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date: 15 July 2020

(p. 583) Notes

(p. 583) Notes

(1.) The second column of the chronology reflects a (sometimes personal) collection of music that are pieces made (mostly) with the use of a computer or significant other works (usually including electronics) often of interest to computer music practitioners. It is not a particular filtering or censorship of the available music; the list is limited as there is far too much to include. While some of the pieces may appear to be instrumental in nature, these have (mostly) been composed with algorithmic techniques using computers. The completeness and inclusiveness of a list such as this is always an issue. While every attempt has been made to make this as inclusive, complete, and accurate as possible, there will inevitably be omissions (if for no other reason than a complete list would fill a volume) that someone thinks are significant. While it is hoped that all of the significant and important events have been included, any omissions are unfortunate and possibly due to a lack of available documentation and not the lack of research effort or an attempt at filtering or censorship.

(2.) There was some activity before 1939, such as Stephan Wolpe using eight gramophones at different speeds at a Dada performance in 1920. Darius Milhaud (1922), Percy Grainger, and Edgar Varèse (1936) all experimented with gramophone record manipulation, and Varèse suggested in 1940 that Hollywood set up an Optical Sound Studio. Also, Ernst Toch and Paul Hindemith created gramophone studies, however the results of these developments have been lost and there remains only sketchy written reports. Additionally, there were people working with film soundtracks who were making sound collages, but while this work was interesting the consequences of it were minimal.

(3.) Steel band and wire recorders had existed for some time already, and German engineers had developed a coated plastic tape for magnetic recording, but it was not very high quality. In 1943, the use of high-frequency bias was accidentally discovered, which gave a dramatic improvement in the quality of recording. The Allies during World War II were surprised by the length of German broadcasts, which sounded as if they were live, as they did not know about the high quality of the new magnetic tape recorders. This technology spread after the war.

(4.) Halim El-Dabh, born in Egypt and educated in Egypt and the United States, created a piece of music by recording on a wire recorder in 1944. Titled Ta ʼabir al-Zaar, there is an excerpt titled “Wire Recorder Piece” now available on CD, and it may well be the first piece of music created by manipulating recordings, or “musique concrète”. There are other examples of people making earlier works with optical soundtracks on film and so on. Some examples of these are; in Germany, Walter Ruttman and Fritz Bischoff created works in 1928. In Russia, G. V. Alexandrov created pieces from 1930, as did Dziga Vertov from 1931 (although some say he started in 1916). Jack Ellit, an Australian working in London with experimental New Zealand filmmaker Len Lye, created works such as Journey #1 using optical film technology from about 1930. However, again there was little in the way of musical consequences of this work.

(5.) MIPS (millions of instructions per second) is a measure of the raw computing power of the CPU (central processing unit) of a computer, an indication of how many instructions it can perform in a given time. Generally, MIPS is regarded as a very poor measure of computing power as it does not take into account other important factors, such as the instruction mix (some instructions take more time than others) and data input and output capabilities. However, for the simplistic use here of giving some indication of the changes in raw computing power over time, it is adequate. There was also a microprocessor manufacturer named MIPS Technologies.

(6.) CSIRAC played music at least several months before the Ferranti Mark I and possibly much earlier. Unfortunately, there is no other surviving evidence about the Ferranti music apart from the recording. There are various brief, anecdotal, reports of computers playing music in a range of ways at about the same time as CSIRAC. These include an assortment of sound-producing mechanisms, incorporating attaching a speaker to a serial bus or part of the computer, placing radio equipment near the computer and playing sounds through the radio's speaker via radio-frequency interference, and programming computers to print on large electromechanical printing machines such that the rapid printing created tones, among other methods. Unfortunately, there are no surviving recordings of these activities, and so far there is no surviving evidence from the time. It is important to note that these early attempts at making computers play music did not use a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) or predetermined synthesis waveforms. The developments initiated by Max Mathews and John Pierce have the distinction of being the first musical use of a DAC as well as going beyond what was previously the playback of standard or popular melodies to investigating the very rich musical possibilities offered by the computer. Thus it is Mathews and Pierce, whose work led to the great musical consequences and advances of computer music, who are the rightful fathers of the genre, as their work has had the significant consequences.