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Johann Johannsson IBM 1401, A User's Manual

On IBM 1401, A User's Manual, Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson creates an elegy not only to the first (relatively affordable) mass-produced digital, all-transistorized business computer but also implicitly to his father Johann Gunnarsson, a maintenance engineer who managed to coax sounds out of the machine, despite it not being built for this purpose. When the machine was withdrawn from service in 1971, its "music" was played for a final time and documented on tape. Three and a half decades later, Johannsson has (via a 60-piece string orchestra) recorded his responses to these melodies, finding beauty in the limited audio emissions of the five-foot-high grey machine. The occasional deployment of a mid-'60s maintenance instruction tape is a little grounding (kitschy, even) but otherwise IBM 1401, A User's Manual is a touching and very lovely album indeed.

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