From Xenakis’s UPIC to Graphic Notation Today
In the late 70s, an interdisciplinary team led by the composer Iannis Xenakis developed the UPIC (Unité Polyagogique Informatique CEMAMu) out of an effort to transform drawings into synthesized sound. The composers can draw waveforms and envelopes straight onto an electronic tablet interface and translate them into sound through the computer. The revolution in graphic composition triggered by Iannis Xenakis and carried forward by other established computer musicians such as Jean-Claude Risset or Curtis Roads continues forty years later in modern computer programs.
In spring 2020, the ZKM will release an extensive volume entitled “From Xenakis's UPIC to Graphic Notation Today”. This volume, with 27 richly illustrated articles, is the first to be dedicated to the genesis of this unique computational instrument and traces its technical, social, institutional and pedagogical significance up to the current practice of contemporary composers who work with the idea of UPIC in current computer programs.
The publication has been produced in cooperation with the Centre Iannis Xenakis, contains previously unpublished archive material and is simultaneously made available to the public as a digital version for free download at http://www.zkm.de/upic
On the occasion of the book's publication there will be a discussion with editors Peter Weibel, Ludger Brümmer and Sharon Kanach, moderated by Lisa Bensel. This will be followed by the world premiere of a new work by Julia Rommel and Kosmas Giannoutakis - both world premieres -, which was created in the context of the artistic residency “Graphical Notation” at the ZKM | Hertz-Lab.
Authors: Richard Barrett, Rodolphe Bourotte, Pierre Couprie, Cyrille Delhaye, Alain Després, Julio Estrada, Kiyoshi Furukawa, Rudolf Frisius, Hughes Genevois, Kosmas Giannoutakis, Dimitris Kamarotos, Henning Lohner, François-Bernard Mâche, Guy Médigue, Chikashi Miyama, Lukas Nowok, Gerard Pape, Marcin Pietruszewski, Brigitte Robindoré, Julia Rommel, Julian Scordato, Takehito Shimazu, Victoria Simon, Andrey Smirnov, Ronald Squibbs, Katerina Tsioukra, Peter Weibel
Realisation: Lisa Bensel (Editorial staff), Uta Kopp (Graphic Design), Ana Henriques, Viktoria Herzog (Assistant), Sabine Jäger, Volker Sommerfeld (Website), Gloria Custance (Copy-editing), Patrick Hubenthal, Christian Liberty Marshall (Translation)
Editors: ZKM | Hertz-Labor (Peter Weibel, Ludger Brümmer, Sharon Kanach)
Release: April 2020
Publisher: Hatje Cantz, Germany -672 pages, 240 images, 15 x 21 cm, onlinepublication (PDF) and threadbound brochure
The UPIC (Unité Polyagogique Informatique CEMAMu) a pioneering computerized music composition tool was first conceived in the 1950s by Iannis Xenakis. It is one of the first graphic interfaces for designing sound and structuring compositions. Drawing becomes the main vector of creation, enabling the user to hand-design all parameters. It was obvious that the UPIC could also revolutionize music pedagogy by demystifying traditional Western music notation. Access to this tool created unprecedented experiences for potential creators and audiences– including the blind and very young children. Audiences can be creative as composers as well perceptive in listening. It creates an understanding of the creative process in composition. Making the audience compose helps bring contemporary to a wider audience.
UPIC has undergone several “upgrades” since its inception and the project intends to take this extremely versatile system one step further (in collaboration with the CIX and the Université de Rouen) in order to expand the environment’s capabilities and improve its compatibility with contemporary DSP tools. This book will be a documentation of the system’s on-going development and use aiming to cover technical descriptions, testimony from composers and other users, and illustrate this tool’s rich history and potential.