Laurie Spiegel and the Bell Labs Computer May 5, 1975

Laurie Spiegel’s presentation at 224 Center Street on April 22 included six prerecorded pieces which she has produced on the Bell Labs computer within the last six months, along with one earlier work, and none of them contain any performance elements. It was a fairly long program, and I find that I cannot recall it as clearly as I can usually recall live performances, but a piece called ‘Patchwork’ did stick in my ear. It is lighter than most of Spiegel’s music, with nice bouncy rhythms on a five-note scale, and a ricky-tick sort of sound that reminded me vaguely of banjo music. Much of it works with repetitive sequences, but these are generally broken up in unexpected ways after a short time. Another relatively simple piece used only four tones, which sound something like tuned drums. The piece is about rhythm, and the relationships between the rhythmic patterns are intricate enough to challenge the ear most of the time, though the general mood is never stuffy.

The other pieces were more complex, perhaps more profound, and quite different from one another—so different that it is difficult to pin down Spiegel’s specific stylistic characteristics. Some of the music dealt with unusual tonal harmonies, some involved a lot of stereophonic movement, and some was almost arrhythmic. All the pieces had been composed note for note rather than allowing the computer to work out variations on its own, all were recorded immaculately, and all are a little hazy in my memory. But as I say, that probably has more to do with my own problems with the medium than with any actual dullness in the music.