Music for Media lecture by Clarence Barlow

Interdisciplinary research,
education and capacity building

22 Jun 2012

"Software Development as a Means to Music Composition" - June 29, 18h30 at PINC

The Music for Media lecture series continues on June 29, 2012, with Clarence Barlow on the topic:

Software Development as a Means to Music Composition
A description of selected compositional software I have developed since 1971


It was in 1970 that I first felt the need for software to aid me in composition. The music in question, for cello, trombone and vibraphone, was to be generated by algebraic formulae for probabilistic calculations and by random number generation. Initial attempts with logarithmic tables and dice, later with a 25-kilogramme electric office calculator, proved to be too time-consuming – for three minutes of music I estimated that I would need six months working at least six hours a day. After some consideration I accordingly attended a course on the Fortran programming language at Cologne University and was able to generate all the data within a week, data I manually transferred to music notation in a few days after that. This was probably the first music score to be computer-generated in Germany and proved to be an important turning-point in my life.

At that time, no software was available in Europe for general use in music composition. Composers, e.g. Xenakis in France, had to do all the programming themselves. I was no exception. But access to computers made compositional ideas possible that could not be realised otherwise. Since 1971 I have frequently written software, not only for one-time use (as in the music for cello, trombone and vibraphone mentioned above), but also for repeated usage. This paper is a description of some of my multi-usage programs.

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