20th Century Computer Musicians

Hi all!

I’m starting a weekly radio show featuring only computer music from the 20th century, and I thought I would ask for suggestions of things to feature!

I feel especially lacking in my knowledge of women active in computer music in the 20th century, so suggestions of computer musicians who don’t happen to be white males are especially welcome… I’m looking forward to playing the music of Sarah Peebles, Laurie Spiegel, Catherine Christer Hennix (assuming I can find old computer music stuff!), Beatriz Ferreyra, Kaffe Matthews, Francis White (who I just discovered today)…

Here’s the playlist & archive for the first episode:

Stanley Haynes - Prisms for Piano and Tape (1977) - Computer Music Currents 8
Clarence Barlow - Çoğluotobüsişletmesi (1976 / excerpt) - IBM’s “Computer-Musik” Compilation
Karlheinz Essl - Lexikon-Sonate (1992/3) - Rudiments
Peter Zinovieff - January Tensions (1968) - Cybernetic Serendipity Music
Eric Lyon - 1979 (1996) - Red Velvet
Herbert Brün - Futility (1964) - Electronic Music from the University of Illinois
Michel Decoust - Interphone (1977) - Computer Music Currents 4



Oh dang, add Carla Scaletti, inventor of Kyma to the list as well!


you might be interested in merrill garbus’ podcast c.l.a.w. - focuses on female/non binary identifying producers and composers: https://www.redbullradio.com/shows/tune-yards-claw

especially this episode on pioneers of experimental music: https://www.redbullradio.com/shows/tune-yards-claw/episodes/experimental-pioneers-miss-eaves-white-hinterland


Mother of drones…
Edit:…this is not about “computer” music.Sorry.

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You should investigate the work of Holly Herndon if you haven’t already. (Edit - sorry, just spotted your 20th Century stipulation. Ignore me).

Thanks for all the suggestions! I realize the theme has arbitrary boundries – for what it’s worth, the scope of computer music I plan to cover includes using the computer as a significant part of the compositional process, or featuring a computer part in a mixed ensemble, etc, it doesn’t have to be synthesized entirely on a PDP-11… the 20th century part as an arbitrary cutoff is just a way to focus on the early days of computer music!

Thank you, I’m looking forward to checking out Barriere & Manoury! Farmers Manual is also a great suggestion, I love what they do.

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George Lewis and his Voyager software/pieces would be a good addition.


Brian Eno Generative 1. Album released in 1996 on floppy disc only


Somebody who literally makes music with computer, though not in the usual sense: Valentina Vuksic


There was a podcast that showcased 40 female composers on Ubuweb, can’t find the original link, but Synthopia posted is some time ago:


indeed, “computer music” + “XXth century” means (to me) Jean-Claude Risset, Horacio Vaggione, …basically a lot of the GRM and Ircam composers.

Thanks again for the suggestions! I’m compiling a list from my personal collection + stuff I know I want to track down & will post it here as well…

Curtis Roads is clearly missing here !


Quasi-randomly have I just discovered this wonderful project…but alas, do not see any subsequent episodes! Might there be one in the works? Research on women in computer music especially is merited.

A. Rodionov, B. Tikhomirov - 512 kbytes (1987)

This is one of the first computer music records from the USSR made on 2 Yamaha MSX computers. The album title - 512 kbytes is the total size of RAM of the 2 computers used for composition and recording.

While not an academic (rather a pop record, inspired by classical music and 80s new wave and synth-pop), it’s an original and romantic work with an experimental spirit and lots of FM synths :slight_smile:


Highly recommend Bay Area computer/network music pioneers The League of Automatic Music Composers and The Hub. Members John Bischoff, Tim Perkins, and Chris Brown still doing amazing work.


The HMSL project stuff is very interesting (Polansky, Burk, Rosenboom, plus a Cd or two of various artists working with the language)

Also worth checking out Tenney’s stuff from the Bell Labs years (64~69), which is pretty mind-boggling at least to me.

Neither suggestions are particularly diverse but they are/were all good folks.

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Some of the GRM later stuff used Syter (Precurser to GRM tools) https://www.musicainformatica.org/topics/syter.php So many of the GRM composers would have used it.

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Tamas Ungvaray, Gottifried Michel Konig, Knut Wiggen, Max Mathews, Clarence Barlow, Lawrence Casserly, Trevor Wishart, Natasha Barrett, Ikue Mori, Trevor Wishart, Simon Emmerson, Jonty Harrison, Denis Smalley, Annette Van De Gorne, Ingrid Drese, Michel Waisvisz… Xenakis…Is a random list…


Alexei Shulgin started doing the 386 DX project in 1998, so I guess that qualifies as 20th century; it’s certainly computer music of a sort:

The band’s conceit questions the line between computer and user in digital production and performance. In the liner notes of The Best of 386 DX , Shulgin is identified as the band’s “operator,” making the computer the de facto frontperson.