Friday, November 21

Computer-generated music

EMI (Experiments in Musical Intelligence) by David Cope changed my mind on the state of computer music generation software. I had come across numerous "music generation" programs, but it would have been a long stretch to call their results "music". They would produce, at best, strange patterns of beeps. I had heard of a live "jazz improvisation gig partner" machine (probably this one), but EMI is on a completely different level – just listen to the MP3 samples. Sure, in the end it is mostly splicing and rehashing of existing pieces, but Cope claims that in blind tests even experienced listeners would sometimes confuse an original piece by a composer and a composition by EMI. In other words, EMI passed the equivalent of a Turing test for music generation software. If that is not impressive, I do not know what is.

Unfortunately David Cope's site is skimpy on the details of how EMI works, even though there is an extensive bibliography (note the time span: 20 years!). At least some information can be gathered from the webpages of his numerous books.