Blanchard Library: Switched On Music

By Sheryl Hamlin

Hosted by the Blanchard Library, Ted Lucas of CSUCI presented the evolution of music notation, production and composition on January 26, 2016. From armies of copyists to a massive analogue sound machine leading to a small digital computer, music notation, production and composition has tracked the spread of technology.

As this Wikipedia image shows, early music representation was presented on staff paper much like it was today. Earliest preserved sheet music dates from the 15th Century. Needless to say, copies were made by hand. With the creation of polyphonic music, composers wrote all parts on a single page, but with the development of orchestras and operas in the early 17th century, music production became more complicated, as the composers were faced with the separation of the score for each instrument, once the full composition was complete. This highly labor intensive, manual process continued for hundreds of years.

800px-Missel_dominicain_MG_2113

“Missel dominicain MG 2113” by Rama – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 fr via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Missel_dominicain_MG_2113.jpg#/media/File:Missel_dominicain_MG_2113.jpg

In the 1950’s Raymond Scott, composer, engineer and music visionary, partnered with Robert Moog to create an analog machine for producing music using the new transistor technology as well as the same socket technology that was used in early phone systems. The big idea: one machine could simulate the sounds of any instrument. It was called the Moog Synthesizer. Although generally not used in live performances because each track was recorded separately, the album “Switched on Bach” where the Moog was used to play Bach organ music was a huge hit with the public. Stop now and click the link to enjoy this concert and visualize the organ and the organist.

The 1970’s brought electronic keyboards that could connect to speakers. The MIDI Protocol in the 1980’s (Music Industry Digital Interface) introduced inter-connectivity which manufacturers of electronic used for interoperability between equipment.

Software has also evolved. Once limited to printable staff paper and simple composition tools, brands such as Sibelius, Muse and Finale now produce software tools that allow a composer to create by “writing” with a mouse, transposing, adding polyphonic parts, dynamics and much more. Mr. Lucas demonstrated Finale where he added four instruments, two violins, a viola and a cello, and created harmony, phrasing and dynamics, all with the click of a mouse. Finale also allows capture from an electronic keyboard, emulating the methods of composition used historically by musicians. The software does not yet produce words, which would be the next breakthrough in electronic music generation. And, of course, electronic music is all perfectly pitched, so it does not have the richness of a live performance where minute pitch variations give a rich, unique sound. But that will come, perhaps in the form of the anti-pitch correction software.

This lecture was the first in a series of lectures to be hosted by the Blanchard Community Library in Santa Paula. Below is the schedule:

“Paradoxes and Shocking outcomes in math. Do you still believe in Math?”

Jorge Garcia, PH.D., Professor of Mathematics

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

“Influenza A Viruses in Artificial Community Water Ponds: Potential for IAV Surveillance”

Zin Htway, PH.D., Lecturer of Biology

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Ron Rieger, MS, Lecturer, Mathematics

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

“Methane as resource: Sustainable use of an otherwise powerful greenhouse gas”

Patricia Tavormina, Lecturer,

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

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For more information about the author, visit sheryhamlin.com

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