Excerpts from

The Electronic Arts of Sound and Light by Ronald Pellegrino (c) 1983 by Van Nostrand Reinhold Company Inc. ISBN 0-442-26499-2

The inclusion on this site of material from my book, The Electronic Arts of Sound and Light, was triggered by an email message informing me of a website devoted to "The History of Experimental Music in Northern California" that included excerpts from my book. After checking out the site, I wrote to Jim Horton, one of its designers, that "My first reaction to finding the material from my book was that I was both honored and bothered. Honored that you found so much of interest to excerpt and bothered that you excerpted so much." After reflecting on it, I decided to post the excerpts on my own site with chapter titles so there would a more meaningful context for each excerpt.

What follows is material describing their site. I recommend the site highly. http://www.o-art.org/history/77-83/Pellegrino/

From: hrtn@osho.mcs.csuhayward.edu (Jim Horton)

The Emergency Committee To Make Time Go Forward presents an archive of texts on "The History of Experimental Music in Northern California".

Jim Horton wrote: "In 1991 Mason Jones put out his compilation "Wakened By Silence: San Francisco Area Experimental Music." I found it interesting that I didn´t know the artists on those tapes and that of the many experimental music composers that I knew none were included. This led me to study the various circles and scenes and their histories.

These files are radically incomplete but with over a million words in over 1200 files the surface has been scratched. I believe they contain pretty conclusive evidence that we have been living through a Golden Age of music."

Background information on
The Electronic Arts of Sound and Light

I signed the contract to write The Electronic Arts of Sound and Light in the spring of 1977, started working on it in the fall of 1977, and finished it during the summer of 1981. During those four years I spent more than 9 months out of every year on the road giving multimedia performances in the USA and abroad, teaching music composition and technology for a year at Miami University and for three years at Texas Tech University, consulting on business electronic arts projects, founding/directing and finding funds for The Leading Edge Music Series in Lubbock, Texas, and helping to establish the long running New Music America Festivals. In other words, I was actually working on the subject material of the book and writing about it during the cracks in my schedule.

Before the title of my book was announced in the late 70s there were few, if any, references to the electronic arts. Just before the release of the book, the publishers, Van Nostrand Reinhold, set up a book tour to the major cities around the USA to appear on television and radio talk shows; they also funded the bulk of a three-week tour to make presentations at universities and museums. The high level of broadcast media interest in the electronic arts was surprising; it seemed they sensed we were on the threshold of a popular multimedia revolution. After the book was released in the early 80s, the expression, "electronic arts," became mainstream. Now in the late 90s there are international societies for the electronic arts as well as university programs and degrees in the electronic arts.

The book covers the first 14 years of my research in the electronic arts - from 1967 to 1981. As far as I know (please show me if I´m wrong) it's the first book to deal in detail with the subjects of visual music, real-time composition, and performance multimedia with electronic instruments (in the 70s and early 80s it was called intermedia or integrated media).

The notion of visual music, a sphere I've been exploring since the late 60s, is just beginning to pick up steam in the late 90s probably because the younger generation of artists is growing up in a multimedia world. The vast majority of older (over 30?) visual artists tend to be studio, gallery, and object oriented. They are materialists with a weak sense of the ephemeral and what´s involved in articulating the dynamical flow of time. Specialists in music seem to be too busy with their notes or generally disinclined to explore the sphere of visual music. Finally in the late 90s the new breed of multimedia artist is emerging, younger artists who seem to sense that today's instrument of the electronic arts, the multimedia computer, has the built-in facility for integrating the electronic arts of sound and light. The multimedia computer and a language like Java, that can function as a software multimedia synthesizer, bring us to the threshold of a visual music age.

Real time composition is an expression I coined in the late 60s to differentiate by attitude and preparation live composition/performance work that transcends the bulk of improvisation performances. In the late 60s and 70s music improvisation was a hot area and mostly full of hot air because the improvisers were instrumentalists by training and rarely capable of thinking like composers. For years it was noodles galore and the same is usually true today in the late 90s despite more and more people calling their improvisation work real time composition. Real time composition is as old as composers thinking out loud on their instruments. It's the essence of the Indian music tradition; attend a performance of Zakir Hussain or Ali Akbar Khan for inspiring examples.

Performance-multimedia with electronic instruments is slowly gaining ground in the late 90s. For most people in the late 90s multimedia means desktop multimedia or online multimedia, both relatively new and low fidelity branches of the multimedia tree. Performance multimedia remains far too complex and demanding for the mass of single medium specialists that has recently embraced the idea of multimedia. There are still relatively few multimedia artists with the knowledge base, interdisciplinary experience, and technical proficiency to bring off a successful performance-multimedia event. However, given that the performance tools are getting less expensive, more powerful, and better integrated, it shouldn't be too long before the performance branch of multimedia begins to grow exponentially.

The book is out of print, but there were thousands of copies sold worldwide so it should be found in any good university or public library. During the 2000s there has been a hot market for it on Amazon.com.

For quick access to the excerpts use the following chapter links. Note that Jim Horton and company did not take excerpts from chapters that to them did not seem fit in with their experimental music theme - Chapter 2, The Nature of Waves (the theoretical foundation of the electronic arts) and Chapters 5 and 6, Oscillographics and Film and Videographics and the Electronic Arts Studio (these chapters are packed with information on visual music and multimedia).


Prologue.......An Ode to Electronic Instruments in the Arts
Chapter 1......A Brief History
Chapter 2......The Nature of Waves
Chapter 3......The Synthesizer: An Interactive Electronic Wave Instrument
Chapter 4......The Computer
Chapter 5......Oscillographics and Film
Chapter 6......Videographics and the Electronic Arts Studio
Chapter 7......Laser Light Forms
Chapter 8......Composition

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