Music V is a sound synthesis software. It is among the best known of the Music N family of computer music programming language. Certainly the first one that had a spread beyond the boundaries of the United States.

Background history – The availability of the computer IBM 360 and FORTRAN language drove Max Mathews to work on a new version of his Music N for which the assembler would have abandoned, as was the case of the Music IVF and Music IVBF. Music V was also developed at Bell Labs in 1968. The novelty of the new software was such that its importance for computer music was equal to that seen with the concept of generating units introduced by the Music III.

News – The first distinguishing feature, as mentioned, was the adoption of Fortran. Then there was a detailed audit work done on the internal functions of the program, aimed at eliminating imperfections, burrs programming, so as to improve overall performance. The data entry procedure was simplified, both in Orchestra and in Score section. One of the most interesting news, especially for the later development of computer music, was the definition of new modules that allow you to import in Music V analog sounds transferred to the computer through an ADC.

Open Source – Another aspect is worthy of consideration, even if he hasn’t to do with the computer itself. Max Mathews at Bell Labs asked not to market the new software, so it can be distribute free of charge. It was, in essence, the first form of open source software, something widespread today on the web. Free distribution, today, also affects software such as Csound and Pure Data, to name a few. Not only. In this way, you gave a great stimulus to research and production of computer music and that is why Music V acts as a hub within the Music N family, both respect to the creation of new programs and to the spread of this type of software in other international centers. We think Ircam in Paris, to name one of all.

Limits – There were only two issues on which the Music V still showed weaknesses. The first was linked to real time. The Music V, like many other software for years, had been developed for the deferred time, also due to hardware limitations. The second aspect, however, was related to a technical issue internal to the program. Mathews chose to eliminate, at the design stage, the modules that allow the filtering of sounds and acting directly on the waveform generated in order to obtain special timbre results. This resulted in restrictions on the use of the program that prompted the researchers from other centers to develop customized versions of the software.

Other developments – The Music V closes the experience of Max Mathews for synthesis software. Its activities in the computer music, however, continues to other roads that gathered work experience gained in previous years. In particular, Mathews became interested in issues that were stimulated in the early years, his activities: performance aspect, real time execution and synthesis. The satisfaction of these goals led him to develop firts the system GROOVE, then the Radio Baton Conductor Program and finally to develop the first digital model of a violin. Regards to Music N, however, the Music V become the new benchmark for the next software, such as Mus10, Cmusic and Cmix. In the same year of the Music V, however, was developed a new software: Music 360, but inspired more to its predecessor Music IV.

Diffusion of the Music V – Music V has played an important role for the creation or development of computer music in other research centers located in both the U.S. and Europe. Among the latter include the Ircam in Paris and Groupe de Recherches Musicales of Pierre Schaeffer, also of Paris.[1]


For this topic I’ve read.

[1] Alex Di Nunzio, Genesi, sviluppo e  diffusione del software Music N nella storia della composizione informatica, Thesis, Università di Bologna: D.A.M.S. Musica, 2010.
[2] Max Mathews, The Technology of Computer Music, The MIT Press, 1969.
Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.