The Experimental Music Studio (EMS) recordings consist of 158 audio reels of performances and compositions created at MIT as part of the EMS program. The collection features some of the earliest recordings of computer music including works by Joan La Barbara, Tod Machover, Mario Davidovsky, and Charles Dodge, along with other composers, programmers, and artists.
Founded in 1973 by Barry Vercoe, EMS was the first facility in the world to dedicate digital computers to the full-time research and composition of computer music. The studio was responsible for developing and improving technologies including real-time digital synthesis, graphical patching languages, and advanced music languages.
Professors Barry Vercoe and Marcus Thompson working in front of a graphical score editor, circa 1976. Photo courtesy of MIT Black History.
The Experimental Music Studio was one of the great innovating studios in the field of Experimental and Computer Music. Founded in 1973, as the first facility in the world to dedicate digital computers to the full-time research and composition of computer music, its members were responsible for developing and significantly improving technologies such as real-time digital synthesis, live keyboard input, graphical score editing, graphical patching languages, synchronization between natural and synthetic sound in composition, and advanced music languages. The collection features some of the earliest recordings of computer music including works by John Chowning, who was responsible for the discovery of the frequency modulation synthesis (FM) algorithm; Judith Eissenberg, a founding member of the Lydian String Quartet; Paul Lansky, generally considered one of the creators of electronic and computer music; Pulitzer prize winner Mario Davidovsky; music cognition theorist Jeanne Bamberger; and John Stautner, one of the pioneers of standardizing music storage files leading to the mp3, along with many others.
A selection of the digitized recordings are available through DSpace for researcher use.
Inaugural Concert of the MIT Experimental Music Studio
Kresge Auditorium, 2/7/76. Edwin Dugger: Music for Synthesizer and 6 instruments (1966), Barry Vercoe: Synapse for Viola and Computer (1976), Milton Babbitt: Philomel (1964)
Funding provided by
This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Special thanks to the GBH archive for allowing us to use their equipment for some of the reels.
The metadata for this project is dedicated to the public domain under a CC0 Creative Commons license and is available as a pdf and an excel spreadsheet.
Additional recordings are being added to this collection as they are digitized.
Collections Processing and Access
The ACT Archives and Special Collections are currently closed to researchers. For questions regarding access please contact MIT Libraries Distinctive Collections at firstname.lastname@example.org.