The Modern Method: Computer Music From the University of Illinois

The Modern Method category presents a selection of twentieth centiry composer music – stochastically selected, of course. This new category is for modern academic music, since, conceptually, so much of it flows down into our beloved popular avant garde. So it’s good to keep a scholarly eye on these things…

Hiller/Isaacson/Baker – Illiac Suite for String Quartet, 3rd Movement
(Computer Music from the University of Illinois, Heliodor Records LP, 1967

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I couldn’t resist this LP at a flea market when I found it for 25 cents. Look at the cover. PUNCH CARDS. Excellent. The track here is written for string quartet, and was recorded in 1957. It is historically significant because it is the first substantial piece of music produced with a computer. Rules for composition were written for the university’s ILLIAC I computer, with compositional techniques employing some of the randomness ideology pioneered by Cage and Stockhausen along with a more directed approach as well. The Illiac, like the telharmonium before it and god knows how many other artifacts of genius, was eventually sold for scrap.