[Smt-talk] Aesthetics of Computer-Generated Music

Michael Morse mwmorse at bell.net
Fri Apr 8 10:08:41 PDT 2011


  Your experiments sound fascinating. But to the degree that music is a case of Wittgenstein`s notion that, in many cases, the meaning is the use, what any computer algorithm can produce is a simulacrum of human meaning, not the thing itself. When such algorithms get to the point of a simulacrum indistinguishable from human musical language, we will be tempted to conclude that computers (or computer programs) can compose or create music. Unless we are willing to redefine music, assiduously leaching out the wisdom of Wittgenstein`s point, in favour of a what-if abstraction, however, that will not be true.

  A friend used to have a refrigerator that occasionally knocked. The sounds were uncanny, remarkably rhythmic, and so often given to the uneven measure groupings of Balkan music that we used to call it the Bulgarian fridge. Entirely speciously, of course; even though we used to listen to it avidly, and more than once learned a trick or two from such listening, the thing was a bloody refrigerator, not a musician. It produced music-like sounds, not music.

  Wittgenstein again: if a lion could talk, we would not be able to understand it. If a human being could accurately imitate a lion`s roar, enough to scare a fellow human being--well, that person would be in scant danger of being eaten.

MW Morse
Trent University, Peterborough-Oshawa
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