Lejaren Hiller was one of the first people to generate music with a computer. He was doing it already in the 1950s, just like for example Douglas Bolitho and Martin Klein (info).
The picture above though, shows something else. It’s a dot matrix print-out with instructions for how to operate the volume and EQ knobs on your hi-fi system while playing the record “Program (Knobs) for the Listener”, released in 1970.
While others would surely salivate over the random (?) numbers and the interaction/remixism that this presents, I’m more interested in seeing it as a tracker. A primitive tracker, but nevertheless:
- It’s a text-mode list of instructions that runs vertically.
- There are discrete steps fixed in time and all the instructions are locked to these steps, like a soundtracker.
- The instructions are not absolute, but relative to whatever sound is coming from “under the hood” like a hypertracker.
- It’s divided into tracks, and the tracks affect eachother just like they do on many old soundchips.
Sure, you could see this as an analogue step sequencer, combined with the ideas of John Cage (who Hiller worked with). It’s only the print out that makes it seem like a tracker. Makes sense. But then again, it is the level of interface that is the most defining part of trackers. Trackers could use analogue synthesis and generative features. They just never do. :–)
Btw – some people claim that Lejaren Hiller did the first computer music, but that is not true. In Australia and the UK people made computer compositions and audio as early as 1951. See here.
But could we say that this is the first example of a tracker interface? Yeah, of course we can. This is Chipflip, where dreams come true. So who’s up for the challenge of finding something older that looks like a tracker? I’m sure it exists, right?