John Chowning & Friends

FRI MAY 17, 7:30PM PDT


Paul DeMarinis: Serinette pour les oiseaux de bourbe (2024) | sound installation in the Knoll's main stairwell

John Chowning - opening remarks

Max Mathews: International Lullaby (1966) | 2'15

John Pierce: Eight-Tone Canon (1966) | 3'59

Michael McNabb: Dreamsong (1978) | 9'12

Douglas Fulton: Bowling for Blood (1985) | 3'58

Bill Schottstaedt: Water Music I (1985) | 10'25

——— short break ———

Synthia Petroka: ouie ouie (1983) | 2'40

Chris Chafe: In a Word (1982) | 9'34

Janis Mattox: Shaman - Movement III - Voice of the Ancestors (1984) | 12'52

Jean-Claude Risset: Mutations (1969) | 10'35

John Chowning: Phonē (1981) | 13'01


Serinette pour les oiseaux de bourbe (2024) | Paul DeMarinis

size: variable
materials: birdcage, glass jars, mud, electronics, radios


International Lullaby (1966) | Max Mathews

This piece uses compositional algorithms which permit to produce interpolations between two melodies, both in terms of pitch and rhythm. One first hears a Japanese lullaby; then it goes through successive steps to turn into a Schubert lullaby. During the transitional step, a band of noise accompanies the melody.


Eight-Tone Canon (1966) | John Pierce

The tones used are successively sinusoids spaced an octave apart, sinusoids spaced a half-octave (a tritone) apart, and sinusoids spaced a quarter-octave (a minor third) apart, then half-octave spacing, and ending with octave spacing. The piece makes use of a scale of eight notes per octave; the successive notes of the scale are an eighth of an octave apart. Even notes (2, 4, 6, 8) sounded with odd notes (1, 3, 5, 7) are dissonant. Even with even or odd with odd are consonant. Successive entries in the canon are an integer number of half-octaves (tritones) apart.


Dreamsong (1978) | Michael McNabb

Dreamsong is composed of a careful blend of synthesized sounds and recorded natural sounds that have been digitally processed or resynthesized. It presents an expressive sonic continuum ranging from unaltered natural sounds to entirely new sounds — or, more poetically, from the real world to the realm of the imagination. Termed "a classic of the genre" by New Yorker music critic Andrew Porter, this widely influential work was one of the earliest to achieve, through the precision of digital processing, a smoother integration of these two elements than was previously possible in either studio-produced electronic music or live performance.

In Dreamsong, the listener is repeatedly drawn in by references to familiar musical, vocal, and environmental material, only to be transported by an unexpected and surprising sonic manipulation. Constant transformations of timbre and texture, fluid shifting between familiar sounds and imaginary musical images, and illusory spatial movement all combine to powerful musical effect. An extended melodic line adds a strong thread of continuity.

Dreamsong premiered at the second official CCRMA concert in November 1978 at the Stanford Museum of Art. The vocal timbres are based on the voice of soprano Marilyn Barber.


Bowling for Blood (1985) | Douglas Fulton

Bowling for Blood was composed and realized using neither algorithm nor piano. My bride thought of the title, by far the best part. Douglas Fulton was born in the Alpine Hamlet of R--, in 195-. He now lives in C-.. where he pays taxes and awaits death.


Water Music I (1985) | Bill Schottstaedt

The only instrument used in this piece is the frequency modulation (FM) violin. This instrument was developed by John Chowning and Schottstaedt in 1976. The work was written for and realized on the Samson Box.


ouie ouie (1983) | Synthia Petroka

Other than getting 2 minutes of fame during the airing of Foothill College radio station KFJC's 63-hour Maximum LOUIE LOUIE marathon (823 different versions!) in August of 1983, this piece has not been heard publicly since.

The original song was written and composed by American musician Richard Berry in 1955, recorded in 1956, and released in 1957.


