OBITUARY: JOHN FRANCIS DUNN II (1943 - 2018)
John Dunn passed away in Fort Worth, Texas, on 27 June 2018, shortly after his 75th birthday. He was born in Philadelphia on June 7, 1943, the first son of John Francis Dunn and Mary Jane Baker Dunn. As the child of a Navy family, John moved frequently during his childhood, but graduated from Siren High School (Siren, Wisconsin) in 1961. He also joined the Navy shortly after his graduation and served as a hospital corpsman from 1961 to 1967.
Although he retained a deep lifelong interest in science, John became a pioneer in the development of computer software related to the arts. After attending the University of Florida, John received his Master of Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Chicago, working in the Generative Systems group with Sonia Sheridan. He wrote the first Superman video game for Atari (for which he was invited into the Guinness World Records), and followed it with increasingly sophisticated software for music composition and graphic arts.He was Research Fellow at the University of Michigan School of Art from 1995-1996. In collaboration with artist Jamy Sheridan, composer Warren Burt, biologist Mary Anne Clark, to whom he was married in 1999, and many others, John's software was used for the production of music from such diverse sources as brain waves, mutating HIV viruses, nightshades, image scans, and spider silk. John's vision for his work was perhaps best captured in his own words from his Algorithmic Arts web site:
It has only been in the last generation that music has become free of human player constraints, so we explorers of this new territory are just at the threshold. It's not so different from the state of aviation at the time of Kitty Hawk: the bounds of what was possible have dissolved, but we have yet to learn quite what that means or how to make it fit into society at large.
Ironically, the pursuit of that vision was impeded by the progressive loss of his eyesight, and in 2015, he stopped active programming, and released the open source files of his later software. At the time of his death, he was working on a book about his his work and ideas. He is survived by his mother, Mary Jane Dunn, his wife Mary Anne, his sister Janice Fenniman and his brothers Philip and David Dunn.
Sonia Sheridan: Memories of John Dunn
Warren Burt: John Dunn Remembered
Musical Tribute from Warren Burt