Alan Turing, the famed computer scientist, code breaker and artificial intelligence innovator, also broke ground in the genre of electronic music. But it’s a fair bet that Skrillex, Deadmau5, Daft Punk and Lindsey Stirling have little idea that the tools of their craft emerged from the lab of a computer scientist in the late 1940s.

Turing’s involvement in the evolution of electronic music has only recently been recognized, in part because of the release of a 1951 recording made by Turing of several songs generated by a computer, including “God Save the Queen,” “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and Glenn Miller jazz standard “In the Mood.”

The recording was made on a BBC outside-broadcast machine in Manchester, England, and the two-minute version is now listenable, thanks to some hard work from researchers at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch.

When Jack Copeland, a professor at the University of Canterbury, first took a look at the tape that contained Turing’s recording, there was warping and distortion along the 12-inch spool of acetate that made the music almost indecipherable. Copeland was working on the project with Jack Long, a composer himself, and they decided that they needed to adjust the sound of the '51 recording to showcase Turing’s accomplishment.

“The frequencies in the recording were not accurate,” they stated in a release. And that meant a lot of work.

Long and Copeland adjusted the speed of the audio, filtered out extra sounds that were present in the recording, and eventually remastered the entire recording. Then it was finally ready to be listened to.

The final version is a fascinating listen – it even features the voices of some of the computer operators talking and laughing about the music produced. At one point, during the song “In the Mood,” the computer stops playing and a woman’s voice can be heard on the recording saying, “The machine’s obviously not in the mood,” followed by laughter.

Despite some of Turing’s computer tones being slightly out of tune, and even though the machine starts and stops several times during the recording, people everywhere can now listen to the first-ever music generated by a computer. You can be an aural witness to history by following this link.

Even more amazing than the songs is the fact that Turing’s achievements in the world of music have been so long overlooked. While Turing’s involvement in breaking the WWII Enigma Code has been heavily documented – most recently in the blockbuster movie “The Imitation Game” – with the popularity of electronic music and EDM festivals on the rise, it’s sad that Turing’s contributions are just now coming to light.

As a computer scientist and researcher, Turing was unparalleled, and his work was groundbreaking. But he faced intense attacks and prosecution from the British government in the early 1950s for being a homosexual. Thankfully, the British government issued a public apology for what was done to Turing.

And now, with the release of this 65-year-old recording, people everywhere can recognize Turing’s role as a musical innovator and listen to the sounds of history being made – by a computer.

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