In a Word (1982) | Chris Chafe

The duo that I created 42 years ago was an exploration in timbre loosely derived from my fascination with Alain Resnais' film "Last Year at Marienbad." He wrote, "For me this film is an attempt, still very crude and very primitive, to approach the complexity of thought, of its processes." The music combines FM synthesis with ideas borrowed from the sound production in whistled languages from around the world, which "...utilize the vocabulary, grammar and, in many cases to a large extent, the phonology of the local speech. However their phonetic system is profoundly modified acoustically ... because the glottal tone of everyday communication, the 'voice,' is replaced by a whistle which carries the information. The advantage of this procedure, from the point of view of the user, is a vastly increased range as well as, under certain circumstances, a degree of secrecy." R. G. Busnel, A. Classe, Whistled Languages (Communication and Cybernetics #13)


Shaman - Movement III - Voice of the Ancestors (1984) | Janis Mattox

This is the 3rd movement of “Shaman”, a four movement music theater piece for drummer George Marsh, bassist Mel Graves, belly dancer Rachel Dutton, actor/vocalist Bob Ernst, live digital processing and computer generated tape. It premiered on September 29th, 1984 at Dinkelspiel Auditorium. This work became the subject of a feature article in Smithsonian Magazine by Alan Rich, “A Composer Whose Music Has a Magical Twist” (December, 1984).


Mutations (1969) | Jean-Claude Risset

Mutations was commissioned by GRM and realized in 1969 at Bell Laboratories.


Phonē (1969) | John Chowning

In 1978/79 Chowning spent a concentrated period of research at the Institute de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) in Paris developing a method for generating singing voices using FM synthesis that was then embedded in a computer program. The result, a perceptual model, was a remarkably simple method of producing singing voices. The program still exists and has been used by many composers since.

Phonē (from the Greek, meaning "sound" or "voice") was produced by a special configuration of the singing voice, program that can produce a wide range of familiar timbres in addition to the singing voice. Inspired by the opening phrase of Jean-Claude Risset’s Mutations (1969) the timbres are not confined to those of our "real world” experience, as the program provides for timbres and manipulations that could only have been imagined before the digital age–a continuous transformation, or interpolation from one timbre to another (the auditory equivalent to “morphing” as known in contemporary computer graphics), as well as extrapolations of the familiar to the unfamiliar–the singing voice to impossible ranges (basso “profundissimo”). Such manipulations of timbre were dependent upon the discovery of important attributes of sound that provide the “glue” that fuses simultaneously occurring sets of partials as timbral identities.

Phonē was written in the SAIL language and generated on the Samson Box and was premiered at IRCAM in February 1981, as part of Pierre Boulez’s seminar Le Compositeur et l'Ordinateur.

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Chris Chafe is a composer, improvisor, and cellist, developing much of his music alongside computer-based research. He is Director of Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). In 2019, he was International Visiting Research Scholar at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies The University of British Columbia, Visiting Professor at the Politecnico di Torino, and Edgard-Varèse Guest Professor at the Technical University of Berlin. At IRCAM (Paris) and The Banff Centre (Alberta), he has pursued methods for digital synthesis, music performance and real-time internet collaboration. CCRMA’s jacktrip project involves live concertizing with musicians the world over. Online collaboration software and research into latency factors continue to evolve. An active performer either on the net or physically present, his music reaches audiences in sometimes novel venues. An early network project was a simultaneous five-country concert was hosted at the United Nations in 2009. Chafe’s works include gallery and museum music installations which are now into their second decade with “musifications” resulting from collaborations with artists, scientists and MD’s. Recent work includes the Earth Symphony, the Brain Stethoscope project (Gnosisong), PolarTide for the 2013 Venice Biennale, Tomato Quintet for the transLife:media Festival at the National Art Museum of China and Sun Shot played by the horns of large ships in the port of St. Johns, Newfoundland.


John Chowning was born in Salem, New Jersey in 1934, spending his school years in Wilmington, Delaware. Following military service and four years at Wittenberg University in Ohio, he studied composition in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. He received the doctorate in composition (DMA) from Stanford University in 1966, where he studied with Leland Smith. In 1964, with the help of Max Mathews of Bell Telephone Laboratories and David Poole of Stanford University, he set up a computer music program using the computer system of Stanford's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Beginning the same year he began the research that led to the first generalized surround sound localization algorithm. In trying to comprehend the distance cue, Chowning discovered the frequency modulation synthesis (FM) algorithm in 1967. This breakthrough in the synthesis of timbres allowed a very simple yet elegant way of creating and controlling time-varying spectra. Inspired by the perceptual research of Jean-Claude Risset, he worked toward turning this discovery into a system of musical importance, using it extensively in his compositions. In 1973 Stanford University licensed the FM synthesis patent to Yamaha in Japan, leading to the most successful synthesis engine in the history of electronic musical instruments. Interview about FM synthesis Jun 17, 2015, Barcelona:

He taught computer-sound synthesis and composition at Stanford University's Department of Music. In 1974, with John Grey, James (Andy) Moorer, Loren Rush and Leland Smith, he founded the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), which remains one of the leading centers for computer music and related research. Although he retired in 1996, he has remained in contact with CCRMA activities. In 2019, he initiated with an international team, a long-term project to recreate, by computer modeling, the acoustics of the Chauvet Cave in France as they were when the exqusite 36,000-32,000-year-old wall paintings were created.

