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Article

Hugh Davies

[Compositron]

An electronic composition machine developed at the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa from 1948 by Osmond (‘Ken’) Kendall (b Spain, 1909, of British parents), an electronics engineer at the National Film Board of Canada (NFBC). Basing his experiments on a simplified form of the optical film soundtrack and the idea of graphic sound, on which his colleague Norman McLaren was working, Kendall devised the Composertron, which employed a system for drawing sound-waveforms on a television screen with a grease pencil (probably the first use of this technique in a musical instrument); rhythm was ‘notated’ on a strip of film. The waveforms were scanned and this process controlled electronic oscillators; the resulting sounds were then recorded on magnetic tape. At the same time Kendall constructed a machine for speech synthesis using the same principle. Working models of both machines were assembled by the Canadian Marconi Co. in Montreal about ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Interactive computer network used as an extended musical instrument, played by a San Franciso Bay–area experimental computer network band also called The Hub. The band, founded in 1985 by Tim Perkis and John Bischoff, evolved from the League of Automatic Music Composers (1978–83). The concept of The Hub is to create live music resulting from the unpredictable behaviour of the interconnected computer system. The composer/performers consider their performances a type of ‘enhanced improvisation’.

Initially The Hub provided a custom-built central ‘mailbox’ computer and made use of a MIDI network providing communication between the composer/performers’ synthesizers. With the maturation of commercial MIDI equipment, the band shifted to using the Opcode Studio V multiport MIDI interface for their hub. Since MIDI is designed to allow one player or computer to control a group of synthesizers but not to allow a network of synthesizers to interact, band member Scot Gresham-Lancaster devised a way to program the system so the Opcode Studio V could route messages among all the synthesizers in the network....

Article

KIM-1  

Anne Beetem Acker

(Keyboard Input Monitor)

Computer designed by Chuck Pedal and Bill Mensch, both formerly engineers with the Motorola Corporation, and released by MOS Technology Corporation of Norristown, Pennsylvania, in 1976. It was next produced by Commodore Business Machines of Palo Alto, California, after they acquired MOS in 1977. It was originally intended as a training and development system for industrial applications. The TINY BASIC programming language could be run on the KIM-1 with extra memory, making programming far more accessible. Hence, the KIM-1 was the first microprocessor adopted by experimental composers and performers as an easier alternative to making their own custom circuitry. Jim Horton, an improvisational flutist and analogue synthesizer player, was perhaps the first to realize the musical potential of microprocessors. He purchased a KIM-1 in 1976 and mentored many of his colleagues in using it. The KIM-1 could directly generate audio or act as a controller for other electronic sound generators. Most important, it provided memory, so that the user could program a time-varying sequence of events; in other words, the program became the musical score. In ...

Article

SSSP  

Hugh Davies

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

[Structured Sound Synthesis Project]

Interactive computer-assisted music composition system, including a polyphonic digital synthesizer, developed by the Canadian composer and computer scientist William Buxton (b 10 March 1949) and others at the University of Toronto Dynamic Graphics Lab in 1977. Its basic 16-voice multiplexed digital oscillator was used in three different systems. In the SSSP Composition System (1978) it was controlled by a PDP 11/45 computer in a studio environment; material developed in this way (up to eight ‘scores’ simultaneously) could be performed in concerts with the SSSP Conduct System (1979), controlled by a portable LSI 11/2 microcomputer. Both systems included a visual display unit and a choice of inputting devices: a 61-note keyboard, an alphanumeric keyboard, and a special graphics tablet by means of which the operator could ‘draw’ on the screen. This very flexible system offered a choice of notations as well as the sophisticated facility of the tablet, and composers needed no previous programming experience to operate it. The tablet led to the development of a new live performance instrument, the SSSP Touch-Sensitive Drum (...