[Smt-talk] Aesthetics of Computer-Generated Music

Victor grauer victorag at verizon.net
Wed Apr 13 09:41:30 PDT 2011

At 12:28 AM 4/13/2011, Stephen Jablonsky wrote:
>All this talk about computer generated music begs the question, "Why 
>would anyone want a computer to write music?" The answer is because 
>composing is such a n arduous task that we want someone else to do 
>it for us, which kind of reminds me of Mickey having the broom carry 
>the water for him. The results are about the same.

First of all, computers don't write music. What we are talking about 
are algorithms. And an interesting aspect of the non-computerized 
music we all know and love is that it is full of algorithms. Speaking 
of Mickey, when Dukas wrote Sorcerer's Apprentice, he used an 
algorithm to depict the automatized replications of the brooms. It's 
called a "canon." And as we know, a great many canons have been 
notated on a single line, with special symbols indicating how the 
algorithm is to be realized. You could program a computer to do it, 
or you could write it out and/or perform it by hand. In either case, 
it's an algorithm.

Many simple theme and variation compositions employ a different 
"algorithm" for each segment. A great many piano works and songs by 
Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, etc. employ simple algorithms to 
control the left-hand figurations, which can often be quite 
mechanical. Fugues are highly algorithmic, as are, in a very 
different way, many of the more routine sonata form movements. Repeat 
signs are totally algorithmic.  So are most folk songs, where the 
same melody is repeated over and over again to different words.

So, yes, writing music can be an arduous task -- at least one reason 
why algorithms have been such an intrinsic aspect of so much music 
for such a long long time.

Victor Grauer
Pittsburgh, PA

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