How important is the scientific aspect of your work? Charles Dodge



Charles Dodge
Photo courtesy ASCAP

Science has played an inspirational role in a lot of my music, though not all of it. I was lucky that I got in on the ground floor using computers in music. I knew the people that invented computer sound synthesis and it spread from a small coterie made largely of scientists to being now widespread in all kinds of music. With Earth’s Magnetic Field, the second computer piece I completed in the late ’60s, the idea was to make a musical rendition of a physical phenomenon, or rather the way that phenomenon was monitored.

In 1972, I was given access to computer software at Bell Labs created by Joseph Olive. I was able to go there every evening after the workers had gone home and to use the speech synthesis equipment, which during the day was used for telephone research, to make music. In the ’80s, I got into making musical fractals, works with self-similarity in various dimensions of the piece. My current scientific obsession is with the harmonic series. I recently did a set of violin etudes in which non-standard tuning is sounded in a computer and then imitated in the violin.

Notwithstanding my interest in all of this, my goal has always been to create pieces of music that people would relate to. A knowledge of the science is secondary or possibly completely unimportant.

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