New American Music Month Exhibit Opens in the University Library’s Marshall Gallery Today

LP Recording Cover Art for “Computer Music from the University of Illinois,” 1967.

The new exhibit, “From the Illiac Suite to the Sal-Mar Construction: Illinois’ Pioneering Experimental Music Studio,” opens today in the University Library’s Marshall Gallery to kick off this November’s American Music Month celebration.  In 1952 the University of Illinois’ ILLIAC supercomputer was the most powerful piece of technology in the world, capable of executing countless calculations in the blink of an eye and leaping over humanity’s boundless memory.  But could it create music?  This question was posed by several of the university’s experimental music composers.  In 1956, Lejaren Hiller and Leonard Isaacson devised a program for this machine to become more than a mere business tool. They constructed an artificial collaborator capable of composing music.  Later in 1962, Salvatore Martirano continued these experiments by using the original TTL boards of the ILLIAC II to build his Sal-Mar Construction, an analog and digital collaborator capable of continuously improvising music.  Through photographs, original music, diagrams, graphic art and reports, this exhibition traces the development of early computer music and the University of Illinois’ Experimental Music Studio from 1952 to 1975.

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