The NIU electronic-music studios began in 1968 under direction and development of G. Al O’Connor, Jan Bach and Paul Steg. First facilities included a Moog modular synthesizer, a Putney synthesizer (the one with the joy stick) an Arp 2600 and various tape machines. In the ’70s a Buchla Electric Music Box system was installed which offered digital control of a very powerful analog synthesis system. A PDP-11 computer was used for computer control.
Joe Pinzarrone joined the faculty in the late 70’s and continued development of the studios and program. NIU hosted many very influential composers/performers in the field, a tradition which continues to this day. During this time the Neoteric Ensemble was formed and involved other composers/performers on faculty. They acquired a reputation for fresh, inventive performance- art forms including multi/mixed media works.
In 1990 Jim Phelps joined the NIU Music faculty as Director of the studios and began updating the facilities and program. NIUCMS (Northern Illinois University Computer Music Studios) currently offers students contemporary technology with which to create a broad spectrum of works including multimedia, realtime/interactive computer-music, multi-channel digital works as well as dramatic works. The Annex Group is an experimental, computer-music ensemble consisting of students studying computer music and presents at least one concert every year consisting of a diverse offering of styles and mediums.
NIU offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees emphasizing computer music and new-media technology under, respectively, the Contract Major and Individualized Studies programs.