Laurie Spiegel ‘The Expanding Universe’

01 Patchwork (9:45)
02 Old Wave (6:51)
03 Pentachrome (7:21)
04 The Expanding Universe (21:40)
Total time: 45:36

Laurie Spiegel: programming and live processing
Recorded 1979, LP released on Philo Records, 1980
[Note: I had to shorten track #4 due to unwanted surface noise
in the first minutes].

I used a keyboard, a drawing tablet, pushbuttons and knobs which the computer monitored and recorded, and I wrote complex algorhythms (in FORTRAN) to process the data from these devices and derived from it much more complex music than I actually played.
(L.S. from the liner notes).

First full-length LP by US composer Laurie Spiegel (b. 1945), ‘The Expanding Universe’ is a suite of 4 electronic pieces composed on Max Mathews’ GROOVE system and released on folk label Philo Records, an imprint of Rounder Records. Trained as a banjo player and lutenist, Laurie Spiegel first discovered the Buchla synthesizer at NY Juillard School in 1969, studying it with Michael Czajkowski in Morton Subotnik’s studio. Later at the Bell Labs from 1973 to 1979 with Max Mathews and Emmanual Ghent, she worked with the interactive GROOVE System (Generated Real-time Output Operations on Voltage-controlled Equipment), a mix of programming and real-time sound processing, based on sounds generated by an oscillator, and allowing precise live control of pitch, attack and decay, stero effects, etc. Each track on this recording is based on one electronic sound source, be it a droning, pulsating or beating sound, which is then processed and developped to add depth, complexity and variation. Opener ‘Patchwork’ is a joyous dance tune based on a square electronic rhythm, its synthetic enveloppe endlessly morphing. The short ‘Old Wave’ is a chorale of exultant electronic tonalities – an excerpt from a ballet written by Spiegel, according to her interview on the cover. Track #3 includes percussion-like sounds synched with the electronic melody. Most impressive is the massive side-long meditation ‘The Expanding Universe’. It takes several listenings to realise the droning is not static, but that subtle pitch changes constantly occur, almost un-noticed at first. As microtonal layers evolve around the fundamental pitch, the electronic sound seems to be endlessly forced into some kind of entropic, slow-motion whirring sonic process. Heard from the appropriate angle – headphones being an option – this awesome music is mesmerizing. Now, please, reissue this.

Selected discography:

  • Music for New Electronic Media LP, 1750 Arch Records 1977 (incl. Appalachian Grove, 1974)
  • The Expanding Universe LP, Philo Records, 1980
  • New American Music Vol. 2 [date?] (incl. Drums 1975 & Voices Within: A Requiem 1979)


15 Responses to “Laurie Spiegel ‘The Expanding Universe’”

  1. 1 jardim April 25, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    *sounds promising – many thanks*

  2. 2 Aaron April 28, 2008 at 6:07 am

    hi there,
    I have a question about music fests, do you have an email?


  3. 3 continuo April 28, 2008 at 6:15 am

    Hi, you can reach me at:
    teepeesfrp [at] yahoo [dot] fr

  4. 4 jardim May 1, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    These “possibly related posts” are very funny.
    “How could Allah create the world in 6 days if science has proved that the world and universe took millions of years to make?”

  5. 5 Rob Mullender May 19, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    nice one. i didn’t know about her solo LP – i have the LP with ‘appalachian grove’ on it, which is a wonderful record. she also produced a piece of music called ‘harmonices mundi’ which got encoded onto the gold plaque that went off with the first voyager probe in 1977. table of the elements released it a few years ago…

  6. 6 continuo May 20, 2008 at 5:48 am

    We definitely need a Laurie Spiegel Complete Works CD. Hopefully, her inclusion in the Sub Rosa compilation series will help. ‘The Expanding Universe’ is a masterpiece. Thanks for your comment, Rob.

  7. 7 Edgar Olivier Charles March 3, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Nice one. Thanx a million…

  8. 8 bob23bob July 26, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Days, years, the precession of the equinoxes (also called the Great or Platonic Year), everything moves in cycles. A universal or cosmic dance as portrayed by the whirling dervishes. A “day” or one cycle in terms of the the sun is equal to about 28 earth cycles, a “day” in terms of the solar system… etc. etc. From the perspective of a creator 6 days are like 6 eons to a human being.

    The expanding universe is the expanding consciousness. To expand one’s consciousness is to become more whole or one, one with the universe, one with the one (Allah).


  9. 9 masonic boom September 8, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Thank you for this. I stumbled across a reference to this piece quite by accident, and from the brief description knew that this was music I’d been waiting for my whole life.

  10. 10 continuo September 8, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Nice comment. Thanks.

  11. 11 dave September 9, 2009 at 12:05 am

    great music! thanks for this!

  12. 12 john R September 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    this is really really good! formula: girls + computers + music = maximum righteousness possible :P what a babe

    lotsa thanks!

  13. 13 Tanner June 23, 2012 at 1:22 am

    This is supposedly getting a reissue via unseen worlds records this fall.
    I am very excited for that

  14. 14 Juan Andres September 30, 2012 at 9:12 am

    september, 25 2012, re-realease with new material in double cd !!!!


  15. 15 continuo September 30, 2012 at 9:21 am

    At last!

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