From the Library: Musica Ex Machinis

Today Elrik Mer­lin presents a var­ied pro­gramme of music from (and some­times by) machines. And we mean musi­cal machines in the broad­est sense, from glass har­mon­i­cas, Vic­to­ri­an musi­cal box­es and the mighty Sym­pho­nion, to steam organs, pianolas and bar­rel pianos (and the mod­ern Cybraphon) on the one hand, but touch­ing the capa­bil­i­ties of ear­ly com­put­ers and syn­the­sis­ers on the oth­er.

How­ev­er, despite the inclu­sion of some music from elec­tron­ic instru­ments, this is not real­ly a pro­gramme of clas­sic elec­tron­i­ca — although there is some — and a fair amount of the mate­r­i­al is in a fair­ly tra­di­tion­al vein, includ­ing record­ings of mechan­i­cal instru­ments of the Vic­to­ri­an era that might have been heard in the par­lour, pub­lic house or at the fair­ground. There are, how­ev­er, good exam­ples of classic(al) synth per­for­mances from Isao Tomi­ta and Wendy Car­los, includ­ing some nar­ra­tive descrip­tions of the lat­ter’s ear­ly exper­i­ments with the medi­um and the more recent Switched-On Bach 2000.

On a (much) lighter note there are elec­tron­ic pieces in a Vic­to­ri­an style from Mag­natune artist Pro­fes­sor Arm­chair, and fair­ly recent elec­tron­ic whim­sy from Jean-Jacques Per­rey, long-time col­lab­o­ra­tor with Ger­shon Kings­ley on some of the ear­li­est syn­the­sis­er albums 40 years ago (yes, it’s real­ly that long).

There is also some of the first “com­put­er music” ever record­ed, cre­at­ed by pro­gram­ming an IBM 7090 and includ­ing a ren­di­tion of Daisy, Daisy that was the inspi­ra­tion for the piece appear­ing in Stan­ley Kubrick­’s film 2001.

Pic­tured: the Tel­har­mo­ni­um, shown in Tel­har­mo­ni­um Hall in 1897: pos­si­bly the world’s first elec­tron­ic instru­ment. No record­ings exist. Image from Wikipedia.

From the Library is pro­duced by Radio Riel in con­junc­tion with the Alexan­dri­an Free Library Con­sor­tium of Sec­ond Life. You can lis­ten to the pro­gramme now at — or click here to link straight to your play­er if your brows­er is set up to do so. Today’s pro­gramme is pre­sent­ed by Elrik Mer­lin.

For more infor­ma­tion on the Alexan­dri­an Free Library, cur­rent exhibits and the work of Con­sor­tium mem­bers in gen­er­al, please vis­it the Alexan­dri­an Free Library web­site, or one of their branch­es in-world.

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