Music IVF is a sounds synthesis software developed by Arthur Roberts. Belongs to the Music N family and maintains a direct relationship with the Music IV. It was the first Music N software to be released and written in Fortran.

Background history – Arthur Roberts was born in New York, where he studied music and graduated in Physics. The study of Physics allowed him to gain experience with computer programming in Fortran. Thanks to this first approach, Roberts suggested, at the end of the fifties, possible music applications for the computer. The initial idea was materialized when he decided move to the Argonne Laboratory in Chicago (Argonne National Laboratories), where he began working on software that is going to be called Scoretran. Work for Scoretran (already the name emphasizes the use of Fortran), was never realized, and his initial idea was advanced in 1957 by Max Mathews Music I. In subsequent years, the work done by the latter, drove Roberts to continue his research.[1]

Relationship with Music IV – Roberts back on his work only after the completion of Music IV, with whom the Music IVF makes a direct relationship (the name emphasizes the relationship of direct descendants). In 1963, along with Joan Miller of Bell Labs, Roberts was able to study and learn the features of software by Max Mathews. Following this training experience, Roberts decided to build a new software for sound synthesis, but could be distinguished from its predecessor in functionality and ease of use. The work was completed in 1965 when Roberts realized the Music IVF, developed for Argonne Laboratories CDC 3600 (Control Data Corporation) computer mainframe.

Fortran – Previously it was said that, as a physicist before musician, Roberts had gained experience in using Fortran for scientific applications. This led him to adopt the same language even in music. Besides the experience, Roberts realized that many operations, apparently made possible only with assembler, could also be achieved through a high-level language such as Fortran. The F in Music IVF, indicates exactly the choice of a new language instead of assembler adopted so far.

Differences with Music IV – Although Music IVF descended directly from the Music IV, by the latter was distinguished by several features, as well as the use of Fortran. The most important difference, which penalize the Music IVF, was tied to the implementation of the various synthesis techniques. If in Music IV was potentially possible to take any synthesis technique (clearly specifying in detail the instrument), the Music IVF was set up so that you can use all the techniques, hitherto known and available, through a single function. The effect of this choice was twofold. If one side is guaranteed a greater ease of use, the other did not allow the implementation of any new techniques. From a technical point of view the Music IVF had been planned with a subroutine named LOCAL 802 (the name derived from the office Local 801, which housed the New York Musicians Union), which allowed the use of different synthesis techniques. In other words, Roberts deprived his program of Generating Units introduced by the Music III, enabling the possibility to realize the different synthesis algorithms. In conclusion we can say that what Roberts saw it as a strength, in reality, from a long-term perspective, it was a very important limitation, which weighed on the popularity and longevity of the software itself.

Orpheus – After having completed the Music IVF, Roberts continued to work on perfecting their software up to make a new version that, according to the author, needed a new name as the differences, compared with Music IV, had become such as to require less identification with the software by Max Mathews. After the release of the 67A version of Music IVF, in fact, was released the 65B version which was called Orpheus.[2]

Conclusions – The Roberts’ research in computer music did not go well. In later years he moved from the Argonne Laboratories at the Fermi National Laboratory at Illinois, where he participated in the work for a new particle accelerator.[1] Here, at first, Roberts tried to implement Music IVF, become Orpheus, on new machines available. The conversion, in reality, presented several problems and Roberts left permanently in the computer music research.


For this topic I’ve read.

[1] Earl Dumour, Interview with Arthur Roberts, Computer Music Journal, Vol. 17 [2], 1993.
 [2] Arthur Roberts, Some New Developments in Computer-Generated Music in Music by Computers, edit by Heinz Von Foerster and James W. Beauchamp, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1969.
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