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VA - The Dartmouth Digital Synthesizer (1976)


The music on this recording was produced on a new kind of synthesizer developed at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. In 1972 composer Jon Appleton began working with two engineers, Sydney Alonso and Cameron Jones, to develop a computer-controlled synthesizer. Significant work had already been done on digital synthesis, but it was felt by the inventors at Dartmouth that an inexpensive, totally dedicated system could help many composers explore this new way of producing sound. The inventors also wanted to create a users language which did not require computer expertise as had previous computer music programs.

Why use a digital synthesizer instead of a Moog or other analog synthesizer? The answer is in the ability to create, by digital means alone, time-variant timbres which make all natural sounds interesting to our ears. The "steady state" timbres produced by analog oscillators are one of the most serious musical limitations of conventional synthesizers. The works presented on this recording have significantly different styles but they have in common the exploration of changing timbre values. These pieces were all composed in 1975 and are the first four compositions produced on the Dartmouth Digital Synthesizer.

Jon Appleton, Sydney Alonso, Cameron Jones, Inventors of the Dartmouth Digital Synthesizer

Georganna's Farewell has a conventional formal structure with a large, chordal gesture separating episodes in which similar pitch material is developed. The composer calls it the "stylistic analog of an earlier work, Georganna's Fancy (1965), which used conventional tape studio techniques." Appleton was born in Los Angeles, California in 1939 and in 1967 founded the Bregman Electronic Music Studio at Dartmouth College. He worked there until 1976 when he became the Director of the Elektronmusikstudion in Stockholm, Sweden. Some of his earlier electronic music is available on the recording The World Music Theatre of Jon Appleton.

Lars-Gunnar Bodin

Bilder (Images) by Lars-Gunnar Bodin is a spare but haunting work. It is in three sections, each exploring different tonal resources of the Dartmouth Digital Synthesizer. Bodin is Sweden's leading composer of electronic music and is Director of the Electronic Music Studio at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm. Born in that city in 1935, Bodin is known for his large scale works, often involving other media as well as music. In 1974 he visited Dartmouth College for a month where he studied the language of the new synthesizer and ultimately composed the work heard here.

Russel Pinkston

Emergence by Russell Pinkston is so titled to suggest the emergence of traditional tonality from an otherwise unfamiliar sonic setting. The composer also intends to communicate the sense of an emergency, especially in the first section of the work. Pinkston was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1949 and was raised in Brooklyn, New York. In 1968 he came to Dartmouth College briefly only to leave as composer, arranger and guitarist for the rock group Tracks. In 1975 he returned to Dartmouth to finish his studies and first began to work with electronic music. He is presently living in New York City.


Tapestry JE by William Brunson is perhaps more "traditionally electronic" in its use of gesture and and timbre. Brunson has composed instrumental music as well as text-sound compositions and this work shows his continuing concern for layered construction. Brunson was born in Dallas, Texas in 1953 and graduated from Dartmouth College in 197 5. He is presently working in the electronic music studio at Fylkingen in Sweden.

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