Learning from History: Recreating and Repurposing Harriet Padberg’s Computer Composed Canon and Free Fugue

Savery, Richard J and Genchel, Benjamin and Smith, Jason Brent and Caulkins, Anthony and Jones, Molly E and Savery, Anna

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

Harriet Padberg wrote Computer-Composed Canon and Free Fugue as part of her 1964 dissertation in Mathematics and Music at Saint Louis University. This program is one of the earliest examples of text-to-music software and algorithmic composition, which are areas of great interest in the present-day field of music technology. This paper aims to analyze the technological innovation, aesthetic design process, and impact of Harriet Padberg’s original 1964 thesis as well as the design of a modern recreation and utilization, in order to gain insight to the nature of revisiting older works. Here, we present our open source recreation of Padberg’s program with a modern interface and, through its use as an artistic tool by three composers, show how historical works can be effectively used for new creative purposes in contemporary contexts. Not Even One by Molly Jones draws on the historical and social significance of Harriet Padberg through using her program in a piece about the lack of representation of women judges in composition competitions. Brevity by Anna Savery utilizes the original software design as a composition tool, and The Padberg Piano by Anthony Caulkins uses the melodic generation of the original to create a software instrument.