[Smt-talk] Aesthetics of Computer-Generated Music

Dave Headlam dheadlam at esm.rochester.edu
Fri Apr 8 19:04:56 PDT 2011

Nicolas et al:   Here is an early American example:

See it, unfortunately or fortunately depending on your point of view with
the music mostly cut off,


You gotta love the former Miss America --

Dave Headlam

On 4/8/11 3:02 PM, "Nicolas Meeùs" <nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr> wrote:

>    It seems to me that the case of computer-generated music is much akin to
> that of fakes in art. This is all the more interesting that, according to
> Nelson Goodman, fakes cannot exist in an allographic art such as music. What
> would be faked, in the case of computer-generated music, is its
> intentionality. The extent to which such music could produce an aesthetic
> effect strongly depends on the intentionality of the listener. For this
> reason, I doubt that an experimental study would produce any interesting
> result: the listener's answers would not depend on the music itself, rather
> (a) of their awareness of it being computer-generated; (b) of their opinion
> about this. I would think, therefore, that the question must be approached
> from a semiotic and/or philosophical point of view, not from a merely
> empirical/experimental one.
>  Consider these cases:
>  ­ At a not too recent conference in the Sorbonne, one of the papers was read
> by a guy who had written a piece of software generating what he thought was
> (good) tonal music. He explained that he had come to love this music so much
> that he couldn't hear any other any more. The examples he made us listen to
> where awful ­ or so thought several of us. Obviously, neither this guy nor any
> of us judged the music on its inherent aesthetic value: we were guided by our
> personal convictions.
>  ­ Suppose that a real piece of music, written by a real composer, is
> presented as computer-generated. Many a listener might dislike it merely on
> the basis that it is (erroneously) thought to be a fake.
>  ­ Inversely, suppose that a computer-generated work is made to pass for the
> work of an interesting forgotten composer: many critics will praise it and
> praise the rediscovery of an unjustly neglected master.
>  ­ Etc.
>  I do believe that common-practice tonality can be modelized with much more
> satisfying (and more precise results than what Marcel de Velde believes.
> Examples do exist (e.g. Mario Baroni, Rossana Dalmonte and Carlo Jacoboni's
> Legrense software described in their Regole della musica, successfully
> modelizing arie by Legrense).
>  I don't think that intonation has any important share in this matter. After
> all, there exist recordings of, say, The Art of Fugue, on early synthetizers
> (Moog) which played in ET: I did not feel that the music suffered so much. The
> problem remains that just intonation isn't really usable in tonal music
> because the directionality of tonal harmony produces an unavoidable shift in
> pitch in just intonation. I suppose that one might construct a harmonic
> functionality that would balance the shifts in pitch, and that just intonation
> in that case might produce some sort of consonant effect that might seem of
> aesthetic value; but that would not be tonal music.
>      Marcel, your experiment in just intonation seems to me to sound much more
> like "modal" polyphony of the 16th century than like tonal music, precisely
> because your algorithm probably makes no provision for a tonal directionality
> of the harmony ­ and because limiting the range to the 5-limit-harmonic did
> not confront you to the problem of having to prepare and resolve 7ths, which
> one of the main causes of tonal directionality.
>  Yours,
>  Nicolas Meeùs
>  Université Paris-Sorbonne


Dave Headlam
Professor of Music Theory
Joint Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Eastman School of Music / The College
The University of Rochester
26 Gibbs St.
Rochester, NY 14604
dheadlam at esm.rochester.edu

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