CCRMA was formed initially for the purpose of administering a $600,000 grant proposal that Chowning and Leland Smith made to the National Science Foundation (NSF) and The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Center grew rapidly into the multi-disciplinary facility it is today, where composers and researchers work together using computer-based technology both as an artistic medium and as a research tool. The patent established after Chowning’s discovery of FM synthesis in 1967, the second most lucrative licensing agreement in Stanford’s history, became the principal source of the Center’s current endowment.
In recent years, CCRMA faculty and students have devised nuanced ways of bridging music and technology. The Mobile Phone Orchestra (a.k.a MoPhO), a student organization established and currently directed in 2007 by CCRMA Professor Ge Wang, explores the interactive processes of musical composition using the technological capabilities of hardware and software, multi-touch screens, built-in accelerometers, gyroscopes, microphones, cameras, data networks, etc. Wang explained the significance of fusing phones and music in a 2009 interview with Stanford News: “mobile phones are becoming so powerful that we cannot ignore them anymore as platforms for creativity…[we are on the brink of ] a mobile renaissance, maybe a new mobile revolution.” In 2008, Wang further amplified musical innovation by starting the Stanford Laptop Orchestra (or SLOrk), a computer-based collective that appropriates new technologies in order to renovate traditional music. As described by members of SLOrk, this ensemble “fuses a powerful sea of sound with the immediacy of human music-making, capturing the irreplaceable energy of a live ensemble performance as well as its sonic intimacy and grandeur. At the same time, it leverages the computer’s precision, possibilities for new sounds, and potential for fantastical automation to provide a boundary-less sonic canvas on which to experiment, create, and perform music.”