EMS Proceedings and Other Publications

Computer Music in Chile: The Beginning and some Paths to Nowadays – An historical review

Alejandro Albornoz

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


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In the early 70’s a small group of people started the computer music activity in Chile. Among these group of professionals and students, there is a remarkable figure: Josť 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 adequate 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-assisted 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 examined in order to trace paths and prospect links in the future generations. Virtually all the mentioned activities were generated by Asuar, whom carried out diffusion through the release 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 Musical Computer) created in the late 70’s, 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 80’s, 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 70’s and the neoliberal economic system implanted by the military 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 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 60’s, the consolidation until the 80’s, passing through the socialist experience of the network project by Stafford Beer during the Salvador Allende’s government in the early 70’s, it will come the expansion of computing during the growth of the neoliberal economic system by the middle of the 80’s decade. Through this evolution, the achievements by Asuar were forgotten and only viewed with attention abroad within the international electroacoustic community. Moreover, based in Barcelona, the prominent Chilean electroacoustic composer Gabriel Brnčić put his own algorithm in a collaborative work which reached an state of consolidation with his software ‘Ronde-Bosse’ for assisted composition at the early 2000’s. 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 connections with Brnčić’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 Brnčić. At the same time, this article completes the panorama of computer music in Chile making a review of the actual state of the art with a short list of Chilean composers that use computers in music, either for acousmatic, mixed or instrumental creations.

EMS15 Proceedings