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Symposium examines music and innovation

A panel of scholars, musicians and historians will discuss "Technology, Innovation and the Musical Imagination" at the eighth annual J. Herbert Hollomon Memorial Symposium presented by the Technology and Culture Forum on Wednesday, April 15 at 3:30pm in Wong Auditorium (E51, Tang Center).

Over the past 300 years, technical innovations and technological developments have profoundly influenced Western music composition and performance techniques. These changes range from the 18th-century invention of the pianoforte (which allowed musicians to experiment with loud and soft and a range of dynamics not available on the harpsichord) to 20th-century digital sound synthesis.

Pulitzer-prize winning composer, author and conductor Gunther Schuller; Darcy Kuronen, curator of the Historical Musical Instrument Collection at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts; and Professor Barry Vercoe of the Media Laboratory and founder of the Electronic Music Studio will examine how composers have used fundamental improvements in musical instruments as springboards for compositional development and, more recently, how they have used electronic means to change the Western musical landscape. Professor Peter Child, head of the music and theater arts section, will moderate. Following the presentations, there will be questions and discussion.

The symposium is named for Dr. Hollomon, who held leadership positions in academe, industry and the federal government until his death in 1985 at the age of 66. An MIT alumnus, he received the SB in physics (1940) and the ScD in metallurgy (1946). During his career, he was president of the University of Oklahoma (1968-70), assistant secretary of commerce for science and technology (1962-67) and head of GE's General Engineering Laboratory (1960-67).

In 1970, Dr. Hollomon returned to MIT, where he founded the Center for Policy Alternatives, which identified major sociotechnical issues and the policies and practices surrounding them. In 1985 the center became part of the Center for Technology, Policy and Industrial Development.

Dr. Hollomon and his wife Nancy dreamed of hosting a conference on technology and the arts, said Patricia-Maria Weinmann, assistant coordinator of the Technology and Culture Seminar. "This year's Hollomon Memorial Symposium speaks profoundly to the unity Herb lived as an engineer and a man of the arts," she said.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 15, 1998.

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