Introduction by Roger Reynolds to the SEARCH Project.


by Rand Steiger

Copyright © 2001 Rand Steiger and the Composition Area, Department of Music
University of California, San Diego
Published by Permission

Online publishing and editing by Karen Reynolds
All Rights Reserved.

16 February 2001, University of California, San Diego

The following TEXT was commissioned by the Composition Area, Department of Music, University of California, San Diego for its SEARCH initiative. The TEXT / TALK is copyrighted and appears in its original presentation here. While links TO this TEXT or recording from other sites are welcome, no part of this TEXT may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the copyright holders [Please contact Roger Reynolds: to facilitate this.].

Technology and the Expanding Palette

[Begins with recording of Thomas Edison reciting "Mary had a Little Lamb"]

You just heard the first recorded human voice, the voice of Thomas Edison, recorded in 1877. Like a time traveling message in a bottle, Edison recorded his own voice onto a cylinder covered with metal foil. This historic recording was years later transferred to magnetic tape, then some time later digitized, with the corresponding bits of information stored on a magnetic disk. Finally, I downloaded it this morning from the internet, and burned it on an optical disk. We just played that disk on a CD player, converting the bits of data to an analog electrical signal, amplifying it, and then sending it to another magnetic device, a loudspeaker, the coil of which made the air in this room vibrate in a way very similar the way the air vibrated in Thomas Edison's studio 124 years ago when Edison opened his mouth and recited "Mary had a little lamb..."

One can argue that Edison, and his contemporary inventor colleagues including Bell, Marconi, Morse, and Tesla, and their inventions of recording, radio, and other contributions to the emergence of telecommunications technology, had an equal or even greater and more profound impact on the history of music, then any of the musicians of their time. For these technologies profoundly changed the way music was created, disseminated and consumed.

Like the end of the 19th century, the start of the 21st portends even more profound changes in our art brought about by new and evolving technologies including high speed wireless data networks, ubiquitous computing environments, and developments in machine intelligence, to name but a few.

As we embark today on the second installment of our search to understand the present and contemplate the future of music, technology takes center stage. Over the next 36 hours we will hear four more perspectives offered to this search from four distinguished musicians, Jean-Baptiste Barrière, Jaroslaw Kapuscinski, Kaija Saariaho, and David Wessel, each of whom embrace new technologies in their work. And we will engage in discussions exploring a number of related issues.

Before we start I want to thank all of you for joining us today, particularly those of you who traveled from afar, the four visitors I just mentioned, and our distinguished colleague from UC Berkeley, Ed Campion, who will join our discussion tomorrow morning. I also want to recognize some remarkable people who have brought this event together: Production Manager Tracey Scholtemeyer, Director of Music Technology, Peter Otto, Chief Recording Engineer, Josef Kucera, and house engineers Ron Quillin and Ralph Pitt. They have all worked tirelessly to make this weekend work seamlessly, and I want to ask you to join me in expressing our gratitude.

Given the fact that one of the leading musical figures of the 20th century recently passed away, we thought that it would be appropriate to begin the day with a memorial to Iannis Xenakis. Ivan Manzanilla will first perform Xenakis' seminal work, Psappha, and then Roger Reynolds, a long-time friend and colleague of Xenakis, will offer a few words ending with a moment of silence.

We will then break the silence with Chréode by Jean-Baptiste Barrière, and then proceed as previously planned.

Continue to Barriere Text