MAKING PRETTY MUSIC ON A COMPUTER

Times Staff Writer

Carl Stone sits at his Macintosh computer the way other composers sit at their pianos. The man hailed as the Grandmaster Flash of electronic music will perform "Music for Computer and Human Assistant" at Sushi gallery at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Stone, 34, has been composing electro-acoustic music since 1972 and just started using the Macintosh last year. The computer is programmed to control what is the equivalent of eight synthesizers, the composer said. During Stone's performance he will play the keyboard of the computer by pushing keys to trigger notes and tempo from the synthesizers.

Stone, who is from Los Angeles, works in the same vein as the more renowned electronic composer Philip Glass. But almost anyone working in this esoteric genre of music is considered original. Though electronic music was pioneered in the early 1950s in France and Germany as an experimental form of classical music, it remains an avant-garde art form today.

The upbeat Stone is one of the few electronic composers who is creating danceable pieces. The artist prides himself on keeping attuned to the latest funk and disco music and incorporates these elements into his own compositions.

"People don't realize that 9 1/2 times out of 10 any funk or disco tunes you hear on the radio, like one of Janet Jackson's latest hits, are made with computers," Stone said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.

The artist also uses a technique called sampling.

"I prerecord a lot of environmental sounds to use in my work," he said. "It involves collecting synthesizer sounds and layering. I like to use sounds from the real world--insects, and dogs barking. These prerecorded sounds are also controlled by the computer. There are elements of collage in my work; it's sort of a Cubist reconstruction."

The composer said that he is from a non-musical family, but they were very encouraging. In high school, Stone was in several bands, but after playing keyboards in an electronic art ensemble, he became fascinated by electronically modified instruments. After graduating, Stone attended the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Los Angeles, where he had access to a well-equipped electronic music studio.

Since he finished school, Stone has performed his works all over the world. He was commissioned to create a new work for the Olympic Arts Festival in 1984, and has been recorded on "Wizard Records," the "New Underground" label and "Trance Port Tapes."

As well as being a composer, Stone is director of the California branch of the nationwide Meet the Composer program, through which he administers grants to aid composers performing throughout the state. Stone also worked as music director for KPFK radio in Los Angeles, where he did an experimental music show. There, he used the station's equipment for his work and met other "new music" composers.

Stone said he thinks computers and electronics are the future for music.

"I think technology is becoming more powerful and cheaper," he said. "It's already being used in a lot of popular music. It's bound to be used more and more as it becomes more understood."

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