max

Max Mathews, Father of Digital Synthesis, Computer Innovator, Dies at 84

Max Mathews is best known for his involvement in the debut of digital synthesis, but he contributed much more. His Radio Baton predicted gestural controllers that arrived much later from Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, and it may be his code design ideas that outlast even the memory of the computer’s first musical utterances. Photo CC-BY-NC-SA) Rainer Kohlberger. Max Mathews, the man who literally first gave voice to computer music, died yesterday at age 84. I can only offer my heartfelt condolences to Max’s friends and family. Max was the man present at the moment when the very subject matter of …

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Your Hearing, According to MP3: Sounds for Humans, Played for 10^450 Years

The miracle of human hearing goes well beyond audiophile snobbery over “high fidelity,” or the machinations of sometimes-arbitrary, designed-by-committee industry specifications. But, in the context of my rant about perceived myths in audio, what can we hear, really? And how much perceptible sound can you squeeze into an MP3? For his master’s thesis at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Kyle McDonald investigated the deeper, existential issues behind common digital audio specifications. The question: what if you could play every single distinguishable sound that the MP3 specification can accommodate? (For the technically minded, that means …

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New Early Computer Music Discovered; What Was the First Digital Synth?

Australia’s CSIRAC made the first computer-generated melody, but no recordings remain. For other primitive early computer music, catch new strains from the BBC from 1951. Photo by thefunklab. As several of you noticed, the BBC has discovered 1951 recordings of computer-synthesized music, predating the previous earliest recordings from New Jersey’s Bell Labs in 1957. ‘Oldest’ computer music unveiled [BBC News] So, who gets the credit for the first digital synthesis? This particular recording doesn’t change much, in that Bell was never recognized as the first computer-created music – they just happened to have the earliest recordings still available. Here’s the …

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Phonautographs and Recording with a Dead Guy’s Ear

One curious note about the first-ever recording I mentioned today: you’re among the first to hear it, because at the time, the inventor had worked out how to record, but not how to play anything back. (No speakers — no sound.) It did make awfully nice pictures of sound, though, which in turn suggests an interesting idea for a recording device now: a microphone, an image, but no playback. The basic technology of the phonautograph: make an image of the sound using a hog bristle, not unlike the way CDs work with lasers for optical storage (albeit with digital, not …

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The First Audio Recording: 1860, Optical

Sorry, Edison. It seems the famed “Mary Had a Little Lamb” recording by Thomas Edison — thought to be the first-ever audio recording — was actually late to the party. A recording on April 9, 1860 by a typesetter and inventor (Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville) was apparently first, according to a discovery by audio historians digging through an archive. Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. have reconstructed that recording. It sounds — well, barely like a recording at all, but you can vaguely make out singing in the background. (Not quite hi-fi.) Au Clair de la …

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