder of the Electronic Music Foundation. Mr. Chadabe is known for his pioneering work in interactive systems. Chadabe is currently Professor Emeritus at State University of New York at Albany, Director of the Electronic Music Studio at Bennington College, and founder and President of Electronic Music Foundation. He holds degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Yale University.
His book, Electric Sound: The Past and Promise of Electronic Music was the first comprehensive history of electronic music. As president of Intelligent Music, he was responsible for the publication of innovative software, including M and Max. His articles on electronic music have appeared in numerous journals and magazines and his music has been recorded on many labels, among them Lovely Music, CDCM, and Deep Listening.
Joel Chadabe has received awards, fellowships, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Fulbright Commission, SUNY Research Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, and other foundations. He has been President and Chairman of Composers' Forum, Inc., in New York City, and President of Intelligent Music, a research and development company.
back to top