What's the first name you think of when considering the development of electronic music? Edgard Varèse? John Cage? Karlheinz Stockhausen? Now how about computer music? Max Mathews should be at the top of your list. While at Bell Laboratories in 1957, Mathews wrote the program MUSIC, ushering in an era of digital synthesis and composition. MUSIC went through many iterations, but its lasting influence can be seen in contemporary programs such as Max/MSP, itself named after the late pioneer.
Mathews' connection to Stanford is through the Department of Music and the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. Named a Professor of Music (Research) in 1985, Mathews continued pursuing digital sound synthesis techniques until his death on April 21, 2011. Although his recorded output is small, his contribution to the genre is no less important; he rightfully stands side by side with more prominent names on this illustrious compilation featuring the "early gurus of electronic music".
His archives, which includes papers, digital files, video, and audio recordings, was acquired by University Archives earlier this year by way of Jerry McBride, Head Librarian of the Music Library. Once the finding aid was complete, the Stanford Media Preservation Lab took on the reformatting duties for the media portion. Part of the work will be completed in our lab over the coming month, while the rest will be outsourced to a vendor.
All of the digital files will be available to the world in the not too distant future. Until then, here's a sample of what to expect.