Originally designed by Xenakis to free him from traditional music notation while allowing a faithful execution of his musical thought, UPIC (Unité Polyagogique Informatique du CEMAMu) was quickly diverted from its original functions. Even if Xenakis recommended to apprentice composers who came to study with him ‘listen to a lot of music and write’ (Serrou 2003: 20), this machine, since its inception, has enabled a large number of people to access music composition, because it does not require any preliminary theoretical training. Based on this observation we ask how UPIC, capable of converting a drawing into sound in real-time, upset the perception of musical pedagogy not only in Europe but also worldwide, through the many workshops/concerts offered to a wide audience. Exchanges and emulation around this invention are discussed as well.
After describing the technical development of this tool and, by extension, Xenakis's pedagogical thinking, we will highlight some of the most significant encounters between the machine and the public thanks to many unpublished sources found in the archives of the Centre Iannis Xenakis (CIX) recently deposited at the University of Rouen. We will highlight the pedagogical correlation between sound theory, gesture and image involved in the composition of a UPIC score. We will also approach other software applications that combine drawing and sound.