This is a good reference book for those interested to computer music, even for those without any specific knowledge for this specific area of electronic music. This isn’t a monographic book, nor unpublished. The Music Machine is a collection of the most interesting papers published on Computer Music Journal from 1977 to the mid-Eighties, as you understand reading the subheading.
The book editor is Curtis Roads, a composer with a long experience on computer music study. He chose to split the entire subject in many topics, articulated in sections:
- The MIDI Interface
- Music Software
- Synthesis and Signal Processing
- Signal Processing Hardware
- Music and Artificial Intelligence
Through these seven sections, you can explore many topics which have interested the early computer applications in music. The great effort of Curtis Roads has been to scan a large amount of papers and selecting the most important ones.
I think this book contains all the minimum information about the early history of computer music. Curtis Roads opened with a great interview to the father of computer music: Max Mathews, which talk us of the Groove system, Bell Labs and the Music N software.
I don’t want analyze all papers published, but it’s important to mention some writings, at least the most important for music interesting. Yes, because the computer music history was treated too often by technological or programming point of view.
Composition is all interesting: for historical matters, and analytical. In particular with articles dedicated to Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco by Jonathan Harvey and the beautiful Dreamsong by Michael McNabb.
The others sections are more technologically oriented, but it is very interesting that based on musical software, because provide interesting historical reflection points.
Inside the Synthesis and Signal Processing section, I want to recommend A Tutorial on Digital Sound Synthesis by Giovanni De Poli, the two written about plucked string: Synthesis of Plucked String and Drum Timbres, by Karplus and Strong, and the extended version of David Jeffe and Jiulius Smith: Extensions of the Karplus-Strong Plucked-String Algorithm.
Finally, I want to remember the Signal Processing Hardware section, where you can find information about some historical audio systems, such as the Lucasfilm digital system, and an interesting paper of James Moorer about three synthesizers: the Ircam 4C, the Systems Concepts Digital Synthesizer, and the Polycephalos of the Stanford University.
I hope you might be interested by this free preview. Good reading!
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