Monday, February 1, 2010

Laurie Spiegel (1945)

Laurie Spiegel (Chicago, September 20th 1945)

At 10 years old Laurie starts to play the guitar, mandolin and banjo and to study privately in London, After her Social Sciences Degree at Oxford university, she follows composition classes for renaissance and baroque lute at Julliard School under the mentorship of Jacob Druckman and Vincent Perischetti. At 20 years old she starts to write her own compositions.
In 1969, while visiting Subotnick's studio in Manhattan, she sees for the first time a Buchla 100, the same that Morton used in 1967 to record "Silver Apples of the Moon". It is love at first sight:

"An instrument (Buchla 100) that is not limited to notes but makes all kinds of amazing sounds, and I can play it myself instead of having to write down lots of little notes that I can't hear hoping someday people will play them."

After that encounter Laurie's world changes forever: everything was different, even New York's traffic is now a revelation. The Buchla was an instrument made no work with the nature itself of sound.
From 1973 to 1979 she works for Bell Labs, learning how to program computers in order to realize images and sounds. By the end of the Seventies Jack Raking offers her an Apple 48k's prototype. With it, Laurie becomes a technological counterculture activist; she is one of the first composers to use the computer as a creative mean. In those years no one would repute computers good for musical production: they were seen as dehumanizing instruments, anti-intuitive and emotionless. They were use by bank, the government and few businessmen. In Laurie's mind new technology can be part of folk music and have in itself a huge pop potential. Very soon Spiegel would find way to make music for computers at everybody's range. She collaborate to the creation of the Alpha Sythauri, the first computer with a musical tool that could be sold at an affordable price and used for the special effects of the second Star Trek movie. Tired of the musical scene that herself contributed to create, she moves to Toronto where she direct the software development department at McLevyer. In 1985 she creates the "Music Mouse" that transfers a Mac into a easy-to-play intuitive instrument: this is one of the first softwares that allows musicians that never studied musical composition to create tonal or atonal music by simply using the keyboard or moving the mouse.

“Women composers were still few and far between. Technology is largely responsible for how much more common women composers are now, because it allowed women to get their music to the point where it could be heard (versus silent dots on paper), so the public and powers-that-be could learn that we also could do this. Women are still to some degree underdogs in composing. Throughout the 70s I earned much of my living by composing soundtracks for film and video. But jobs, or maybe people who would a woman as their composer, were few and far between. Even today, several decades later, the percentage of major motion pictures scored by women is still appallingly low.” Laurie Spiegel

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