How a team of musicians, engineers, computer scientists, and psychologists developed computer music as an academic field and ushered in the era of digital music.
In the 1960s, a team of Stanford musicians, engineers, computer scientists, and psychologists used computing in an entirely novel way: to produce and manipulate sound and create the sonic basis of new musical compositions. This group of interdisciplinary researchers at the nascent Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA, pronounced “karma”) helped to develop computer music as an academic field, invent the technologies that underlie it, and usher in the age of digital music. In The Sound of Innovation, Andrew Nelson chronicles the history of CCRMA, tracing its origins in Stanford's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory through its present-day influence on Silicon Valley and digital music groups worldwide.
Nelson emphasizes CCRMA's interdisciplinarity, which stimulates creativity at the intersections of fields; its commitment to open sharing and users; and its pioneering commercial engagement. He shows that Stanford's outsized influence on the emergence of digital music came from the intertwining of these three modes, which brought together diverse supporters with different aims around a field of shared interest. Nelson thus challenges long-standing assumptions about the divisions between art and science, between the humanities and technology, and between academic research and commercial applications, showing how the story of a small group of musicians reveals substantial insights about innovation.
Nelson draws on extensive archival research and dozens of interviews with digital music pioneers; the book's website provides access to original historic documents and other material.
About the Author
Andrew J. Nelson is Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Oregon.
Wiebe E. Bijker is Professor at Maastricht University and the author of Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs: Toward a Theory of Sociotechnical Change (MIT Press) and other books.
Trevor Pinch is Goldwin Smith Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Cornell University and coeditor of The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology (anniversary edition, MIT Press).
Table of Contents
1 Introduction 1
2 Setting the Stage 13
3 The First Movement 19
4 Tension and Release 47
5 Duet for Stanford and Yamaha 73
6 From Exposition to Development 97
7 Plucking the Golden Gate Bridge 123
8 Recapitulation and Variations 143
9 Coda 159
Appendix: Interviews Conducted by Author 171
What People are Saying About This
Every year brings a new crop of books promising the secret formula to innovation in your organization. Very few are based on research and evidence. By bringing to life the story of the remarkable fusion of music and computer science at Stanford, Andrew Nelson has provided a work of not only insight but also usefulness. Everyone in government, business, and academia should read it.
Even as a forty-year veteran of the synthesizer industry, I learned a ton from The Sound of Innovation. While the legal and business considerations are interesting on their own, it's their intertwining with musical and technological developments that makes this story so magical. Andrew Nelson's thorough recounting of CCRMA's unique history with all the successes, failures, and tales of the weird and wonderful makes for a great read.
The Sound of Innovation goes beyond many chronicles of inventive, entrepreneurial, or organizational success, in not glossing over the uncertainties, obstacles, and serious setbacks, and in offering a structured analysis of the particular, concrete instantiations of processes that reconceptualizes them in more general and abstract terms. With the aid of fresh frameworks and concepts (including 'radical interdisciplinarity,' 'informal technology transfers,' and 'multivocality'), its author arrives at important concluding insights that should be welcomed by those concerned with the formulation of public policies for science, technology, and innovation.
The Sound of Innovation deftly unpacks the relationship between university research, commercial interests, and new innovation-driven fields. Nelson reveals both the opportunities and the tensions that emerge at unexpected intersections, interweaving a story of entrepreneurial individuals with a rich and detailed sociological analysis. The result is an unprecedented investigation into the origins and impact of interdisciplinary innovations in the creative arts.
The Sound of Innovation goes beyond many chronicles of inventive, entrepreneurial, or organizational success, in not glossing over the uncertainties, obstacles, and serious setbacks, and in offering a structured analysis of the particular, concrete instantiations of processes that reconceptualizes them in more general and abstract terms. With the aid of fresh frameworks and concepts (including 'radical interdisciplinarity,' 'informal technology transfers,' and 'multivocality'), its author arrives at important concluding insights that should be welcomed by those concerned with the formulation of public policies for science, technology, and innovation.Paul A. David, Professor Emeritus of Economics and by courtesy History, Stanford University; Senior Fellow, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research; Emeritus Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford