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Herbert Brun

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Herbert Brun

Herbert Brün (July 9, 1918 – November 6, 2000) was a composer and pioneer of electronic and computer music. Born in Berlin, Germany, he taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1962 until he retired, several years before his death.


Brün left Germany in 1936 to study piano and composition at the Jerusalem Conservatory (later renamed Israel Academy of Music) in (then) Palestine.[1]) He studied at Tanglewood and Columbia University from 1948 through 1950. His work as an electronic-music composer began in Paris in the late 1950s, at the WDR studio in Cologne, and at the Siemens studio in Munich.[2]

Joining the faculty of the University of Illinois in 1962, Brün began research on composition with computers, which resulted in pieces for tape and instruments, tape alone, and graphics.[3] His compositions from this period include Futility 1964 (1964) and Non Sequitur VI (1966). His notable students include Stuart Saunders Smith.

Brün began programming in FORTRAN in the late 1960s as he pursued an interest in designing processes. This work resulted in Infraudibles (1968) and Mutatis Mutandis (1968). The work included the creation of graphical representations of computer-generated music.

In 1972, Brün created a new synthesis technique which generated new timbres by linking and merging tiny portions of waveforms. (Efforts along similar lines are described in the article Granular synthesis.) From 1980 on, he toured and taught with the Performers' Workshop Ensemble, a group he founded.

Brün was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Goethe University Frankfurt, and the Norbert Wiener medal from the American Society for Cybernetics in 1993. He helped found the School for Designing a Society in 1993 and taught there through the year 2000.

Brun's students at the University of Illinois were referred to, often pejoratively, as Brünettes.[4]

Selected works

  • Five Pieces for piano, Op.1 (1940–45)
  • Sonatina for viola alone, Op.12 (1950)
  • String Quartet No.2 (1957)
  • Anepigraphe (1958) (tape alone)
  • Klange unterwegs ('Wayfaring Sounds') (1962) (tape alone)
  • Trio (1964)
  • Futility 1964 (tape alone)
  • Sonoriferous Loops (1964) (chamber ensemble and tape)
  • Infraudibles (1968/1984) (optional chamber ensemble and tape)
  • Piece of Prose (1972) (tape alone)
  • Dust (1976) (SAWDUST No. 1) (tape alone)
  • More Dust (1977) (SAWDUST No. 2) (optional percussion and tape)
  • Dustiny (1978) (SAWDUST No. 3) (tape alone)
  • A Mere Ripple (1979) (SAWDUST No. 4) (tape alone)
  • U-TURN-TO (1980) (SAWDUST No. 5) (tape alone)
  • I toLD YOU so! (1981) (SAWDUST No. 6) (tape alone)
  • Sentences Now Open Wide (SNOW) (1984)
  • on stilts among ducks (1996) (viola and tape)


  • Brün, Herbert. Über Musik und zum Computer. Karlsruhe: G. Braun, 1971. Accompanied by a 10-inch LP recording.
  • Computer-generated graphics. Computer Music Journal, Vol. 5, No. 2, summer, 1981.
  • Brün, Herbert. My Words and Where I Want Them. Champaign, IL ; London: Princelet Editions, 1990. ISBN 0-86298-028-3
  • Brün, Herbert. Irresistible Observations, edited by Mark Enslin, Susan Parenti, Andrew Trull. Champaign, IL: Non Sequitur Press. ISBN 0-9662448-6-9
  • Brün, Herbert. Sighs in Disguise, edited by Mark Enslin, Susan Parenti, Andrew Trull. Champaign, IL: Non Sequitur Press. ISBN 0-9662448-5-0
  • Brün, Herbert. When Music Resists Meaning: The Major Writings of Herbert Brün, edited by Arun Chandra. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8195-6669-1 (cloth) ISBN 0-8195-6670-5 (pbk.)


  • Enslin, Mark. 2001. "Brün, Herbert". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers; New York: Grove's Dictionaries of Music.

External links

  • Herbert Brun website
  • EMF Media bio
  • ICMA obit
  • works on CD

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