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[Rediscovered Treasures]

A column by Eldad Tsabary about works from the past that he has recently revisited: an appreciation of both the “classics” and lesser-known works.

Gottfried Michael Koenig: Project 1 — Version 3 (1967)

Gottfried Michael Koenig, Project 1 — Version 3 (1967 / 17:00), for small orchestra
Première: Vienna 1969. Ensemble Die Reihe, cond. Kurt Schwertsik.
Available on

Composed in 1967, this piece utilized Koenig’s Project 1, a computer program he designed at the Utrecht Institute of Sonology in order to examine serial compositional schemes and rules. Project 1 is among the earliest examples of computer music composition. Like Lejaren Hiller and Iannis Xenakis’ early computer programs, it composed instrumental music (generating values to be translated into music notation, not actual sounds). A recording of a work composed on Project 1 was never released. Soon the program’s serial principles were replaced with a set of probabilistic operational rules based on the “IR principle,” using a seven-point scale on a regularity/irregularity (non-repeatability) continuum. In other words, the composer restricts the level of randomness of the computer’s data generation of musical parameters, including instrumentation, duration, pitch, octave register and dynamics. Koenig allows control over the level of serial restrictions while also allowing control over regularity (repeatability) which permits some level of coherence and familiarity. An additional random operation is added by providing some freedom in performance; in some passages, the musicians are “free with respect to the rhythmic articulation of single notes or note groups. They are then given only a time frame and inside it a group of note heads which may begin anywhere inside the frame but must be finished before the end; the rhythm is free” (1). The computer generated data needed to be transcribed into music by the composer. In rare cases, the composer manually modified the content.

When listening to the piece, one must listen past the generally unchanging texture and pay attention to the musical detail and their level of regularity. In other words, the listener must focus on recurring patterns of pitch, dynamics, register, duration, and instrumentation. The score for this piece was published by Peters Edition (London), however a recording of this piece was never released. The composer was kind enough to provide a copy of the only recording (and the premier) of this piece to be made available on The recording took place in Vienna 1969, with Kurt Schwertsik conducting the ensemble Die Reihe.


  1. Gottfried M. Koenig, personal email correspondence with the author, March–April 2008.

Eldad Tsabary is a Montréal-based composer and sound artist and a lecturer of electroacoustics and music technology at Concordia University and Formation Musitechnic. As a teacher Eldad is mainly involved with aural training for electroacoustics, composition and the history of electroacoustic music.

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