[Smt-talk] Aesthetics of Computer-Generated Music

kos at panix.com kos at panix.com
Fri Apr 8 04:38:46 PDT 2011

Victor grauer <victorag at verizon.net> quoted:

> I have a feeling many composers of computer music work in more or less the 
> same way. On the other hand, a composer like John Cage preferred to "let the 
> sounds speak for themselves" and went to a lot of trouble to remove himself 
> from the compositional process. Maybe this is the sort of music you are 
> thinking of -- but Cage only rarely used a computer.

This is what Cage said at times, but it is at odds with his actual compositional 
process.  Perhaps he came slowly to use computers because, trained as an 
engineer, he was so used to doing mathematical computations manually.  His 
sketches from at least the 1950s show numerous pages filled with 
handwritten calculations for the purpose of deciding when actions take place.

By the 1970s Cage had been introduced to the possibilities of computer 
calculations by people such as Andrew Culver.  Beginning in the 1970s, Cage's 
sketches contain reams of computer paper with even more complex mathematical 
calculations than he had done in the 1950s.

A version of the program that Andrew Culver designed for Cage, IC (i.e. 
I-Ching), is available on the web at: 

Bob Kosovsky, Ph.D. -- Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts,
Music Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
blog:  http://www.nypl.org/blog/author/44   Twitter: @kos2
   Listowner: OPERA-L ; SMT-TALK ; SMT-ANNOUNCE ; SoundForge-users
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