Historically, there have always been those who wish to use procedures or algorithms to compose music. They have ranged everywhere from assigning a pitch to each vowel in the text of a song (so the song was dependant upon the text) to dictating how to compose music when certain words are being sung or certain feelings are trying to be evoked.
Those techniques listed above are actually very old, but the idea of algorithmic composition has never died. Along comes the computer - a machine that can execute well-defined algorithms quickly, allowing the user to obtain results (s)he never expected. Algorithmic composition booms. In 1956 the first computer-composed piece of music is released - The Illiac Suite for String Quartet. It is named after the computer that composed it - the Illiac at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The composer is Lejaren Hiller, who had some help from his assistant Isaacson.
Dr. Lejaren Hiller was the man who single-handedly advanced computer-aided composition into a real field of research and development. He was an industrial chemist, but he didn't want to be. So he gave up his career and played with computers. He also realized the importance of what he was doing and what others were doing, so he became a kind of historian for the subject. To this day, his name is attached to much in the field.
All of this comes from a need to break away from the musical methods of the time. The twelve tone method was big, but it was also very demanding and strict in how it could be used. There were certain things that a composer was supposed to do to set up a piece before he actually started composing. This became known as the pre-composition burden. It became difficult for composers to compose as the rules got more complex and stricter and the pre-composition burden got heavier.
One way composers had of dealing with this was to write aleoretic music, or music in which not everything was fixed, so the piece could varry from performance to performance. These people included John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Suddenly, it was proven from Hiller's efforts that a computer could mimic any form of composition, be it cannon, rondo, minuet, or anything else. The impact on the music world was understandably profound. People like John Cage experimented with this new technique for working in an old art form.
Begin the lesson
Where we're coming from musically
Go back to the first page