27 Aug 2013

Load Your Program. I Am Yourself

From These Hopeful Machines, 7:00 pm on 27 August 2013

PDP S computer photo courtesy of Jamie Cox CC point Ep cropped

PDP 8/S computer similar to that used by Peter Zinovieff at EMS. Photo courtesy Jamie Cox

Born of war and raised on mainframes, computer music comes of age in the 70s and hits the charts thanks to the sampler.

It all starts in 1950 or so with Sydney’s CSIRAC computer and its loudspeaker that clicked! – Max Mathews and his computer programme ‘Music’ – early days of computer music: John Chowning, Suzanne Ciani and Barry Vercoe talk about their experiences waiting days to hear a split second of music – the work at IRCAM in Paris – Barry Vercoe’s music programming environment ‘Csound’ – John Chowning develops FM synthesis, a new way of making sound – the Yamaha DX7, the biggest-selling synthesiser ever – Peter Vogel and the Fairlight CMI – by the 80s, computer-based music becomes affordable with the sampler.

These Hopeful Machines - Episode 5

Explore more of These Hopeful Machines

Written and presented by James Gardner, produced by Tim Dodd and James Gardner.

Scroll down for handy links, a bibliography and the playlist for this episode.


These Hopeful Machines: Episode 5 is dedicated to the British composer Tim Souster, who, in 1980 wrote and presented a programme about computer music for BBC Radio 3 called 'The Sleeping Giant Awakes' which, James Gardner says, “certainly fired my imagination.” Tim Souster died in 1994, but there is a website dedicated to this overlooked figure.

Grateful thanks for help in the production of this episode go to:

John Chowning, for the interview and for the early FM demonstrations from his own archive; Suzanne Ciani;
David Cockerell; Paul Doornbusch of Collarts in Melbourne for allowing us to use the excerpt of his interview with Miller Puckette; Barry Vercoe; Peter Vogel, for the interview and the loan of his copy of the Village Recorders Fairlight demo reel, which was restored and digitized by Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero in Christchurch in 2010; Peter Zinovieff.



Nick Collins
Introduction to Computer Music
Wiley 2010

Roger T. Dean (ed.)
The Oxford Handbook of Computer Music
Oxford University Press 2011

Curtis Roads
The Computer Music Tutorial
MIT Press 1996

Paul Doornbusch
The Music of CSIRAC: Australia’s first Computer Music
Common Ground 2005

Andrew Hodges
Alan Turing: The Enigma (centenary edition)
Vintage books 2012