The Book of Names (1988) — Virtual Memory — Electroacoustic Music

Rick Bidlack — Robert Scott Thompson — Robert Willey

Virtual Memory was an intermedia ensemble formed at the University of California San Diego’s Center for Music Experiment during the second half of the 1980’s.  The nucleus of the group consisted of composers Rick Bidlack, Robert Scott Thompson and Robert Willey, who were joined by Tom North, Victoria Bearden, Russ Kozerski, Carol Vernalis, Roy Tamanaha, and many others in concerts integrating computer music (software synthesis and interactive systems), multi-channel video synthesis and live performance.

It was during this time that personal computers and MIDI systems appeared, making it possible for musicians to develop computer music performance systems, and a library of programming functions was developed at the Computer Audio Research Laboratory at CME by Virtual Memory together with Xavier Chabot and Andy Vogel, among others.

The Book of Names resulted from two improvisatory sessions recorded on December 14 and 15, 1987 at Rebel Road Studio in San Diego.  The Three players were linked by a MIDI network running their own custom software, creating cyclic structures and note events based on data gleaned from the trio’s keyboard gestures and real-time inputs. The textures that resulted arose without editing or overdubs.

The name of the ensemble is a reference to the software techniques of addressing additional memory when running a program, allowing it to use more RAM than what actually exists in the computer.  This allowed the Center’s VAX-11/780 to run the software synthesis programs developed there. It was not unusual to have to wait hours or days to hear the result of a musical request.

Composed and performed by: Rick Bidlack, Robert Scott Thompson, and Robert Willey.

Recorded in 1987 in the digital domain using Sony digital recording equipment. Digitally re-mastered in 2020 by Robert Scott Thompson.


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