More Computer Music Recordings From the 1950′s

zuse Z22_1

Before “the father of computer music” Max Mathews there were others who made computer sounds. In places like Manchester and Sydney, most notably. I assume that there are many just-for-fun examples that are long gone and forgotten. Rumour has it that Saab played computer music in the 1950′s, for example.

But here’s something more concrete. The German computer Zuse Z22 played music in 1958, and there is even a recording of it. It was Irrlicht Project who brought this to my attention (see his lecture on chip history) and he heard it from Stefan Höltgen. In an e-mail, Irrlicht Project told me:

In 1958, the Zuse Z22 was playing “Hänschen klein”, “Mitternachtsblues”, and probably some other stuff as well. I’m guessing this was first done at the production place in Neukirchen, Germany, though there is no info on the actual location available.

This was the same year that Janet Norman played computer music on TV, the Univac played christmas carrols, and Max Mathews released the second version of his computer sequencer.

10 years later Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 movie came out. As you might know, there’s this Daisy Bell song playing in the movie. It’s there because Arthur C. Clarke (who wrote the book) heard a computer sing that song in 1961, and wanted to include it in the book.*

In Germany however, there was another song, mr Irrlicht told me. Germans have a thing for changing the audio in movies, you know. So instead of Daisy Bell, they chose to play Hänschen Klein – the song that the Z22 played! So Hänschen Klein is like the European equivalent to Daisy Bell. Or atleast was. But it didn’t really catch on, I guess.

Hänschen Klein means Johnnie Small if you ask Google Translate, but it actually means small chicken, I think. If you ask Wikipedia, the song is called Little Hans. So a bit of confusion there. On the other hand, I think the real name of Daisy Bell is Bicycle Built For Two, right?

There is also confusion about the music of Z22. Plenty of information seems to be offered in a DVD, which these two links talk about. If you have more info (or the DVD) feel free to get in touch. If you want more computer music history, check out the timeline.

* Daisy Bell is usually credited Max Mathews. He did the background music, but it was actually John Kelly who made the voice programming. Let your loved ones know.

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2 Responses to “More Computer Music Recordings From the 1950′s”

  1. papernoise Says:

    Little chicken would be “kleines Hühnchen” noch Hänschen, which in fact ist a diminutive for Hans, so the bes translation is really Johnnie Small.
    Anyway, I really like these old computer music recordings thanks for these great articles!

  2. Pavlov Says:

    There is a freudian case named Little Hans. In fact it is the first psychoanalisys treatment on a child

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