A History of Programming and Music

TitleA History of Programming and Music
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsWang, G.
Book TitleCambridge Companion to Electronic Music
PublisherCambridge University Press
Keywordscomputer music, history, language, programming

Computer music now has a practical history of more than fifty years, though Ada Lovelace had anticipated applications in 1843. An involvement of computers in music, with their potential for fantastical automations, necessarily saw the use of programming languages. In the present day, a bewildering array of languages exist, some specially developed with issues of sound and music representation in mind. Whilst entry-level softwares exist to hide complicated programming from end-users, the musician seeking custom abstractions and intimate control of all parameters is drawn to programming interfaces. This chapter provides a historical perspective on computer music programming, from Music N to Csound, from Max to Max/MSP, and details many interesting projects such as Common Lisp Music, Nyquist, SuperCollider, and ChucK. Interesting applications from different eras are highlighted including Hiller and Isaacson's Illiac Suite, the Computer Audio Research Laboratory (CARL), the Composer's Desktop Project, writing custom sound software, plug-ins and extensions, and live coding.