About The Personal Computer Music Festival

The First Philadelphia Computer Music Festival was held August 25, 1978 as part of the Personal Computing '78 show. It was organized by Dick Moberg of the Philadelphia Area Computer Society, Box 1954, Phila., PA 19105. Steve Levine handled technical matters and the recording of the performances.

Early in 1978, I received a call from John Dilks asking me if there were anything that our Computer Society wanted to do for his show. John was organizing the Personal Computing '78 Show which our Society was hosting in Philadelphia that year. Several people in the area had been producing music with their computers so I suggested we have a computer music concert. John OK'd the idea and we went to work calling our friends and urging them to perform.

By summer the local response was not as great as we had anticipated. Many of the computer musicians were reluctant or too shy to perform at a computer music concert, something they had never heard of before. But word of the concert had spread and a steady stream of calls from all over the country began to come in. Hal Chamberlin, one of the early computer music pioneers, agreed to come as did Carl Helmers (editor of Byte Magazine), Dave Ahl (publisher of Creative Computing), and Malcolm Wright (engineer at Solid State Music in California). Dorothy Siegel called from New York to say she was arranging a piece for computer and clarinet specially for the concert! Rick Simpson from RCA had a number of pieces to play on their new computer and some would be accompanied by an “engineer-flutist” they had at RCA.

Plans for the Festival quickly grew beyond what we had originally anticipated. Fortunately, we acquired some very talented volunteers from the Computer Society to meet the new demands placed upon us. The dedication of this small group made the Festival the success it was.

The concert was finally held in one of the larger ballrooms of the Sheraton Hotel. Our borrowed sound system was set up and sound checks made for the recording. We opened the doors to the crowd outside to find several hundred more people than the room could hold. Many sat on the floors of the halls as the music filled the hotel.

Hal Chamberlin had set up an oscilloscope that would project the waveform being played on a screen. The result was a fantastic synchronized light show! Part of the concert was filmed by TV Ontario's Fast Forward Office for use in a special series on personal computing. This was perhaps the first concert to be held which featured music synthesized using personal computer systems. The concert lasted close to 3 hours and the room was still packed when the last piece was played. This recording features highlights from the concert.

Dick Moberg
President, Philadelphia Area Computer Society