Music by VICE

Hear Alan Turing's First-Ever Recording of Computer Music from 1951

Add another accomplishment to the famed computer scientist's resume.

by Alexander Iadarola
Sep 26 2016, 3:45pm

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

British computer scientist Alan Turing is widely known as a pioneering computer scientist and for cracking secret Nazi code during World War Two, but it turns out he is pretty under-appreciated for his talents as an electronic music producer. Turing was also the brains behind the earliest known recording of computer-generated music, from 1951. Two researchers in New Zealand recently restored the recording using computer-assisted analysis, pitch-correction, and editing, and now you can hear what they call "the true sound of Turing's computer" in a blogpost about their achievement on the British Library's website.

Jack Copeland and Jason Long did the work at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, and they point out that Turing was using a computer to play musical notes as early as the autumn of 1948, which is two years earlier than when the Oxford Handbook of Computer Music says the technology was invented in Sydney, Australia.

The sound of the computer is a bit harsh and uneasy, sounding not a little like something you'd hear on a contemporary noise cassette, funnily enough. It plays three melodies in the recording: the British national anthem, the nursery rhyme "Baa Baa Blacksheep," and an interpretation of Glenn Miller's swing composition "In The Mood."

"Alan Turing's pioneering work in the late 1940s on transforming the computer into a musical instrument has been largely overlooked," they said.

Follow Alexander on Twitter.

alan turing
early electronic music
computer music early recording
early computer music
first recording of computer music
first-ever recording of computer music