Max Mathews was an electrical engineer and a hobby musician. While he wanted to become good at playing the violin, he realized that there wasn’t enough time in the day to become really great. So as a gifted engineer, he realized that for musicians, there probably wasn’t enough time in the day to understand computer programming to be able to use computers for musical purposes. So he went about trying to create a bunch of programs or modules that could be easy enough for musicians to use without them having to know how he made those programs. (Similar to driving a car, you don’t need to know what a head gasket does in order to drive. You do need to know some important things, but not everything)
Mathews’ work with Music V attracted other composers to start messing with computers, some of whom made their own significant contributions to computer music research in their own right (perhaps most notably, John Chowning, who was the driving force behind the Yamaha DX7).
Can you think of other synthesizers or computer applications that are modular in nature?
Listen to John Chowning’s Stria (1977).
Listen to Charles Dodge’s A Man Sitting in the Cafeteria.
Listen to Milton Babbitt’s Philomel.
Listen to Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon (1967)
All of these pieces explore very different things musically. Subotnick’s piece, for instance, was significant because it was the first piece composed with a step sequencer (using a Buchla synthesizer). What do you think is being explored? What are these composers trying to do?
Comment by 3pm Wednesday, February 20th.