Mathews, Max Vernon

Mathews, Max Vernon, 1926–2011, American engineer known as the father of computer music, b. Columbus, Nebr., grad. California Institute of Technology (B.S., 1950), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Ph.D., 1954). At New Jersey's Bell Labs in 1957, Mathews wrote the first computer program, called Music, that allowed a computer to generate a sound (a 17-second composition he created) and play it back. In later years Mathews created other, more sophisticated versions; he also wrote Groove, the first computer program made for live performance, and developed the Radio Baton, two drumsticklike wands that controlled the speed and sound levels of digitized orchestral music. Mathews collaborated with composers Edgard Varèse and John Cage, and helped Pierre Boulez create his computer-music research center in Paris. From 1962 to 1985 Mathews was director of the Bell Labs Acoustical and Behavioral Research Center, and later was a professor of music at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford.

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