New Music On The Alles Machine

This video, via the Oberlin TIMARA Department, captures a live performance by Judy Jackson on the ‘Alles Machine’.

TIMARA (Technology In Music And Related Arts) is a program, established at Oberlin in 1967, that supports interdisciplinary work in music.

Jackson performs on the Bell Labs Digital Synthesizer, aka the ‘Alles Machine’, which was built in the 1970’s. The synthesizer was designed by Hal Alles of Bell Labs, and features computer-controlled oscillators, designed for additive synthesis.

TIMARA says that the Alles Machine was donated to the department in 1981, but it was an experimental prototype and fell into disrepair. TIMARA engineer John Talbert recently refurbished the machine and updated it, repurposing the interface to control updated hardware.

Originally, the Alles Machine was controlled by a Digital Equipment Corp. LSI-11 mini-computer. It was fragile and unreliable, because of the limitations the computer hardware of the day.

The system’s computer internals have been replaced with a Mac Mini and runs programs such as the MPIDE Programming Environment, Max/MSP and Steim’s junXion. The system’s digital synthesis engine has also been replaced, so that the system controls software synths running on Mini or external hardware synths. Details are available at the Oberlin site.

via disquiet

16 thoughts on “New Music On The Alles Machine

  1. This came close to being a shocking and revelating piece but this is just the outer shell with softsynths inside from what I am reading, I probably doesn’t sound like the original but who knows
    ? We are therefore left with the only Laurie Spiegels performance as it stands.

  2. Well the max patch was not something to write home about. No interesting control, idea or anything for that matter. As for music the only “musical” idea was the ending…

  3. I hate to be a crank, but this performance sounds nearly completely stochastic. I have compositions ranging from trite to experimental, so I’m not one to throw stones here. However, Laurie Spiegel’s performance (linked just below the article) is amazing (and musical too). Accessibility is not a prerequisite, but does provide a place from which to evaluate the sonic territory a bit of kit can traverse. Admittedly, I’m not that refined and might be missing something. Please educate me (I need it)…

  4. I admire her very much for trying, but reading the page she seems to only be using the hardware interface, the sliders and other physical controllers.

    It is incorrect to say it was originally run from an external computer. We did use a DEC 11/45 but only to write, compile and then download to it the software programs we wrote for it. Once dowloaded to the machine they ran independently of any external control such that it was an entirely stand-alone musical instrument.

    It’s really cool to see it played though, despite its powerful and internal digital sound generation and signal processing being bypassed.

  5. Laurie Spiegel’s performance on the Alles synth is vastly superior to Judy Jackson’s.
    It seems like Jackson doesn’t have a good idea how the synth works as evidenced by her results.

  6. Sorry, but this seems like an act of vandalism.
    Imagine: “Let’s take Emerson’s 1CA Moog and replace the circuitry with a computer and soft synths. The knobs and sliders can be midied so it seems like the original instrument … “

  7. Witness how the Oberlin Conservatory can turn one off of awesome “experimental” music for years.**

    Removing the guts of the machine and then using like a few Peavey PC1600s seems facile and lame, although I suppose it’s better than letting it disappear into total obscurity. Laurie Spiegel’s performance sounds so fantastic in comparison.

    **This curmudgeonly bitterness is bound to occur after exposure to years’ worth of TIMARA profs/students orienting their lives around making DataGloves do silly things over MIDI

  8. Laurie Spiegel’s execution on the Alles synth is immeasurably better than Judy Jackson’s. It appears like Jackson doesn’t have a smart thought how the synth acts as prove by her outcomes.

  9. I admire her very much for trying, but reading the page she seems to only be using the hardware interface, the sliders and other physical controllers. This is not music. They are just random electronic noise. Much of the electronic music is a joke. However, Laurie Spiegel’s performance (linked just below the article) is amazing (and musical too).

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