July 22, 2008

Buffy the computer whiz

Buffy Sainte-Marie is light-years beyond her days as a protest singerOne of those options was the use of computers, an area she investigated early enough to now be considered a pioneer. "I made an electronic record in the '60s, the first totally quadraphonic vocal album," she says by phone from a hotel in New York. "I was uniquely positioned to think of computers for something more than accounting and pie charts. I integrated computers into my music and art, but I also saw educational uses. We were putting kids online in the '80s before most people were even aware of the Internet. We had fifth-graders in Hawaii connected with aboriginal native Canadian kids in Saskatchewan. With the help of the Kellogg Foundation there in Michigan, we've expanded this work under the name Cradleboard Teaching Project." Sainte-Marie's educational activities are so numerous that her tour itinerary must differentiate between speaking and musical engagements.

She has had several gallery shows devoted to her paintings, which also utilize digital technology. "Electronic music and electronic art were a tough sell at first," she says. "We were not trying to replace guitars with computers any more than guitars replaced voices or pianos. It doesn't do away with watercolors or oils. It's just another tool to add to the toolbox. Once people understand that, everything changes."

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