The inventor of FM synthesis, John Chowning revolutionized the music industry.
John ChowningJohn Chowning is Professor Emeritus at Stanford and founding director of the university’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). As a composer, Chowning has worked toward turning his discovery of frequency modulation synthesis (FM) into a system of musical importance, using it extensively in his works. Learn more about John Chowning.
In 1967, John Chowning discovered FM synthesis: a straightforward yet powerful way of producing rich synthesized sounds.
The simplicity of FM synthesis allowed composers to appropriate a new technology that would soon change the world: the computer. Yamaha released the DX-7, based on Chowning’s FM synthesis algorithm, in 1983. The global sonic landscape was transformed, often in unexpected ways, as computer music moved from the lab to studios, recordings, concerts and homes. Today, the applications of FM synthesis are omnipresent — in everything from contemporary electronic music to cell phone ringtones.
John Chowning’s residency is presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology and the MIT Media Lab.
Sound Synthesis and Perception: Composing from the Inside Out
October 11, 2012
75 Amherst Street, Cambridge
With soprano Maureen Chowning, John Chowning performs the new work Voices (2011) for solo soprano and interactive computer using MaxMSP. Chowning also presents three iconic early pieces, Turenas (1972), Stria (1977) and Phoné (1981), that each make use of sound spatialization, algorithmic composition, and FM synthesis algorithms in unique ways. Chowning shows how the development of 4-channel spatial illusions— spatialization — launched the discovery of FM synthesis. Its development gave rise to both the perceptual insights leading to the composition of Turenas and the synthesis of the singing voice found in Voices and Phoné. In Stria and Voices, both the scale (pitch space) and the inharmonic timbres (spectral space) are rooted in the Golden Ratio.
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