1961 - Bicycle Built for Two, by Max Mathews and Joan Miller

Bicycle Built for Two

"Computer performance of music was born in 1957 when an IBM 704 in NYC played a 17 second composition on the Music I program which I wrote." -Max Mathews [source]

Max Mathews and Joan Miller were both acoustic researchers working at Bell Labs, then in New York. In 1957, Max Mathews figured out how to digitally synthesize sound on a digital computer, and wrote Music I, the first in a long line of music programming languages to which all digital synthesis has its root. By 1961, they had gotten up to Music IV, which they used to create a fully digitally synthesized version of "Daisy Bell" by Harry Dacre, also known as "Bicycle Built for Two". Arthur C. Clark heard this rendition when he visited Bell Labs and incorporated the idea into 2001, A Space Odyssey, later made into a movie by Stanley Kubrick.

It is quite funny to listen to this piece of music now and think of it of being revolutionary. Computers have gotten so cheap that you can by a greeting card that can play music of similar fidelity. But the creation of digital synthesis had huge effects on music, starting out with the Western Art Music tradition, then rapidly spreading around the world.


Bicycle Built for Two and The Second Law, by max V. Mathews
The Father of Computer Music
Live Performance of Traditional Music with Radio Baton
James Tenney, first composer at Bell Labs

Part of the Non-Linear History of New Media Timeline, an ITP class taught by Michael Naimark.

Assembled by Hans-Christoph Steiner