[Smt-talk] Aesthetics of Computer-Generated Music

Greenwich green at webster.sk.ca
Fri Apr 8 22:58:24 PDT 2011

   I created a computer program several years
 ago designed to create tonal melodies about
 30-40 notes long. It was even nominated by
 Discover magazine (unsolicited by me) to be
 entered (entrance fee waived by them) in a
 contest they were conducting that year 1997. My
 webpage about that program is at:


    I think you'll all find it interesting. I
 describe the basic principle involved in
 making the program (Example URLs below).

    It cured me of my compositional "writers' 
block" that I developed when composing
music.  It took months to write the program,
but only an hour or so to satisfy my need.
    As I showed everyone who'd look, the 
program composed  melodies very fast, 
indeed, by the gross per minute. My motto 
was: "To carry these tunes,  you'll need a 
forklift." I never needed to use  the program 
again after that first hour.
    Writer's block -- gone!!
    In my original advert for it, I offered 
everyone who bought  a copy of the program 
they'd would get a free set of sparkplugs 
(for their forklift). Unfortunately, you need an 
old Tandy-100 laptop to run them and a used-
car dealer mentality to sell them.

    However, I agree with Morse and Grauer -- 
especially as Victor wrote:
    "...not even the most abstrusely
 mathematical computer program, is ever 
"fully generated" by computer.... I start with 
an algorithm that seems promising, I listen to 
 the result, and then modify it over and over 
again until I get something that "speaks" to 
me.... I have a feeling many composers of 
computer music work in more or less the same 

    In my own case, I didn't go over and over
on it again and again.  Just a  few changes 
were often enough, because of my second 
program (or a Part 2) into which I put the most 
promising melodies created by the first 
program (see the webpage above).

    Below are four URLs from the many 
hundreds of  melodies it made. These three 
still are single-line melodies, but carry the 
"illusion" of tonal harmony due to the "Part 2 
program."   There are still rarely any two 
notes at-a-time (unless I sustain some notes or 
add a human-composed line of counterpoint  
-- a la as Gounod did w/ Bach).

    This first one is 95% all computer made.

    My favourite example is below, with only a 
total of 5 or 6  notes changed, and 2 
"repeats." (All the tunes get a 2 or 3 note 
cadence to end them tonally). In this piece --
taking me only 30 minutes to "finish off" -- the 
single melodic line of music is retained, but 
has the aural illusion of harmny (because the 
highest notes -- originally as  short 
unaccompanied tones, are sustained by part 2 
of the program  (or me) to connect them -- but 
even without that, the illusion  of harmony is 
still there -- a la the Bach Partidas for violin):

    On this next one, I took the computer's own 
melody mostly as is, and added a counterpoint 
line (either below it or over it).

    Need a new short composition? Give me 10 
minutes or so!
    The last one here, is 50% inspired from 
several combined as-is computer melodies &
50% me (but still mainly "single-line" music
-- and maybe 10% unconscious plagiarism).
--Bob & Fink 
(The name Fink is the computer's; Bob is MY name.)
musicologists, retired
 "A person who won't read has no advantage 
        over one who can't read." --Mark Twain

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