composition by Lejaren A. Hiller, Jr., and Leonard M. Isaacson
a musical performance with visual annotations

The String Quartet #4 was written in 1957 by Lejaren A. Hiller, Jr., and Leonard M. Isaacson. At the time they were, respectively, a postdoctoral associate and a graduate student in the research group of Fred Wall at the University of Illinois. They used their experience with the ILLIAC for computing polymer conformations and adapted the approach to develop rules for composition of music. The work is generally acknowledged as the first music composed by a computer, and they published their work as a book, "Experimental Music: Composition with an Electronic Computer," McGraw-Hill, 1959, which details the procedures for developing the four movements (called "Experiments"). The piece was initially judged to be notoriously difficult, but the first recording was arranged by Hiller using local faculty performers. The performance is available on Wergo compact disc #WER 60128-50, entitled "Lejaren Hiller: Computer Music Retrospective" with the Composition String Quartet of the University of Illinois: William Mullen and David Rosenbloom, violins, Theodore Lucas, viola, and Lee Duckles, cello.

(Return to Hiller Symposium schedule)