Born: November 13, 1926 Primary Instrument: Composer/conductor
Max Matthews was working as an engineer at the famed Bell Laboratory in 1954 when he was asked to determine if the computer Bell was designing could create music. The landmark Music 2 and later Music 4 projects put the two concepts together as early as 1957 the computer and music had a future and Max was there for the birth.
Max had moved on to musical programming when Don Buchla and Robert Moog created similar electronic music in the form of the synthesizer. As a Stanford University professor, Max worked with his close friend John Chowning for several decades on a number of programs including the technology used for Yamaha’s DX7.
MUSIC 1, which was quickly replaced by MUSIC II running on an IBM 704 and written in assembler code was the first real computer synthesis programme, developed by Max Mathews of Bell Laboratories in 1957.
MUSIC III was written in 1959 for the new generation of IBM transistorised 7094 machines which were much faster and easier to use than the older models. The MUSIC series software went through a stage of elvolution folowing the deleopment of the IBM computer whhich ended in 1968 with MUSIC V written in FORTRAN and running on the IBM 360 machines.
MUSIC V was picked up and developed by various other programmers such as Barry vercoe at MIT who designed MUSIC 360 and MUSIC 10 by John Chowning and James Moorer at Stanford University.
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.
In 1961, Mathews arranged the accompaniment of the song Daisy Bell for an uncanny performance by computer-synthesized human voice, using technology developed by John Kelly of Bell Laboratories and others. Author Arthur C. Clarke was coincidentally visiting friend and colleague John Pierce at the Bell Labs Murray Hill facility at the time of this remarkable speech synthesis demonstration and was so impressed that he later told Stanley Kubrick to use it in 2001: A Space Odyssey, in the climactic scene where the HAL 9000 computer sings while his cognitive functions are disabled.
in 1970, Mathews pioneered GROOVE (Generated Real-time Output Operations on Voltage-controlled Equipment), the first fully developed hybrid system for music synthesis, utilising a HoneywellDDP-224 computer with a simple cathode ray tube display, disk and tape storgae devices. The synthesiser generated sounds via an interface for analogue devices and two 12 bit digital to analogue convertors. Input deices consisted of a qwerty keyboard a 24 note keyboard, four rotary knobs and a three dimensional rotary joystick.
Mathews saw the function of the GROOVE system as being a compositional tool which the composer/conductor manipulates in real time:
The composer does not play every note in a (traditional) score, instead he influences (hopefully controls) the way in which the instrumentalists play the notes. The computer performer should not attempt to define the entire sound in real time. Instead the computer should retain a score and the performer should influence the way in which the score is played..... the mode of conducting consist of turning knobs and pressing keys rather than waving a stick, but this is a minor detail.......The programme is basically a system for creating storing, retrieving and editing functions of time. It allows the composition of time functions byt turning knobs and pressing keys in real time: it sotores the functions on the disk file, it retrieves the stored functions (the score), combines them with the input functions (the conductor) in order to generate control functions which drive the analogue synthesiser and it provides for facile editing of functions via control of the programme time...
The GROOVE system remained in operation until the end of the seventies when Honeywell withdrew form the computer market.
He studied electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receiving a Sc.D. in 1954. Working at Bell Labs, Mathews wrote MUSIC, the first widely-used program for sound generation, in 1957. For the rest of the century, he continued as a leader in digital audio research, synthesis, and human-computer interaction as it pertains to music performance.
Max Mathews (Now professor emeritus at Stanford) is still actively involved in digital music performance. His radio baton hyperinstrument allows him to conduct a computer orchestra by simply waving a wand over an electromagnetic field. The father of computer music predicts that by 2010, almost all music will be made electronically, by digital circuits.
Mathews is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and is a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Acoustical Society of America, the IEEE, and the Audio Engineering Society.
Awards:2008/ Max Mathews, the music computer pioneer received the Qwartz d'Honneur [Life Time Achievement]
He holds a Silver Medal in Musical Acoustics from the Acoustical Society of America