Max Matthews

Last night I went to a Stanford Symphony Orchestra concert for Max Matthews. I didn’t know who he was when I went, or why I was really going, or what kind of music it would be.

There were three pieces. The first was “Sock Monkey” composed by current Stanford professor, Mark Applebaum. Not my favorite piece. I still have a hard time with contemporary orchestral pieces in the same way that I haven’t grown an appreciation for abstract art.

I liked the second piece a little more. “The Twilight of Our Mind”, written by Per Boland, a current Stanford grad student used an electronic recording of text from “The Plague” by Albert Camus.

The third piece was “Rythmicana” by Henry Cowell. It included Max Matthews using the Radio Baton connected to a Mac running his Conductor software that was connected to an IBM controlling the Rythmicon. The Rythmicon was conceived by Léon Theremin.

When I read the name Theremin in the program, I realized I had heard it just recently. Someone had posted a link to a YouTube video about a theremin, and a friend of mine had bought one for his wife’s birthday once. I guess there was one featured in The Simpsons once too. Interesting that I’ve run into that name twice in a month and now actually heard one of his inventions.

Rythmicana was more interesting for me, but I still don’t really believe in computers being used in music. Restarting the third movement three times because of hardware malfunction seems . However, now that I’ve read more about Max Matthews, it all makes sense that they were using computers for his 80th birthday tribute concert. Max Matthews arranged “Daisy Bell”, the song sung by HAL9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I know, I’m a geek, but that is pretty darn cool!


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