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History of Electronic Music at UCSC

The UCSC electronic music program began in 1970, when faculty member Eric Regner commandeered a room at College V (Now Porter) and set up a newly acquired Moog synthesizer. Additional equipment was designed and built by students, most notably Bob Hoover, Michael Schippling and Carl Fravel.

In 1973, Gordon Mumma joined the faculty as a lecturer to oversee electronic music and the studio moved to the basement of the J building (Now Theater Arts). The equipment roster was expanded significantly under an "innovative projects" grant and then reduced drastically by a burglary.

In 1975 quarters in communications became available, offering security and space. Mumma's appointment was made permanent and Carl Fravel was engaged as the studio's first professional engineer. During the next five years tape composition and synthesis facilities were gradually enhanced by a series of construction projects that included the studio's first computer system. During this time a second studio was opened, along with a control room to allow use of the main studio as a recording space. The curriculum was expanded and regularized when a campus reorganization moved support from the colleges to discipline based departments. Typical enrollment was 12 to 15 students per quarter. In addition to offerings by Mumma, classes were taught by James Tenney, David Cope and Fravel. The program was also enriched by visits by Roger Reynolds, Maggi Payne, David Rosenboom, Brian Eno, and John Cage.

In 1980, Carl moved on and was replaced by Peter Elsea, whose appointment is split between technical and teaching duties. The 80's were a time of revolution for electronic music, and the studios kept up as well as funding would allow, going through four generations of computer systems, the birth and explosion of MIDI controlled digital synthesizers, and rapid development in multi-track recording techniques. Equipment was reorganized to accommodate four or five simultaneous users, and enrollments often exceeded 50 students per quarter. The curriculum was again expanded, to a two year program of study. Mumma and Elsea's teaching was supplemented by John Felder and Michael Babcock.

With the retirement of Gordon Mumma (now professor emeritus) studio enrollment has been reduced slightly, but graduate students are beginning to make their presence known. Some of Prof.. Mumma's teaching duties have been taken over by Gerry Basserman, and David Cope is now teaching graduate level courses.

Planning for new studios began in 1988 when the new music building was first proposed. The studio wing of the building was completed in 1999. Although only slightly larger than the facilities in communications, the space is more efficiently used with smaller rooms tailored to the needs of the curriculum. Thanks to the efforts of acousticians Ron McKay and Bill Dohn the sonic qualities of the space are outstanding, with interroom isolation superior to most professional recording facilities and full spectrum neutral internal characteristics. The rooms also feature such amenities as isolated power systems and ultra quiet lighting.

The studios contain nearly $300,000 worth of sophisticated synthesis, recording, and computing equipment, including classic analog systems (that first Moog is still in use) and the latest digital software. Students are able to produce digital multitrack recordings, compose synchronized soundtracks for videos, use computers to synthesize sound or as interactive components in live performance, make their own CDs, and thoroughly prepare themselves for music making in the 21st century.

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