Historic Mills College & Center for Contemporary Music Closing

Mills College – a private liberal arts and sciences college in Oakland, California – has announced that it will be closing, after conferring its final degrees in 2023.

The College had been at its current location since 1871.

Mills President Elizabeth L. Hillman says that the decision is a result of a combination of the economic burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic, structural changes across higher education, and Mills’ declining enrollment and budget deficits.

The Center For Contemporary Music

Morton Subotnick and the original Buchla 100 modular synthesizer at Mills College

The College is notable to the world of electronic music as the home of the Center for Contemporary Music (CCM).

CCM got its start in 1961 as the San Francisco Tape Music Center, co-founded by former Mills music students Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender, with help from Pauline Oliveros. In 1966 the center moved to Mills College, where it was later renamed the Center for Contemporary Music.

Artists associated with the Tape Music Center or CCM include Robert Ashley, David Behrman, David Rosenboom, Laurie Anderson, Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson, Holly Herndon, Terry Riley, Steve Reich and many others.

The Original Buchla 100

CCM is also the home of the original Buchla 100 system.

In this 2017 Waveshaper Media video, founders Subotnick and Sender meet with Professor Maggi Payne and talk about working with Don Buchla in 1963 to create the early modular system:

You can find out more about CCM and its history at the Mills College site.

21 thoughts on “Historic Mills College & Center for Contemporary Music Closing

  1. I wonder what will happen to the Buchla 100. If they sell it they could probably afford to keep going for a few more decades

    1. I hope not the same thing that happened to the ARP that was used for NPR’s first opening music. That instrument disappeared. Could have gone into someone’s attic or basement, but probably a trash bin. “Oh, what’s this weird thing here? Chuck it.”

  2. > the decision is a result of a combination of
    > the economic burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic,
    > structural changes across higher education,
    > Mills’ declining enrollment and budget deficits

    nah. the real reason is the invention of VST plugins in 1996 by Steinberg. VST instruments emulate the look of the original equipment as well as its sonic characteristics. This lets musicians and recording engineers use virtual versions of devices that otherwise might be difficult and expensive to obtain.

    “I will tell you the truth”
    ———Joe Biden

      1. there is truth to that statement.

        especially in the age of YouTube tutorials or various specialized online audio engineering/music courses.

        with plugins that put all chords/progression/music theory at your finger tips. just randomly press bunch of virtual pads on a screen.

        and Artificial Intelligence-powered mastering audio suits.

        you can do a lot on an iPhone, or run an entire studio on an iPad/Laptop if you want to go big!

        throw in a cheap plastic daw controller and $20 cloud subscription to Roland/Reason and you are already having more than enough to release your EP on Spotify or BeatPort.

        do you really want to go $50,000+ in DEBT when you are not even allowed to play on a street corner for nickel and dimes??

        remember we are going to be in the state of “New Normal” for a foreseeable future. (2030 and beyond)
        which means: no concerts, no events, no clubs, no gigs. 6 feet apart. mask up.

        Universities/Higher Education have become obsolete. If you want to learn, you have everything at your finger tips like no other time in history. this goes for other disciplines as well. Science, Humanities, etc. except Medicine perhaps.

        on the plus side: no more subsidizing cushy retirement funds for school administrators + not being poisoned with radical ideologies is a big bonus.

        1. “on the plus side: no more subsidizing cushy retirement funds for school administrators + not being poisoned with radical ideologies is a big bonus.”

          There’s the money quote – you’ve been brainwashed by right-wing talking points to think that colleges are pushing ‘radical ideologies’.

          While extreme right-wing wingnuts can surely dig up a few collegiate crazies, they’re bullshitting you when they pretend that any mainstream radicalism at colleges and universities continued past the 1970’s.

          The bigger picture is that you and ragnhild have the wacky idea that downloading ripped plugins off the Internet is going to replace a 4-year post-secondary degree, and that somehow is why private colleges and universities are biting the dust.

          That insanely stupid – colleges and universities are hurting because the government has cut support for education and because wages have been artificially depressed by right-wing government policies for 40 years.

          In the 70s, I could pay my way through college by working summers at minimum wage, and make enough to cover tuition and living expenses. The right-wing has turned college students into a cash-cow for lenders.

          To add layers to the onion of ignorance you two have been unable to peel, you don’t seem to understand that Mills is not a music school.

          1. > To add layers to the onion of ignorance you two
            > have been unable to peel, you don’t seem to
            > understand that Mills is not a music school.

            Stop owning yourself. It´s laughable. From their website:

            “Groundbreaking directors of the Center for Contemporary Music include Robert Ashley, David Behrman, David Rosenboom, Maggi Payne, Chris Brown.”

            And now…

            “As a music student at Mills, you can become part of this tradition.”

            As a music student.

            Source: https://www.mills.edu/academics/graduate-programs/music/center-contemporary-music/index.php

            1. You’ve figured out that CCM is available to music majors within a liberal arts college.

              Maybe next you’ll figure out that they have 50 majors!

              Then, just maybe, you’ll make the cognitive leap to the idea that ‘dudes ripping plugins’ isn’t the reason the college is closing.

        2. You nailed it sir. Going into big debt to pay for ideological brainwashing and a degree that won’t command much of a salary is a bad deal. Many universities today are essentially just gatekeepers who demand top dollar for mediocre instruction along with a large serving of unwanted political attitudes. Degrees from such places are staunchy defended by those who’ve already sunk the cost into the system, but for the new generation, we see that it is a waste of money. Notice also that politicians pushing “free” education never talk about driving cost down. Their higher education coohorts wouldn’t want that. Degrees are stil useful for doctors, engineers, stem types, but not required for self disciplined musical people who can succeed on their own without all that debt.

    1. you dont need to go to an art college to learn how to create art (and drive a taxi later to earn a living 😉 )
      but you certainly need to be educated by professionals to become a medical doctor.
      its apples and oranges, you can not compare that.

      1. have you listened to a movie in the past 20 years?
        the dialogue is so silent you dont understand a word anymore and the music is so load it blast you away to sell the mediocre story. bah.

  3. Mills owns an art collection that could fetch several hundred million at auction. It’s the largest art collection held by any college in the US.

    The current problems have nothing to do with covid. In 2017 they laid off numerous prominent tenured faculty. This caused fewer highly qualified applicants in admissions, less interest by wealthy students that could full pay, and reduced alumni donations. In order to increase applications, they then dramatically lowered their tuition, causing them to be ranked as one of the best value private colleges in the west. This did increase enrollment interest, but student and faculty quality and alumni prestige had already taken huge hits.

    Throughout all of this selling any of their massive art collection including well known pieces by renowned artists like Picasso has been completely off the table. They are keeping that collection no matter what.

  4. The important thing is, all parties at fault for this will land cushy jobs ruining some other college. it’s the higher ed way.

  5. According to the source I found, the college is not closing down entirely, but remaining as an ‘institute’. Not sure what that means. But it suggests that CCM need not close or sell of the Buchla’s. Some here may know more details, though, I’d be interested to hear.

    Also, if I understand rightly, it has always been female-only for undergraduates, and there may have been a slow long term trend away from this (I have no idea but I would not be surprised).

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