Computer Music in Chile: The Beginning and some paths to the future: An historical review

Alejandro Albornoz
Department of Music, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom

In the early 70s a small group of people started the computer music activity in Chile. Among these group of professionals and students, there is a remarkable figure: José Vicente Asuar, composer and engineer, pioneer of electroacoustic music in Latin America. This beginning is well documented, although its position within the corresponding historical framework has not an adecuate correlation and there is no a proper theoretical connection with the related works in the next decades, either at Chile and the region or within a global context as well. This paper intends to give a brief review, and as comprehensive as possible, of the historical events involved within this starting point of computer music in Chile. Among these events there are the first explorations in computer assited composition by means of algorithmic procedures, the use of a computer to control analog synthesizers and theoretical texts on these explorations. This little history, small because has few protagonists and occurs in few years, has a leading character in the figure of Asuar, whose relevant technical work, music and thinking is examinated in order to trace paths and prospect links in the future generations. Virtually all the mentioned activities were generated by Asuar, whom carried out difussion through the realease of two LP's. Important is the vanguardistic interdisciplinary work that leads to these works of engineering and art, activity accomplished within the Universidad de Chile.

Nevertheless, there is one more achievement by Asuar, maybe the most significant: the creation of an original computer for only one purpose, that is the creation and performing of music. This computer, the COMDASUAR (Asuar Digital-Analogic Computer) created in the late 70s, had several interesting features as being unique at its moment and combine digital and analogic technology in one equipment. This article shows the general structure of this machine, its synthesis engine and its tools for assisted composition as well, highlighting the combination of a quartz digital oscillator and filtering analogic devices, capability for programming western tempered music, microtonal music or other types, serial techniques and aleatoric procedures named by the author as ``heuristic''.

At the same time, this text addresses significant milestones of the history of informatics in Chile, specially focusing from 1961 to the 80s, period that is the conceptual and technical soil where computer music establishes their foundations. This period marks the arrive of the first digital computer to Chile in 1961 and the social and political evolution of the country through the use of computers within the socialist project of Salvador Allende at early 70s and the neoliberal economic system implanted by the militar dictatorship from 1973 onwards. The use of informatics in different areas such economics, scientific research or in one hand the violation of human rights and in the other hand the the protection of these rights, are the constitutive elements that gives the conceptual framework for the artistic works with computers in Chile.

So, this amalgam will cause, at first, a specificity that confine this knowledge in specialized centers within the academic, state and industrial scopes. The lack of others researchers in this confluence area between art and technology, will cause a gap very notorious if we compare the development on this field in a country like Chile and the main centers of technological and industrial progress located in Europe and North America. After the entry of the first digital machines at the 60s, the consolidation until the 80s, passing through the socialist experience of the network project by Stafford Beer during the Salvador Allende's goverment in the early 70s, it will come the expansion of computing during the growth of the neoliberal economic system by the middle of the 80s. Through this evolution, the achievements by Asuar were forgotten and only viewed with atention abroad within the international electroacoustic community. Moreover, based in Barcelona, the prominent chilean electroacoustic composer Gabriel Brncic put his own algorithm in a colaborative work which reached an state of consolidation with his software ``Ronde-Bosse'' for assited compostion at the early 2000s. Besides this experience, only with the arising of the personal computer alongside the new impulse and the opening of electroacoustic music to new generations due to this technological massification phenomena, a group of researchers, artists and composers will trace a genealogical path between the contemporary chilean computer music and the pioneering realizations by Asuar and conections with Brncic's artistic, technical and pedagogic work.

Finally this paper covers the essential ideas within the ``Ronde-Bosse'' and the theoretical corpus on the use of technology in music by Brncic. At the same time, this article completes the panorama of computer music in Chile making a review of the actual state of the art of the Chilean composers that use computers in music, either for acousmatic, mixed or instrumental creations.

adrian 2015-06-03