Laurie Spiegel was born in Chicago where in her teens she played guitar, banjo, and mandolin, and through them cultivated a devout philosophy of amateur music making. After receiving a degree in the social sciences, she returned to music. Having taught herself notation, she studied classical guitar and composition privately in London, then baroque and renaissance lute at Julliard, and composition with Jacob Druckman and Vincent Persichetti.
Laurie Spiegel is one of those rare composers in whom head and heart, left brain and right brain, logic and intuition, merge and even exchange roles. Though she is one of the highest-tech computer composers in America, Spiegel is also a lutenist and banjo player, and sees the computer as a new kind of folk instrument. She makes her most intuitive-sounding and melodic music from mathematical algorithms, and her most complex computerized textures by ear and in search of a desired mood. Form and emotion are as difficult to separate in her music as they are in that of her idol, J.S. Bach.
In 1985, Laurie Spiegel created Music Mouse, a program that turns the computer into a musical instrument in it's own right with complete control in the hands of the performer. Music Mouse takes mouse movements inside a grid on the screen and transforms them into 4 moving voices that can be assigned different midi channels & sounds depending on what you do on the QWERTY keyboard.
Other QWERTY keys are live in real time as controller faders and for playing with tempo, transposition, and a host of other features. Musicians as well as non-musicians can benefit from this simple-to-use yet deep program.
It takes a little practice to move the mouse to produce the results you want. Some techniques include using small circular motions in one area of the grid, then move all four voices slowly up or to the side or downward. Or you could leave 3 voices at the bottom of the grid slowly moving back and forth, while moving the horizontal axis upwards to produce a melody. Another trick is to start with one voice, then slowly add voices (unmuting them with the numeric keys).
You could also put MM in the Octatonic mode, use only one voice each on the horizontal and vertical axes, with a tempo of 120. Then start doing circular motions starting at the bottom of the grid and expanding upwards. Instant ELP (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) Style! Or move the mouse slowly to produce chords at certain parts of the grid. Hit the spacebar to silence the mouse, then move the mouse to another part of the grid, then hit the spacebar again and another chord is produced.
Despite her innovative involvement with technology, Spiegel the composer has never been dominated by Spiegel the computer technician. Her music from the 70’s used compositional algorithms to generate music in an accessible, minimalist vein. So much of that understanding can be derived from The Expanding Universe, Laurie Spiegel’s 1980 debut album.
The record was spontaneously composed by Spiegel between 1974 and 1977, using the GROOVE digital-analog system developed at Bell Laboratories by Max Mathews and F.R. Moore (its name is an acronym for Generated Real-time Operations On Voltage-controlled Equipment). Each of the four pieces on the original release expands and contracts with vibrant, textured harmonies. While the spirited tones of “Patchwork” twirl and dance, “Old Wave,” moves deliberately. Layers of sound mutate from dour to triumphant as they splay and stretch out, one over the other for eternity. Later comes the nearly 30-minute-long title track, the ambient opus that closes the album.
The Expanding Universe also includes her realization of Johannes Kepler’s “Music of the Spheres,” the 17th-century German astronomer’s conversion of planetary motion into harmonic ratios; this electronic score and a song by Chuck Berry is the only music by living composers that was sent into outer space on the two Voyager spacecrafts. Although Spiegel insists that her realization, which was included as part of “Sounds of the Earth” rather than “Music of the Earth,” is not her musical composition.
In the early 80s, Spiegel distanced herself from the downtown New York scene that she had helped create, complaining that the new music scene's general direction was toward an "expansion of the collection of tools and techniques available to make music (useful, but not as the central content of a work)". "For me," she more recently explained, "music is a way to deal with the extreme intensity of moment to moment conscious existence." Since breaking away, Spiegel has lived as one of New York's most independent musicians, supporting herself by her software and circulating her music privately, you can find more information on her website: http://retiary.org/ls/