A Fluxus Tracker from 1961 (sort of)


In a previous post I suggested that a print-out by Lejaren Hiller as the first example of a tracker. Now I came across another interesting example, which appeared even earlier.

Music for Piano No. 7 was made by Toshi Ichiyanagi (Fluxus) in 1961.The instructions are arranged vertically instead of horizontally, just like in a tracker. And it could also be seen as a text-mode representation. While trackers normally only use the alphanumerical parts of the charset in its notation, this utilizes the other symbols of the charset. Just like I did in Remote Control Music Studio.

I think this is interesting as an odd proto-tracker. But the other isntances from this series are not as text-modey and seem to work with both horizontal and vertical organization. So, it’s not a spot-on example. But still. I wanted to have it here for future reference. So please enjoy responsibly.

7 Responses to “A Fluxus Tracker from 1961 (sort of)”

  1. michael Says:

    i think what really distinguishes a tracker from other notations is not the orientation (slowtracker 2 and pixitracker run horizontally) but that position correlates to timing but not to pitch. systems like piano roll and stave notation use position to indicate pitch; mml, abc and other text formats don’t use position to indicate timing. i don’t know how this system works but it seems like horizontal position is correlated to something about the music itself?

    it’s interesting though! and nice to look at.

    p.s. is the music for piano #7 hyperlink pointing to the wrong place?

    • goto80 Says:

      That is very elegantly put. Wish I’d thought of that, tbh. :) I haven’t looked into how this system works and it’s quite unclear what it’s supposed to do..

      Fixed the piano link, so now it points to the right place!

      • michael Says:

        since you liked the definition, i’m testing it. here’s “thinpulse tracker 2.14 ”
        there is no gui, the input is only a text file, but it seems to fit my definition of tracker. is this a tracker? have i ~gone too far~? what do you think?

      • goto80 Says:

        cool, nice work! if we have to label it, i’d call it a tracker because there’s no better word for it, right? but if you push it a bit more…

        granted i’m very outdated on synthesizers, but at some point the tracker-style editing gets similar to arpeggio editors, right? sequencing notes vertically, adding effects…

        maybe some people would call this an arpeggio editor, these days?

  2. Alexandra Sendy Says:

    It’s weird that there are no discernable patterns. I do see a sort of blissed-out closed eyes smiley in the bottom right, though, so there’s that.

  3. Ancient Trackers | CHIPFLIP Says:

    […] in traditional notation. In the 1960s, Lejaren Hiller (almost the inventor of computer music) and a Japanese Fluxus-guy made musical instructions that looked similar to what tracker songs do today. Vertical text-mode […]

  4. Trackers from 1981 and 1983 | CHIPFLIP Says:

    […] computer scientists and Fluxus artists made things that were rather tracker-like (here, here) and there are probably precursors from hundreds of years […]

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