Cleve Scott, Founder of Music Engineering Technology Program at Ball State University


Interview with Robert Willey

RW: How did you get interested in music? When and how did it really start to captivate you? What was your main area if interest, and where did you study? What brought you to Muncie?

CS: My interest in music started in 6th grade (trumpet) I played all the way through my BS degree from Long Beach State CA.  (Music comp).  I started a Masters at USC and then went back to LBSCfinished all of the course work but didn't like my Thesis.  Went to Iowa got my Masters and Phd. in comp and theory there. I taught at Upper Iowa University from 1960-67.  Did a lot of tape stuff.  Got to Iowa and studied with Robert Shallenberg who put me in touch with Ken Gaburo after that Peter Lewis. {Cleve was hired in 1970 to start the electronic music studio and direct the Ensemble for New Music. The ARP 2500 that we still use was one of the first acquisitions.}

RW: What was your idea for the MET program?

CS: I have always felt there was too much separation between science and music.  The MET program was an attempt to address this. The inspiration for the engineering component came from a letter written by Schoenberg to the chancellor of the U of Chicago encouraging that music should include science in their curriculum to assist audio engineers. The MET program was a major in composition, Jr. standing on your instrument, a minor in physics (math included) and a Senior comp recital.  This added up to 130+ hours and he thought that was too hard.  We had some great graduates even without the degree. Mike Pounds got his Masters with us but in Composition.

RW: Did the house in Bethel have any advantages?

CS: The house on Bethel was a blessing, we didn't have students or faculty there that shouldn't be there. I did have one Mused guy there for a while but when we moved a computerfrom the nose cone of a minuteman missile in with lots of open wiring he moved out for fear of fire. I called the house on Bethel the "Sound House", a term used by Francis Bacon.

{"We have also sound-houses, where we practice and demonstrate all sounds and their generation. We have harmony which you have not, of quarter-sounds and lesser slides of sounds. Diverse instruments of music likewise to you unknown, some sweeter than any you have; with bells and rings that are dainty and sweet. We represent small sounds as great and deep, likewise great sounds extenuate and sharp; we make divers trembling and warbling of sounds, which in their original are entire. We represent and imitate all articulate sounds and letters, and the voices and notes of beasts and birds. We have certain helps which, set to the ear, do further the hearing greatly; we have also divers strange and artificial echoes, reflecting the voice many times, and, as it were, tossing it; and some that give back the voice louder than it came, some shriller and some deeper; yea, some rendering the voice, differing in the letters or articulate sound from that they receive. We have all means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes, in strange lines and distances." ~Francis Bacon, New Atlantis (1626)}


RW: Were you able to find time to produce your own music? Have you continued to experiment since you retired?

CS: Yes I have kept up composing although modestly.  The studios at Bethel and the MI are both compositions to me.  I am continuing to work on compositions and have built a substantial studio in my home that keeps me occupied.

RW: Do you think anything was lost in moving away from tape and analog synthesizers? What did you like about systems like the Serge?

CS: I think that Tape and analog gear required time for involvement.  You had to do things physically. This gave you time to contemplate about the goal. You had to patch the Serge.  Therefore you had to know the Serge.  Today we are in the midst of plug and play what goes on in Ableton Live is beyond your reach and you can only get to the things they want you to get to.  This doesn't mean you can't be musical, it just means you have to learn a lot more to break the rules.

{Cleve was on the planning committee for the Music Instruction Building. He worked with the architects in designing the performance spaces and studios.}

RW: How did the program move from the house on Bethel Ave. to the Music Instruction Building, and how were your involved in the planning of that?

CS: We were visited by the Commision for Higher Education at the Sound House (the old studio).  It was after that visit that the discussion of a new building got started. 

RW: Do you think computer music has proven itself as a vital stream in contemporary music?

CS: I think computer music has probably run it's course.  I think we will see the computer involved in music from now on but most likely in a virtual form as computing is moving to a more generalized and sharable continuum. For example, you can rent a "computer" in the cloud for projects and spin down the results and go back to your old laptop.

RW: We're interested in starting a masters programs, hopefully it would foster a more experimental and creative be environment and stimulate the use of the studios as places to create music rather than just record it. If you were starting a program today in our facilities what would you be interested in focusing on?

CS: I would emphasize composition as the tool to learn technology. I believe that most composers are using basic science intuitively, the more successful, the more science.  Creativity is about breaking rules.  The best way and most creative way to break rules is to know the rules intrinsically. My advice to those beginning a career in music tech is to earn more about the human being.  Virtual reality's success depends on it and we are headed that way right now.



Interview from the 1990s:

Studio report by Keith Kothman, Michael Pounds, and Jeffrey Seitz (2004).