1+1 = Rock

Music From Mathematics
Every now and then I find an album so odd and so amazingly bizarre that makes me happy I still own a record player. Dick Hyman’s Moog was one, the Urgh! soundtrack was definitely one, and so is Music From Mathematics. This incredible recording is an amazing piece of musical (and technological) history.

This album came out in 1962, and if it wasn’t the first ‘electronic’ album ever to be released, it was damn near close. Made by two electric engineers that worked in Bell Labs computing department, they created it under the idea that anything, including musical notes and song structure, can “be described mathematically by a sequence of numbers.” They did this by figuring out which numbers specified the sounds they wanted to make, punched thousands of punch cards with this information and fed them into and fed them to the computer. They then had to made a second set of a few thousand punch cards to tell the computer to register these sounds on tape. Think about how long that took. Clearly computer geeks of the 1960s had far greater patience than the computer geeks of today.

One of the most interesting things about the record is that it features one of the first examples of speech synthesis. The end of the third track ‘Bicycle Built For Two’ features the computer ‘singing’ a verse of the song. Strangely enough, Arthur C. Clarke happened to be in the lab the day this happened, and he was so moved/disturbed by it that he incorporated it into the book and film versions of 2001.

Above is a zip file containing the entire album. To be perfectly honest the music isn’t that great, I doubt it was considered great music when it first came out, but I guarantee you’ve never heard anything like it. Before this album came out the technology to do this didn’t exist, and shortly after it came out better technology showed up. It is truly a product of its time and its time alone.

Listen to it and think about that time. Imagine hearing this in 1962. Think about what it must have been like to sit in a sterile lab surrounded by giant, emotionless computers and having one of them sing to you.

3 Responses to “1+1 = Rock”

  1. Anonymous says:

    ..I love you. <3


    -Bridget, un.

  2. Matt says:

    You rule!

  3. matt says:

    This is what my soul has been asking for. Up until now I had to say, “Sorry, soul. I don’t know what you are talking aobut.”
    Now I can’t avoid it. I DO know what my soul is talking about.
    Thank You!

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