November 13 – Max Mathews, Fantasia


Max in 1984

Birthday of computer music pioneer Max Mathews.

Max is such a geek he attends college at MIT and CalTech. While working for Bell Labs in 1957, he writes the first of a series of MUSIC-N programs (*). They’re the ancestors of much of today’s most popular music software — most directly Barry Vercoe‘s (free) Csound, Miller Puckette‘s (free) Pd, and Puckette’s original Max (now Max/MSP) — named in honor of Mathews.

More famously, he creates the music for a 1961 computer-vocals arrangement of old tune Daisy Bell. 1961 ‘Daisy Bell’  A version is sung by the HAL computer in film 2001: A Space Odyssey. He also creates a ‘radio baton’ controller.

 1980 Roads interview 1986 news piece (7m)  ▷Early 2011 Max Mathews interview▹ ▷CCRMA Maxfest 2007▹ CDM Apr. 2011 obit
2007 ‘Bicycle’ performance  Radio baton  Mathews & Puckette 

 Pushing the Tech 

Bald terror

Walt Disney releases the incredibly cool (for its time), trippy animated film Fantasia.

The soundtrack, conducted by Leopold Stokowski, is all classical music, no dialog; each animated sequence is constructed to match the music. The scary climax is built around Russian composer Mussorgsky‘s Night on Bald Mountain.

Stokowski had made over 100 experimental stereo recordings with Harvey Fletcher from Bell Labs in 1931-2.  MP3: Scriabin in stereo, March 1932
In 1938 Bell’s Arthur C. Keller gets a stereo patent (US#2,114,471)

Commercial stereo records are still 17 years off — even tape recorders won’t appear for several years — when Fantasia debuts in New York. Mickey  Engineer William E. Garity develops an early stereophonic process for the picture called Fantasound — three-channel sound out of 54 speakers. The first commercial, multichannel film is heard at roadshows in a dozen cities. Fantasound leads to surround sound.

In late 1999 Disney releases Fantasia 2000, a 75-minute animated sequel; the music, mostly different, is conducted by James Levine.
1940 Fantasia (2 hr) 


Tribal lays

Psychology professor Steven Brown of McMaster University and 7 associates find that there are Correlations in the population structure of music, genes and language after analyzing the structures of 220 Taiwanese choral songs recorded since the 1940s, and comparing them with mitochondrial DNA samples taken from 1,050 subjects from different parts of the island.

An examination of population structure for genetics showed stronger parallels to music than to language. Overall, the results suggest that music might have a sufficient time-depth to retrace ancient population movements and, additionally, that it might be capturing different aspects of population history than language.