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Philadelphia Computer Music Festival
 
Computer Music and the Festival by Dick Moberg

What Is Computer Music?
 
    Computer music can be defined as a type of electronic music which is produced either directly by a computer or indirectly by a computer-controlled synthesizer. Computers can produce a sound directly by storing the waveform of that sound as a series of varying numbers in its memory and then converting these numbers to voltages to drive a speaker. The string of numbers can be manipulated by the computer at very fast speeds which accounts for the amazing flexibility of computer synthesized music.
    Although, theoretically, any sound could be produced in this manner, the programming can get rather tedious. But computers are also being used to sequence and to control the parameters of conventional synthesizer circuits. This is much easier, but perhaps a bit less flexible, than directly computing each waveform. This latter technique is the most popular today and accounts for most of the music on this album.

The Personal Computer Music Revolution
 
    I often wonder what music will be like after the microelectronics revolution puts a computer in every home. But why should computers change things? Up until this time music listening has been just that—passive listening to recordings of music. But with computers we all become “sound explorers” because we can now take an active part in changing the music we hear or to compose our own. We can master any instrument’s sound without the years of tedious practice or we can create our own “instruments;” combinations of conventional ones or entirely new ones. The technology to do all this is here today and the mass production and availabilityof personal computers is being felt by the public as never before. We are truly at the dawn of the personal computer music revolution. Just as the radio brought music listening to the masses, so will computers bring music composition and exploration to them too.
About The Personal Computer Music Festival
 
    Early in 1978, 1 received a call from John Dilks asking me if there were anything that our Computer Society wanted to do for his show. John was organizing the Personal Computing'78 Show which our Society was hosting in Philadelphia that year. Several people in thearea had been producing music with their computers so I suggested we have a computer music concert. John OK’d the idea and we went to work calling our friends and urging them to perform.
    By summer the local response was not as great as we had anticipated. Many of the computer musicians were reluctant or too shy to perform at a computer music concert, something they had never heard of before. But word of the concert had spread and a steady stream of calls from all over the country began to come in. Hal Chamberlin, one of the early computer music pioneers, agreed to come as did Carl Helmers (editor of Byte Magazine), Dave Ahl (publisher of Creative Computing), and Malcolm Wright (engineer at Solid State Music in California). Dorothy Siegel called from New York to say she was arranging a piece for computer and clarinet specially for the concert! Rick Simpson from RCA had a number of pieces to play on their new computer and some would be accompanied by an “engineer-flutist” they had at RCA.
    Plans for the Festival quickly grew beyond what we had originally anticipated. Fortunately, we acquired some very talented volunteers from the Computer Society to meet the new demands placed upon us. The dedication of this small group made the Festival the success it was.
    The concert was finally held in oneof the larger ballrooms of the Sheraton Hotel. Our borrowed sound system was set up and sound checks made for the recording. We opened the doors to the crowd outside to find several hundred more people than the room could hold. Many sat on thefloorsof the halls as the music filled the hotel.
    Hal Chamberlin had set up an oscilloscope that would project the waveform being played on a screen. The result was a fantastic synchronized light show! Part of the concert was filmed by TV Ontario’s Fast Forward Office for use in a special series on personal computing. This was perhaps the first concert to be held which featured music synthesized using personal computer systems. The concert lasted close to three hours and the room was still packed when the last piece was played.
  Phila Computer Music Festival Home     Synthesizers and Recording     Play Bach 2-part Invention: WAV file | MP3 file

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