Music at Columbia: The First 100 Years

Electronic And Computer Music > Looking Ahead

The Computer Music Center of Columbia University

Modern computer technology has vastly expanded the possibilities not only for composition but for a wide and diverse array of activities associated with music. The Electronic Music Center accordingly has adopted a new name that better respresents the breadth of its mission: The Computer Music Center of Columbia University.

The Center will pursue development in three basic areas:

In composition, composers can investigate new worlds of sound using digital technology, interfacing with various computers, and integrating certain analog systems. Related study concerns computer-aided compositional environments, interactive performance between live musicians and computer sounds, and the scope of algorithmic compositional processes.

The intelligent music work station will serve not only composers but theorists and historians. A complex software environment allows Fred Lerdahl to undertake a series of projects related to his theories of music cognition and perception, and Jonathan Kramer to study musical time through computer monitoring of complex rhythms and their perception, as well as rhythmic complexities in expressive performances of traditional music. Further possibilities involve the computationally realizable modeling of specific musical styles, an area in which composers, theorists, and historians are currently engaged, including composer/theorists Lerdahl, Kramer, and Brad Garton, and historical musicologist Leeman Perkins.

Real-time digital processing has created many possibilities for configurable acoustic space in performance, along with important applications for pedagogy. Looking toward a time when CD-quality sound can be accessed through computer terminals in classrooms, libraries, and dormitories, and the ramifications for such a system for teaching, Grad Barton is investigating technical issues and software requirements. Historical musicologist Ian Bent has already given a course on the string quartet using this technology.

The generation of electronic composers, working in an area of specilization accessible only to the initiated, is part of an honored, respected but now transcended past. Computer music is transforming the way music is done, be it composition, research, or teaching. In this transformation, nearly 50 years after the first experiments in electronic music, the Computer Music Center of Columbia University stands at the forefront.


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