Chowning was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1988 and awarded the Honorary Doctor of Music by Wittenberg University in 1990. The French Ministre de la Culture awarded him the Diplôme d’Officier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1995. He was given the Doctorat Honoris Causa in 2002 by the Université de la Méditerranée, by Queen’s University in 2010, Hamburg University in 2016. and Laureate of the Giga-Hertz-Award in 2013.


Paul DeMarinis has been working as an electronic media artist since 1971 and has created numerous performance works, sound and computer installations and interactive electronic inventions. One of the first artists to use computers in performance, he has performed internationally, at The Kitchen, Festival d'Automne a Paris, Het Apollohuis in Holland and at Ars Electronica in Linz and created music for Merce Cunningham Dance Co. His interactive audio artworks have been exhibited at the I.C.C. in Tokyo, Bravin Post Lee Gallery in New York, The Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco and the 2006 Shanghai Biennale. He has received major awards and fellowships in both Visual Arts and Music from The National Endowment for the Arts, N.Y.F.A., N.Y.S.C.A., the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and was awarded the Golden Nica for Interactive Art at Ars Electronica in 2006. Much of his recent work deals with the areas of overlap between human communication and technology. Major installations include "The Edison Effect" which uses optics and computers to make new sounds by scanning ancient phonograph records with lasers, "Gray Matter" which uses the interaction of flesh and electricity to make music, "The Messenger" that examines the myths of electricity in communication and recent works such as "RainDance" and "Firebirds" that use fire and water to create the sounds of music and language. Public artworks include large scale interactive installations at Park Tower Hall in Tokyo, at the Olympics in Atlanta and at Expo in Lisbon and an interactive audio environment at the Ft. Lauderdale International Airport. He has been an Artist-in-Residence at The Exploratorium and at Xerox PARC and is currently a Professor of Art at Stanford University in California.


Douglas Fulton is a composer who has worked at Stanford's CCRMA and for Electronic Arts.


Michael McNabb is a composer, performer, and computer music pioneer. He has received numerous awards including from the Prix Ars Electronica and National Endowment for the Arts, and recognition from national and local music writers and critics, and has contributed to books and journals in the field. He studied and worked at CCRMA from 1974 until receiving his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition in 1980, returning in 1985 on a second NEA grant to compose the ballet score “Invisible Cities” for ODC/San Francisco. Two CD releases are available on the Wergo label, “Invisible Cities”, and “Dreamsong”, whose title piece New Yorker writer Andrew Porter termed “a classic of the genre”, and the San Jose Mercury News named as one of the best works of the last 40 years. These albums and his most recent release “The Lark Full Cloud” are available on all major streaming services. Michael was also a senior Silicon Valley technologist until retiring in 2022 as a Principal Software Engineer at the Walt Disney Company. For more about Michael, visit


Max V. Mathews was born in Columbus, Nebraska, on November 13, 1926. He studied electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology receiving a Sc.D. in 1954.

He worked in acoustic research at AT&T's Bell Laboratories from 1955 to 1987 where he directed the Behavioral and Acoustic Research Center. This laboratory carried out research in speech communication, visual communication, human memory and learning, programmed instruction, analysis of subjective opinions, physical acoustics, and industrial robotics.

From 1974 to 1980 he was the Scientific Advisor to the Institute de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM), Paris, France. In 1987 Mathews joined the Stanford University Music Department in the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) as Professor of Music (Research), where he developed a new pickup for electronic violins and a real-time computer system for music performance called the Conductor and Improv Programs and a 3D MIDI Controller called the Radio Baton.
At Bell Labs in 1957, Mathews demonstrated synthesis of music on a digital computer with his Music I program. Music I was followed by Music II through Music V and GROOVE, all were involved in the composition and performance of music on and with computers. These programs have been influential in the development of computer music. For this pioneering work he has been called the "father of computer music," and most recently, "the great grandfather of techno!"

Max Mathews has conducted research on computer methods for speech processing, human speech production and auditory masking, and developed techniques for computer drawing of typography. He created the first computer singing, "Bicycle Built for Two," made famous by the Stanley Kubrick film '2001: A Space Odyssey' as the swan song of the dying computer H.A.L. 9000.

