Music has been my love, my solace, my ecstasy, and my pain. It can sometimes be more real to me than life itself. I can do no better to convey the power of music with words than to pass on those of Aldous Huxley, written in his essay, "Music at Night":

ONLY MUSIC, and only Beethoven's music, and only this particular music of Beethoven, can tell us with any precision what Beethoven's conception of the blessedness at the heart of things actually was. If we want to know, we must listen -- on a still June night, by preference, with the breathing of the invisible sea for background to the music and the scent of lime trees drifting through the darkness, like some exquisite soft harmony appreciated by another sense.

Huxley wrote this after selecting a record at random in the dark, on a nameless night sometime in the 1920's or perhaps the early 30's. The entire essay is well worth reading.

Music is perhaps unique among art forms for the way it has evolved so far with technology without losing its essence or connection to earlier techniques. Skin drums, reed flutes, and the voice were man's first instruments, wielded by shamans and directors of possession dances. Later we had stringed instruments, chords, and bards and minstrels. From mechanically-minded Europe came the keyboard, and performers on the organ, harpsichord, and piano took advantage of the dazzling array of polyphonic possibilities it offered. At around this time standardized notation and new levels of leisure and social stability created a new kind of music that was thought out and written down before being played by large, organized groups. New levels of complexity were explored, felt to be the highest and most intense form of pleasure by some, but abstruse and monotonous by others.

In the middle part of this century another revolution occurred with electricification, which touched every aspect of music. Not only could the sounds made by a small number of people be conveyed to a larger audience, but the sounds that could be made by instruments were fuller and richer as well, so a smaller group could make "full-scale" music. The "power trio" of bass, guitar, and drums could bring a vibrant listening experience approaching what was previously the sole province of large orchestras. Complexity in composition was replaced by complexity in the timbral dimension, and new electrically-based controls like pedals, knobs, and switches were marshalled to manipulate it in a partly indirect and imprecise, but real-time, way. Finally, the ability to record and mix sounds opened up entirely new vistas in musical creation.

The net effect of electrification together with mass distribution media has sharply reduced the role of the specialist (and generally class-priviledged) composer and brought the cutting edge of musical innovation back into the hands of performing musicians and the common people.

The computer promises a further revolution in the same direction, but it has not occurred yet. Eventually, anyone sensitive to music will be able to create deep, satisfying works with the aid of a computer, without the necessity of undergoing long specialized musical training. The computer will take the evolution of music-making interfaces, that has gone from flutes through pianos and electric guitar wah-wah pedals, to the next stage -- the adaptive, user-customizable direct-manipulation medium. But that advance requires a major step forward in human-computer interaction (HCI) technology, which may take some time yet. For now, the field of computer music is divided into the three areas of interface, algorithmic composition, and digital sound manipulation, with the emphasis decidedly on the latter.

This page is not the place for a review of past and present computer music platforms, but check out here and here, and look into the book Computer Music by C. Dodge and T.A. Jerse for more information. There may be some discussion up at For my part, I have ended up experimenting using Csound as a basic platform for sound synthesis, because it is relatively flexible and powerful and is well-documented. Here are some compositions (collected off the net) that use it.
Note: You must hit shift-click (or right-click and "Save Link") to download these, then unpack them and run them through Csound to listen to them.

For a nice example of recent progress on both the algorithmic composition and user interface fronts in computer music, check out the Sseyo "Freeharp" (try a local version here if that link's dead). There are some other cool things available through the site where this came from, -- try to ignore the money-oriented "dot-com-ishness" of this site; there are some good ideas underneath all the hype.

Finally, here are some works of my own.

Fractality (1998)
Created with a sound wave-editing program starting with a 1988 Csound work by Joseph T. Kung.
Wentering (On the Rise) (1998)
Done with Csound, owes instruments to Hans Mikelson.
Lalaiah (2000)
Csound, uses instruments and score fragments also from Hans Mikelson.
New World V2 (2006)
Done with GarageBand, a much more modern tool. Note the more "professional" (and less unique) sound.
Audio Verité (2006)
iPod and microphone on my commute to work. Listening without seeing is a whole different experience.