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John Steinmetz Puts Computer At Keyboard

October 25, 1987|JOHN HENKEN

Computers have become almost commonplace in many areas of music. But when Eric Stumacher plays "Datacomp" by John Steinmetz tonight, you will hear--and see--something completely different.

"Its exactly the opposite of the way computers are usually used," said Alan Kay. As an Apple Fellow--a creative, largely independent position--Kay loaned Steinmetz the Macintosh II computer necessary to run the computer's part in "Datacomp" fast enough for performance.

In most musical applications, computers process--in widely varied ways--signals from the composer and/or performer. In "Datacomp," Stumacher will, in a sense, process signals from the computer.

"Eric doesn't know precisely what the machine is going to do," Kay says, making this West Coast premiere--and any performance--necessarily different from the first playing at Alice Tully Hall in New York. Steinmetz has programmed the computer to imitate various contemporary compositional styles, such as serialism and minimalism. The Macintosh will be sitting on the piano, displaying cues which Stumacher will develop.

The computer display will also be projected on a large screen, for the benefit of the Chamber Music in Historic Sites audience at the Page Museum of La Brea Discoveries. A quasi-theater piece, "Datacomp" is "basically a comedy. It uses a lot of cliches that people have about computers," says Kay.

As such, he says that "Apple might not like the way the Mac is used." The audience will not see the famous Macintosh user interface, which Kay helped to develop. Nor will it hear the machine's full sound capabilities. In "Datacomp," the sounds of satire are largely "bleep, blurp," in Kay's words.

A former professional jazz musician, Kay has been attending for years the summer music camp of the Apple Hill Festival in New Hampshire, in which Stumacher and Steinmetz--the latter a bassoonist, who also plays in the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra--participate. The three are also involved in programs at the Open Magnet School in Los Angeles.

Kay has also given the Da Camera Society, which produces Chamber Music in Historic Sites, some Macintosh computers in order to study the use of such machines in small businesses. And it was he who brought "Datacomp" to the attention of Mary Ann Bonino, director and producer of the Historic Sites programs, at a concert by Apple Hill musicians.

Despite his own history and occupation, Kay claims that, "As a musician, I'm basically very conservative." His current interests are harpsichord, and organ-building.

Kay finds little to admire in any of the music programs currently marketed for home use, though he acknowledges that computers in music are trendy, effective attention-getters. "Perhaps there is something about them that can lead children and adults to music."

Stumacher's recital celebrates the 10th anniversary of the museum. Completing his program are John Deak's "Long John Silver"--also a West Coast premiere--and music by Bartok, Schoenberg and Prokofiev. Information: (213) 747-9085, Ext. 2211.

BALLET PREMIERES: American Ballet Theatre has announced that it will give the premieres of two major new works before local audiences. ABT begins its season this year with a two-week repertory engagement at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. On opening night, Dec. 1, the company will offer the first performance of "Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1," choreographed by ABT principal dancer Clark Tippet.

After the Orange County engagement, Ballet Theatre moves to the Shrine Auditorium for two weeks of Baryshnikov's familiar "Nutcracker." But when the company returns to the Shrine in March, it will present the world premiere of Agnes de Mille's "The Informer." Set to Celtic dance music, it opens March 13.

CHAMBER ORCHESTRA AWARD: The Baroque Consortium, based in Palos Verdes, has been awarded a grant from the California Arts Council. The ensemble, which is planning to change its name as its repertory has expanded, has also been named the resident orchestra of the Norris Community Theater. Conducted by Frances Steiner, the Baroque Consortium opens its season Nov. 15, with pianist Mona Golabek the soloist.

PEOPLE: Randall Behr, founding music director of Hidden Valley Opera Theatre and currently music director of Long Beach Opera, has been named music director of the USC Opera Workshop. Behr's first production--"The Consul," by Menotti--is scheduled to run Dec. 10-13.

He replaces Robert Duerr, who left after one year at USC to become associate conductor of Los Angeles Music Center Opera. Duerr, himself a USC alum, will return to the campus as guest conductor of the USC Chamber Orchestra for a concert Nov. 12. The ensemble will be playing under a series of conductors this year, as the school searches for a new permanent conductor.

John Harbison will continue as new music adviser with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and as director of the Philharmonic New Music Group. He will not be composer-in-residence, as he was last season. Rand Steiger, late of CalArts and now teaching at UC San Diego, has been appointed the Philharmonic's first composer-fellow.

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