Salvatore Martirano’s Marvelous Music-Composing Machine In Concert October 4, 2022

The many dimensions of Salvatore Martirano. Photographs from the Salvatore Martirano Music and Papers, and the Salvatore Martirano website by Dorothy Martirano.

The Sousa Archives preserves a wonderful array of historical music instruments of every shape, size, and name.  One of our most unique instruments is Salvatore Martirano’s Sal-Mar Construction.  Martirano served on the faculty of the School of Music’s Theory and Composition Department between 1963 and 1995.  Today, he is recognized for his creation of a series of early electronic music systems, like the Sal-Mar Construction, to perform music using human and computer-generated sounds.

The Sal-Mar, developed at the University of Illinois between 1969 and 1972, is an analog and digital instrument that continuously produces varied music soundscapes.   To comprehend this rare instrument one needs to understand the compositional nature of its creator.

To be clear, our marvelous Sal-Mar Construction will not miraculously spin from thin air new Mozart sonatas or Jerry Garcia tunes.  However, the instrument is capable of creating and producing infinite combinations of sound, timbre, rhythm, and form that when brought together by a performer become a continuous stream of music.

According to David Rosenboom, who helped Martirano develop the music device, “one might think of the Sal-Mar Construction as a macro-composition” in which the instrument has the potential to generate “infinite streams of micro-compositions” as unique movements or musical spaces from a single universal work.

To experience this unusual rare instrument, one must see and hear it played in real time and space.  On October 4, David Rosenboom will give a special lecture-performance, “The Multi-Faceted Compositional Legacy of Salvatore Martirano and His Sal-Mar Construction,” at the University of Illinois’ School of Music Auditorium (7:30-9:00pm,).  A live performance of the Sal-Mar Construction by Greg Danner and Ken Beck will then be streamed from the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music where the instrument is permanently housed.  This presentation is part of the 2023 MillerComm series, “Neuromusic: Proposition from an Art-Science Convergence.”

In addition to this special presentation and performance, the Sousa Archives’ new exhibit, “Intelligent Instruments: The Music Technology of Salvatore Martirano and David Rosenboom” opens at the School of Music on October 3 and will remain in the lobby of the Music Building until October 14 when it will be transfer to the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music in the Harding Band Building.

For further information about this lecture-performance and the Sousa Archives’ new exhibit call 217-333-4577 or email

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