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Currently at Sousa

From the Illiac Suite to the Sal-Mar Construction: Illinois’ Pioneering Experimental Music Studio, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, January 19 – April 15, 2016.

In 1952 the University of Illinois’s ILLIAC supercomputer was the most powerful piece of technology in the world, capable of executing countless calculations in the blink of an eye and leaping over humanity’s boundless memory.  But could it create music?  This question was posed by several of the university’s experimental music composers.  In 1956, Lejaren Hiller and Leonard Isaacson devised a program for this machine to become more than a mere business tool. They constructed an artificial collaborator capable of composing music.  Later in 1962, Salvatore Martirano continued these experiments by using the original TTL boards of the ILLIAC II to build his Sal-Mar Construction, an analog and digital collaborator capable of continuously improvising music.  Through photographs, original music, diagrams, graphic art, and reports this exhibition traces the development of early computer music and the University’s of Illinois’ Experimental Music Studio from 1952 to 1975.

Capturing the Blues of 1990s Urbana-Champaign with Jack Van Camp, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, October 12, 2015 – May 2, 2016.

The towns of Champaign and Urbana, Illinois are located on the “Central” railroad line which runs directly from Chicago to New Orleans through the heart of Memphis blues, and transported those authentic delta sounds across Central Illinois.  During the 1990s such blues musicians as Big Daddy Kinsey, Jimmy Rogers, Luther Johnson, and the Blind Boys of Alabama frequently performed at Champaign’s Blind Pig and High Dive, and their performances influenced local musicians throughout Champaign-Urbana and beyond. This exhibit of black and white photographs taken by Jack Van Camp between 1994 and 2001 documents the vital blues scene of the Urbana-Champaign community, and the exceptional musicians who performed for us.

Pierre-Louis Gautrot’s Sarrusophone: A Maverick of the Woodwind Family, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, September 28, 2015 – August 29, 2016.

Like the Tyrannosaurus rex and Crocodilian Steneosaurus which roamed the earth over 65 million years ago, many exotic music instruments that were created by ingenious inventors ranged the world’s concert stages during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, the strangeness of such mechanical wonders as the sarrusophone and rothophone, much like the fossilized bones of pre-historic creatures, continue to intrigue and amaze us. We cannot deny that these two instrument families had a life and musical purpose. However, their evolution over time followed a similar Darwinian fate as the dinosaur experienced millions of years before, because the sarrusophone and rothophone were unable to meet the evolving needs of the music profession. This exhibition examines the legacy of these two exotic instruments from the woodwind family and Adolph Sax’ patent infringement lawsuit against Pierre-Louis Gautrot.

James Beauchamp and the Harmonic Tone Generator, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, September 22, 2015 – May 27, 2016.

James W. Beauchamp earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan in 1960 and 1961, and in 1965 he graduated from the University of Illinois with a PhD in electrical engineering. While a student at Illinois he worked closely with his mentor and composition professor Lejaren Hiller, and created one of America’s first voltage-controlled electronic music synthesizers called the Harmonic Tone Generator (HTG). The HTG was used in several different electronic music projects produced at the University of Illinois during the 1960s and 70s including Salvatore Martirano’s Underworld.  After graduating from Illinois he joined their electrical engineering faculty, and by 1969 had earned a joint appointment in the electrical engineering and music departments.  Between 1969 and 1973 Beauchamp served as director of the School of Music’s Experimental Music Studios (EMS), and as director of the Computer Music Project (CMP) between 1984 and 1993.  In the fall of 1993 Beauchamp and Sever Tipei became co-managers of CMP.  This exhibit documents through photographs, stories, scientific reports, and audio recordings the early development of the HTG at the University of Illinois.

Transient Journeys: The Life and Music of Harry Partch, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, June 22, 2015 – April 29, 2016.

Harry Partch (1901-1974) was a composer, music theorist, instrument maker, and performer whose vagabond nature inspired him to explore the musical roads less travelled by his contemporaries. Alex Ross wrote in 2005, “Of all the triumphantly weird characters who have roamed the frontiers of American art, none ever went quite as far out as the composer Harry Partch.” Partch’s maverick tendencies and his rejection of traditional Western-European performance practices inspired his experimental music creations which often integrated ancient Greek, African, and Japanese theatrical arts with innovative uses of human speech and musical pitch, harmony and rhythm.   This exhibit explores through photographs, music and words the musical choices that mattered most to Harry Partch.

The Red Cross: A Soldier’s Best Friend, Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, February 11, 2015 – March 15, 2016. 

Clara Barton, who earned recognition as the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her humanitarian service during America’s Civil War, founded the American Red Cross in May 1881 as an associate relief organization of the International Committee of the Red Cross Organization.  However, unlike its international associate, the American Red Cross devoted most of its early service efforts to provide relief for those individuals from the United States affected by natural disasters, such as the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.  During America’s involvement in WWI, both the International and American Red Cross played a major role in arranging transportation of volunteers to the Western Front to aid soldiers injured during battle; and in 1917, the Red Cross received the only Nobel Peace Prize awarded between 1914 and 1918.  The American public lauded these volunteers for their devotion to the troops, and many of America’s popular songs were written to honor the men and women of the Red Cross.  This small exhibition of sheet music cover art graphically illustrates America’s diverse portrayals of the Red Cross volunteer during the Great War.