March 20 2013

Discussion on the evaluation of computer music and AI generative systems. I’ll post my (draft) slides soon.

One Comment to “March 20 2013”

  1. Hello guys (Andie and Eliot);

    I am a great fan of your recent metaphysical talks concerning music which have completely taken over your show (although actually I liked your show even when you actually played music), and your discussion of robotics in music a few weeks ago made me reflect on not only how robotics MAKE music, but also how they PLAY music. You may not see the distinction right away, and perhaps it’s not really an important point, but I can’t help but relate this to the way most music is increasingly being consumed, and I’m sure there’s some sort of parallel with what you were discussing concerning authenticity in computer-created music.

    What I’m getting at is how more and more people are relying on computers to generate musical wallpaper (to borrow Neil Young’s deprecatory remark). This seems to be manifested in three general ways:
    1. Internet radio stations, i.e.: especially those broadcast from home, where there are no human hosts to speak of, merely computer-generated content, usually randomly generated. At first, this was quite the novelty, allowing one to either broadcast one’s musical collection (and by extension, one’s musical tastes) to the world, and conversely to allow one to seek out niche and specialized content.
    2. Home computers, where people let the computer randomly choose selections from their own mp3 collection. (To allow people to broadcast their own collections to themselves, without the hassle of actually having to hear an announcer, or, God forbid, music you are not familiar with.)
    3. Publicly broadcasting radio stations, doing the same, in an apparent desire to appear hip, by emulating what Apple lets you do on iTunes at home (or is it rather in an effort to cut costs?!?), especially during night-time slots.

    Now, this might be purely subjective, but there’s nothing I find more boring and annoying than listening to computer-randomly-generated music. Especially on the radio. The moment I found out that CBC Radio 2’s night show, which used to feature extraordinary contemporary experimental composers such as Murray Schafer, etc., had been replaced by a computer generated wall-paper of pop music, I bid them farewell. Not because I didn’t necessarily like the music they were playing, but because everything was played without any form of presentation (the announcer’s job), and because I ended up hating music I ordinarily would enjoy. What I’m getting at, and this relates to one of the points you were making, is that there’s no human input, no human content, no human interaction with the music. Boring.
    The only time I can tolerate such programmed music is when it is specifically chosen beforehand (in the form of a playlist), such as occasionally on CISM, where the jazz show hosts, at the end of their show, would tell the audience to stay up for their “night-mix” later on in the night, and would even proceed to name some of the titles to whet your appetite, even though everyone went home for the night and the machine took over once the night-mix began. Sometimes their mixes were so good that I would stay up all night listening to the music, while working.

    * * * * * * *

    On the following week, during Andie’s presentation of the paper she was going to give in New York, you brought up the issue of style, which again made me reflect on parallels that have nothing to do with computer-generated music.
    Specifically, in folk (traditional) music, especially in folk revivalist movements, there seems to be a similar tension between being “creative”, or asserting a certain amount of individuality, and the demands of style, or more specifically of fitting in the folk movement. As Andie had mentioned, in musics such as salsa, jazz, or whatever, there has to be some sort of defining element, and probably more than one element, which may change over time, possibly due to the way individual creativity pushes the boundary of what those defining elements are. Some forms of music may specifically or overtly value individual creativity (although to jazz purists of the time, Miles Davis abandoned jazz sometime around Bitch’s Brew), but in the music I am working on (some of it published online at, Quebecois folk music, the current revivalist movement is called “néo-trad”, to evoke modern elements inserted into a traditional form. The same might be true of any “traditional” style, such as Nuevo tango, or Dixieland jazz, not to mentions the folkies’ reactions to Dylan when he went electric, but in traditional (folk) musics there seems to be a contradiction between individuality and creativity on the one hand, and traditional form and the objectified or idealized past, in general, on the other, which “art music” does not have to deal with because by nature art has a history and a progression which any artist consciously and willingly inserts himself or herself into. In other words, today’s revivalists have to deal with issues of self-expression which “natives” or “old-timers” or the rural populace (whatever you want to call them) never had to deal with, because “art” and “tradition” are somewhat opposite; “traditional” implying something which does not change very much over time, and which in fact tends to resists change.

    Anyway, hope this is relevant and interesting to you.

    ~Daniel Guilbert

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