The developer of "Music V" synthesis software and "Groove," the first computer system for live performance, he is also the inventor of the Radio Baton, a computer-driven device that allows the user to conduct their own orchestral performances from MIDI files stored in the computer. This gives the user control over tempo, dynamics and balance among all the orchestral instruments. The commercial software product "Max" was based on Mathews' ideas for a flexible, user-patchable sound generating system.

Mathews was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and is a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Acoustical Society of America, the IEEE, and the Audio Engineering Society. Among the more idiosyncratic forms of recognition he has received, Mathews' Electronic Violin was featured recently on the cover of Playboy magazine. He has won the IEEE Gold Medal, Acoustical Society of America Silver Medal, and the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, République Française.


Janis Mattox, composer, pianist, video artist and music educator, is a native of Minnesota and graduate of the University of Minnesota (BFA) and Northwestern University (MFA) in Evanston, Illinois. In the 80’s she began creating multi-media works merging live performance, dance, film, and interactive digital music technologies at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics.

Her music-drama Shaman for percussionist, bassist, actor/vocalist, belly dancer and digital synthesis premiered at Stanford and became the subject of a feature article in Smithsonian Magazine by Alan Rich. She was co-producer of The Digital Domain (Elektra), a best selling classical CD which became an audio standard in the industry. Mattox conceived, produced, and scored Book of Shadows, a video ballet which premiered in San Francisco and went on to receive over a dozen first-place awards and over fifty international screenings: “This ground- breaking video ballet employs experimental techniques in sound, performance, video and choreography to create a new and moving work.” — Miloz Stehlik, Facets Multimedia

Other major works include Memories of Fallen Angels - a suite featuring Iranian vocalist Sussan Deyhim and instrumental ensemble, dedicated to those living with AIDS; The Art of War for jazz drummer Aaron Scott and enhanced prepared piano; The Rejected Harmony for African- American dancer Sharon Ritchie and percussion ensemble; Seven Chakras for performance artist Linda Montano, dancers and instrumental ensemble; and Solombra (SunShadow) - a seven movement song-cycle inspired by the life and poetry of Brazilian poet Cecília Meireles and sung in Portuguese, for soprano Katia Escalera and piano trio: "Solombra contains some of the most inspired song writing in contemporary literature. " —Terry Riley, composer/pianist

Awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rockefeller Bellagio Residency, a Camargo Foundation Residency, four fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Djerassi Residency, grants from the American Music Center, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, the Rex Foundation, the Argosy Contemporary Music Fund, and three grants from the Ross McKee Foundation for her music education project, "Music for Kids by Kids".

Mattox’s current work-in-progress, Sueños de Medianoche (Midnight Dreams) is an inter-media chamber opera based on an 18th century Bolivian legend and sung in Spanish.


With a background in music ranging from grade school band all the way into college marching band, Synthia Petroka ultimately earned a degree in Computer Science from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo(1980), where coincidentally, Weird Al Yankovic famously had just recorded his first single, "My Bologna", in the men's bathroom on campus during her tenure there.

Combining her love of music and her knowledge of computer engineering, most of Synthia's jobs for the first 10 years of her working life, were working at companies who did just that; combined music and high tech. She did software engineering gigs for Atari Coin-Op, Sequential Circuits, and Studer Editech to name a few.

It was during her stint at Atari in the early 80's, where she took Computer Music classes at CCRMA. MIDI was still a new thing, as was FM synthesis, and other than the early vocoder, with a couple notable exceptions, like Max Matthew's groundbreaking 'Daisy' in "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968), speech synthesis was barely a thing!

Speaking of Monoliths, the Kubrick-like Monoliths known as the Samson and the Foonly, were the incredibly deep boxes in which many, many pieces were produced on, including Synthia's take on "Louie Louie". She named it "Ouie Ouie", due to the fact that they hadn't quite figured out how to reproduce consonant sounds yet!

Synthia went on to play cello in local orchestras and electric bass in indy rock bands. But ultimately, she discovered sailing, a passion that she and her sensei John Chowning share. Having sailed and raced across several oceans, and filling a case full of trophies, sailboats have captivated her passions ever since.

She is thrilled and honored to be included in this most wonderful celebration all these decades later.


John Robinson Pierce (born March 27, 1910, Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.—died April 2, 2002, Sunnyvale, California) was an American communications engineer, scientist, and father of the communications satellite.

