Max Mathews

picture of Max with his violin

Max Mathews wrote the following summary of his work in computer music for "Horizons in Computer Music", an event that took place March 8-9, 1997 at the Simon Recital Center of the School of Music, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana:

"Computer performance of music was born in 1957 when an IBM 704 in NYC played a 17 second composition on the Music I program which I wrote. The timbres and notes were not inspiring, but the technical breakthrough is still reverberating. Music I led me to Music II through V. A host of others wrote Music 10, Music 360, Music 15, CSound, Cmix. Many exciting pieces are now performed digitally.

"The IBM 704 and its siblings were strictly studio machines--they were far too slow to synthesize music in real-time. Chowning's FM algorithms and the advent of fast, inexpensive, digital chips made real-time possible, and equally important, made it affordable.

"Starting with the Groove program in 1970, my interests have focused on live performance and what a computer can do to aid a performer. I made a controller, the radio-baton, plus a program, the conductor program, to provide new ways for interpreting and performing traditional scores. In addition to contemporary composers, these proved attractive to soloists as a way of playing orchestral accompaniments. Singers often prefer to play their own accompaniments.

"Recently I have added improvisational options which make it easy to write compositional algorithms. These can involve precomposed sequences, random functions, and live performance gestures. The algorithms are written in the "C" language. We have taught a course in this area to Stanford undergraduates for two years. To our happy surprise, the students liked learning and using "C". Primarily I believe it gives them a feeling of complete power to command the computer to do anything it is capable of doing."


(photocredit: Patte Wood)


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