A new piece on VAN by yours truly:
Recently, I played a series of symphonic movements for a class. Some were by Mozart, and others by other composers. With a little practice and guidance, the class picked up a rough impression of Mozart’s style, as distinct from the other works. The last piece I played was by David Cope’s software Experiments in Musical Intelligence (better known as EMI or Emmy). Emmy was designed to emulate other composers’ styles as closely as possible, and I wanted to test its effect on a class that wasn’t aware any of the music they would be hearing was written by software.
Of course, my real purpose was to test their reactions to algorithmic composition in general. One student, who’s preparing for her final school exams, gave a comment that’s been fairly exemplary of those I’ve heard when I bring up the topic: “You want to know that there’s a person writing the music. Otherwise how can it be special?”
Cope mothballed Emmy in 2003, and has channelled much of his subsequent work into another algorithmic composition project, Emily Howell, which uses outputs from Emmy and Cope’s training with an association network to generate music in its own style. It was only when I played Emily Howell’s music for the class that that same student was taken aback. She knew the piece. It’s in her study playlist.
The idea of algorithms that create art, and that create music specifically, is fascinating, and the more research I did on it the more interesting I found it. I think this piece should be a good primer for anyone who’s interested in the topic.