Peabody Computer Music enjoys unprecedented standing as the first electronic music studio in a music conservatory in the United States. Founded by Jean Eichelberger Ivey as a series of summer workshops for music educators in 1967, the electronic music studio began offering year-round courses for Peabody students in the fall of 1969.
In 1982, Geoffrey Wright (MM ’81, DMA ’92, Composition) established the Computer Music Studio as well as Peabody’s performance group in residence, the Computer Music Consort. The frequency and diversity of collaborations across art forms since then define the greatest achievements of the combined studios, now known as Peabody Computer Music.
McGregor Boyle (MM ’85, Guitar; DMA ’90, Composition) and Wright run the department today. In many ways, the story of Peabody Computer Music at 50 is the story of classical music’s impossibilities told anew. Through performance, composition, and research, this department has pursued dreams of the future with reverence for the past, unhindered by the limitations of technology.
“When electronic and computer music started, it was very esoteric, very complicated, expensive, and you could only do it in certain laboratories in academic institutions and radio stations,” says Wright. “What’s happened over the years — with technology becoming so cheap, so powerful, and so ubiquitous — we now see all areas of music being touched by this. We now have both the fine arts composers and kids who have never gone to music school using that technology.”
A new exhibit by the Arthur Friedheim Library, shown in the Peabody Mews of the Grand Arcade on campus, celebrates the department’s five decades. It shows items on loan from the Peabody Computer Music studio and the Jean Eichelberger Ivey papers. The objects in this exhibit make up a “time capsule” of essential tools in electronic music composition from the late 1960s and early 1970s and are a testament to the technical progress of the past 50 years, notes Andrea Copland, librarian at the Arthur Friedheim Library.
The exhibit also highlights women in the industry, including Ivey, who saw her own interest in electronic music as a broadening of the compositional tools she could use as an artist and offer as a pedagogue. Accomplishments by alumna Lynn F. Kowal (MM ’91, Computer Music) and Vivian Adelberg Rudow (TC ’57, BM ’60, Piano; MM ’79, Composition) are also featured.
“Our international reputation was that our performers and our com- posers always wrote and performed the best pieces,” says Wright, who worked with Ivey during his time as a Peabody student. “There’s no question that Peabody was the musical heart [of the computer music community]. To have that go on for 50 years and now to be seen expanding into many directions is just a wonderful experience. Jean would be really happy to see that.”
Celebrations for the 50th anniversary will take place over the 2019–20 academic year. A digital version of the exhibit can be found online at musiclibrary.peabody.jhu.edu/computermusic. The department will present celebratory events with con- certs and lectures by guest artists and alumni during the spring semester. Visit peabody.jhu.edu/events for more information.
— Margaret Bell with Andrea Copland