Monday, October 22, 2007

Music of Our Robotic Overlords

First let me introduce those of your reading this (ha ha I made a funny!) to a link where I have wasted a good portion of my time recently Wolfram Tones My dad the huge Mathematica groupie that he is found it and introduced me to it sometime last week. so I think the best way to start collecting my thoughts on it is by quoting his.

This is not particularly interesting music, and I think the approach is too naive. It values novelty too much, so there is too much surprise. I believe that music needs direction which is provided by some sort of predictability, usually supplied by rhythm and harmonic structure. Otherwise it becomes a sort of random walk and essentially boring after a little while.

I tried several manipulations, different instruments, rules, scales, meter, tempo, and duration. It was all noise because there was no structure. I don’t mean that the structure needs to adhere to any particular tradition, but if it doesn’t, it runs the risk of being too novel for the listener.

I think this is another example of engineers/scientists liking music but completely misunderstanding its nature, purpose, and practice.

So the question really is: can there be algorithmic music that is at least as interesting as a dog walking on its hind legs, or a woman preaching? (apologies to Samuel Johnson)

and in general I think I agree with him at least given the limited scope of Wolfram Tones. but I think there is a larger thing at work here. It is easy to forget that this is a very beta application meshing music and tone control on cellular automata by engineers and scientists with very little thought as to the musical merit of the automata themselves. I may be wrong but the impression I get is that they merely took existing cellular automata and allowed them to control tones, rather than looking for cellular automata. I think that algorithmic music has vast potential especially as the artists and musicians get their hands on it. This example, is certainly a case of Scientists and Engineers liking music but misunderstanding it However I think that the concept once worked on by people who do understand music (lord knows not I) start getting their hands algorithmic music it will be worthwhile and not merely a novelty.

and let me not say i dint try my hand at splicing some of it together pretty much randomly myself enjoy "Starving Wolfram at the Gates of Civilization"

1 comment:

rees said...

Interesting post. There is a huge algorithmic component of music composition. It would surprise many people that most western music, including American popular music, is written following particular rules and conventions of form and harmonic structure, as well as a variety of melodic techniques. The genius is in combining these elements in artistically relevant ways. Developing a metric for artistically relevant might be a little difficult.