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The Expanding Universe
UW19 | January 18, 2019
All items include instant download

Release Info

The Expanding Universe is the 1980 debut album by composer and computer music pioneer Laurie Spiegel. The original album is reissued here as a massively expanded 3LP or 2CD set, containing all four original album tracks plus an additional 15 tracks from the same period, nearly all previously unreleased and many making their first appearance on vinyl in this brand new 2018 edition. Since this album’s first reissue in 2012, it has gone on to be widely established as a classic of electronic, ambient, and 20th century classical music.  Some of the well-loved works included in this set are "Patchwork", the "Appalachian Grove" series, “East River Dawn” and "Kepler's Harmony of the Worlds", which was included on the Golden Record launched on board the Voyager spacecraft. The pieces comprising The Expanding Universe combine slowly evolving textures with the emotional richness of intricate counterpoint, harmony, and complex rhythms (John Fahey and J. S. Bach are both cited as major influences in the original cover's notes), all built of electronic sounds. These works, often grouped with those of Terry Riley, Phil Glass, Steve Reich, differ in their much shorter, clear forms. Composed and realized between 1974 and 1977 on the GROOVE system developed by Max Mathews and F.R. Moore at Bell Laboratories, the pieces on this album were far ahead of their time both in musical content and in how they were made. Each of the included works broke new ground, pioneering completely new methods of live interaction with computer-based logic - ways of creating music that are now reaching the heights of their popularity with Ableton Live, Max/MSP and other interactive music software entering mainstream music production.

Product Info


2 CD set
Gatefold wallet
23 page booklet with comprehensive liner notes by Laurie Spiegel and period photos


3 LP set
Mastered by Laurie Spiegel, cut by Rashad Becker
Split-fountain gatefold sleeve
Download card included


Your choice of the following formats:
MP3  - 320kbps
FLAC - 16/44.1
ALAC - 16/44.1
Digital booklet

Past editions:

Catalog# UW09LP:
First edition LP limited to 500 copies on transparent vinyl (sold out)
Second edition LP on black vinyl (sold out)
Tip-on LP sleeve
The LP reissue mirrors the original tracklisting (Side A: Patchwork, Old Wave, Pentachrome / Side B: The Expanding Universe), but adds "A Folk Study" to the end of Side A to further even out the sides
Download code of the entire 2CD collection is included with each LP

Catalog# UW09CD:
2CD Set
Jewel box
24 page booklet with comprehensive liner notes by Laurie Spiegel and period photos


#12 Pitchfork's 50 Best Ambient Ambient Albums of All Time

Pitchfork Best New Reissue

WIRE #1 Archival Release of the Year

Boomkat #3 Archival Release for 2012

Other Music #4 Reissue for 2012

SPIN #8 Reissue for 2012

Pitchfork Resident Visitor: Laurie Spiegel's Machine Music by Simon Reynolds

New Music Box  Laurie Spiegel: Grassroots Technologist by Frank J. Oteri

New York Times Rediscovering the Electronic Music Godmothers by Steve Smith

Wall Street Journal Mechanizing the Musical Universe by Andy Battaglia

Frieze Magazine Interview by Geeta Dayal

Sex Magazine Feature by Dena Yago

"what’s new on The Expanding Universe is as diverse-sounding and alive as any electronic music issued this year, even though all of these pieces were conceived on a computer-analog hybrid system stashed in a Bell Labs hallway from 1973 to 1979 ... Spiegel’s improvisatory sensibility, and her disinclination to repeat herself at a conceptual level, makes all this previously unheard music a delight to explore. " - The New Yorker

"The Expanding Universe is a pioneering work in the fields of music composition and computer programing. Just as important, from the musical perspective, it is infused with an obvious appreciation of John Fahey's radical guitar instrumentals, in particular, and J.S. Bach ... very clear and intelligent, with a humble yet profound spirit, where nothing is disguised or exaggerated for gimmick. These pieces retain a revolutionary freshness and an honesty of which Fahey would be proud. They also reflect an appreciation for nature and Spiegel's ability to play banjo and lute." - Brainwashed

"Her previously out of print début, The Expanded Universe, is here reissued so definitively that it barely resembles the four pieces comprising the original. The extensive and insightful liner notes provide detailed production notes for each track and clearly align Spiegel within this perspective. Her contributions to early computer music and audio technology are well observed and as her reputation as a visual artist has grown so has awareness of her myriad innovations with analogue and digital synthesis." - The Sound Projector

"The previously unreleased "Drums" is particularly flabbergasting, if only for the way that it lays the groundwork for minimal techno over a decade before the genre was invented in Detroit and Berlin." - SPIN

"The freedom that vibrates out of these tracks reflects the spirit of their composer" - Dusted

"highly absorbing, cosmic-hallucination-provoking two and a half hours ... Ignored for three decades, “The Expanding Universe” now re-emerges, proud and torrential, as an absolute classic." - Playground Mag

"a set that's wonderfully on the cusp of analogue expression at the end of the 70s – tuneful, not noisy – rich in texture, yet never too dark – and warm, but never in a mellow sort of new age way! At some level, a record like this sits atop all the earlier experiments from Universities, electronic labs, European prog records, and other sources – and manages to draw all the best elements from them, and avoid any of the electronic pitfalls to come in an equally wide range of scenes. The balance here is perfect – and perfectly lovely at points" - Dusty Groove

"Even at its most abstract and intellectually challenging, Spiegel’s music was always tonal, melodic and musical in a way that was out of step with both uptown serialism and the downtown minimalists." - Spectrum Culture

"Spiegel’s compositions –some three decades on– continue to emanate warmth, her analog sounds are by turns gurgling, beatific, and intimate, even when she’s contemplating distant planets, the chill of galaxies, and our own expanding universe." - MTV Hive


"This is an excerpt of my late-1970s piece "Voyages", generated at Bell Labs using the "VAMPIRE" video-and-music co-generation system I had been working on as a varient of the GROOVE system that would output both visual and audible music. This particular clip lacks the audio track, so consider it to be one of the series of 'Living Paintings' I had started doing using the same software." - Laurie Spiegel