George Lewis’s Pioneering Experiment With Artificial Intelligence

Source: San Francisco Classical Voice.

A fascinating slice of electro-acoustic music history has just come out on the Carrier label. This 1984 concert performance of Rainbow Family by George Lewis — composer, master jazz trombonist, Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians member, computer music explorer — takes us back to an early stage of artificial intelligence (AI) when desktop computers (then known as microcomputers) were starting to interact with live musicians.

After two years of research and experimentation at IRCAM — Pierre Boulez’s new music laboratory underneath the Pompidou Centre in Paris — Lewis put together what he believes was IRCAM’s first commission for microcomputers and musicians improvising together. In his long booklet note, Lewis writes that he did all of the computer programming and “hardware hacking” himself, using the computer language Forth that he learned from his mentor, composer/record producer David Behrman.