Max Mathews, electronic music pioneer, RIP

Electronic music pioneer Max V. Mathews died a few days ago at the age of 84. While at BELL Labs in the 1950s, Matthews developed MUSIC, the first popular computer program for generating sound. The multimedia visual programming language Max/MSP was named in part for Mathews. From Wikipedia:

 -M 94715B7Ve Tbcayuxdami Aaaaaaacwtu Ohzu5Jwaad0 S400 Mathews84Violin In 1961, Mathews arranged the accompaniment of the song "Daisy Bell" for an uncanny performance by computer-synthesized human voice, using technology developed by John Kelly of Bell Laboratories and others. Author Arthur C. Clarke was coincidentally visiting friend and colleague John Pierce at the Bell Labs Murray Hill facility at the time of this remarkable speech synthesis demonstration and was so impressed that he later told Stanley Kubrick to use it in 2001: A Space Odyssey, in the climactic scene where the HAL 9000 computer sings while his cognitive functions are disabled.
Max Mathews, father of computer music and Stanford professor, dies at 84


  1. Mr. Matthews was great man with equally great accomplishments. Thank you for bringing him to our attention.

  2. Here is a later (and clearer) recording of the demo with some narration (the last track: Synthesized computer speech demonstration) , at the end they have daisy with the digital piano accompaniment, and also a mention that the digital piano “player” plays with a stylized left hand.

  3. In the mid 1950s RCA issued an LP of The RCA Electronic Music Synthesizer. Demonstrated are the creation of each instrument used to form a composite recording of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies”. They also demonstrate an attempt to synthesize the human voice but it was very crude. I may still have a copy.

  4. I have a video of Max Mathews discussing H.A.L. and Daisy Bell. In the clip, Max says Kubrick visited Bell Labs to get a sense of “what a telephone booth in space would should look like.” While there, John Pierce introduced Kubrick to computer music.

  5. I recall listening to about 30 hours of that song at the 1984 International Personal Robotics Convention courtesy of the Androbot display. I wonder if Nolan Bushnell was deliberately echoing this?

  6. I pretty sure that in 1961 movies had gotten past the all the fake scratches and flecks that overwhelm this video.

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