We’re very sad to report that computer music pioneer Max Matthews passed away this morning due to complications from pneumonia. Back in the 1950’s he was an engineer at Bell Labs. Matthews first made a name for himself by developing MUSIC-N, the first widely used computer music program to generate audio waveforms via direct synthesis. He was also well-known for developing various electronic instruments, most famously the Yamaha DX7 and the Radio Batons you see him playing in the picture above.
Eventually Matthews settled at Stanford and was a highly-regarded professor and researcher. My brother-in-law was a student of Max’s at Stanford’s CCRMA in the early 90’s. Roy built several instances of Max’s Radio Batons, and when Roy graduated I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with Max in his labs, getting a lesson on the Radio Batons from the inventor himself. He was a warm and genuinely kind man who was deeply passionate about his work and his students.
Even before I saw him give a performance lecture years ago at E-mu System, Max had a great deal of influence on my own approach to computer music and alternative controllers. I last saw him perform live at CCRMA for an outdoor concert last summer. Darn it, he looked fine 🙁