Pierce attended the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, receiving his Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1936. That year he began working for Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc., New York City. He improved the traveling-wave tube, which is used as a broadband amplifier of microwaves, and designed a new electrostatically focused electron-multiplier tube, used as a sensitive radiation detector. His Pierce electron gun produces high-density electron beams. During World War II he collaborated on the low-voltage reflex klystron oscillator that was almost universally used in U.S. radar receivers. In 1948 Pierce coined the term transistor to describe the new solid-state device invented at Bell Laboratories.

In 1952 Pierce became director of electronics research at the New Jersey division of Bell Laboratories at Murray Hill. Two years later he began work on the theory of communications satellites. Although he wrote numerous papers detailing the advantages of using satellites to relay radio communications to all parts of the Earth, his ideas were largely ignored. Seeing the opportunity offered by the Echo balloon satellite for studying space phenomena, he persuaded the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to convert the 100-foot (30-metre) aluminized sphere into a radio-wave reflector. Echo I was launched on August 12, 1960. The success of the communications experiments carried out with Echo I provided the impetus to develop Telstar, a satellite designed to amplify signals from one Earth station and relay the signals back to another Earth station. These early satellites marked the beginning of efficient worldwide radio and television communication. Pierce traced their development in an article on satellite communication for the 15th edition of Encyclopædia Britannica, first printed in 1974.

Pierce retired from Bell Laboratories in 1971 and became professor of engineering at Caltech. From 1979 to 1982 he was chief technologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, and in 1983 he joined Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. He had begun writing science fiction in high school and later published stories under the pseudonym J.J. Coupling; in one of his stories he forecast the advent of communications satellites. His nonfiction works include Traveling-Wave Tubes (1950), Symbols, Signals, and Noise (1961), and The Science of Musical Sound (1983, rev. ed. 1992).


Jean-Claude Risset was a musician and researcher of acoustics. Following years of training as a pianist (including studies with Robert Trimaille, himself a former student of Alfred Cortot), and with a potential career as a performer before him, he gradually turned to composition in the years from 1961 to 1964. Subsequently, André Jolivet arranged for him to study music theory with Suzanne Demarquez. In parallel with studies of music at the Paris École Normale Supérieure, in 1961 he obtained a degree, and in 1967, a doctorate, in physics, after which he embarked upon a career in electronics.

Rapidly gaining an international reputation, he undertook research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Pierre Grivet Fundamental Electronics Institute (1961-71), Bell Laboratories in New Jersey alongside Max Mathews and John Pierce (1964-65 and 1967-68), Paris-Saclay University (1970-71), Luminy University City in Marseille (starting in 1972), IRCAM (1975 to 1979), and, finally, at the CNRS Laboratory of Mechanics and Acoustics in Marseille, where he remained a professor emeritus.

Risset was a true pioneer of computer music, a fact attested to by his revolutionary work at Bell Laboratories on psychoacoustics and digital synthesis (most notably, his simulations of musical instruments, sonic illustrations and musical paradoxes) and its application to music.

He was invited to numerous scientific and musical research institutions around the world, including CCRMA at Stanford University (where he worked alongside fellow musician/researcher John Chowning) in 1971, 1975, 1982, 1986, and 1998; the Bregman Electronic Music Studio at Dartmouth College (with Jon Appleton); and the MIT Media Lab in 1987 and 1989 for work on the Yamaha Disklavier. Jean-Claude Risset was a lecturer from 1971 to 1975, and a full professor from 1979 to 1985, at Aix-Marseille University. He was Director of the “Computer Department” at IRCAM from 1975 to 1979, and National Director of the Master of Advanced Studies (DEA) in “Acoustics, Signal Processing and Digital Technology Applied to Music,” a degree offered by IRCAM in collaboration with the University of the Mediterranean and Paris VI University.

Risset’s scientific research consistently informed his artistic activities, and vice versa. His catalogue, comprising more than 70 works, includes some 15 pieces for fixed media (produced at Bell Laboratories, IRCAM, LMA-CNRS, etc.), acousmatic music (produced at Ina-GRM, GMEM, etc.), around 20 instrumental pieces and 35 mixed music works (some with real-time electronics), a medium to which he devoted much of his creative energy. These works allowed Risset to formalise his notion of first “composing sounds themselves,” and then composing with those sounds.


Bill Schottstaedt grew up in Oklahoma, got various degrees in music from Stanford, worked for a few years in the computer industry, then joined the staff of CCRMA, and rusted in place.

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