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.