Hannah Cai—Looking Outwards—11

For this week’s Looking Outwards, I chose this sample of music, which was generated by David Cope’s “Experiments in Musical Intelligence” computer program. It’s termed as a “Bach-style chorale” in the title, which, based on the comments, confused and angered a lot of the audience, who said it sounded nothing like Bach. One commenter clarified this distinction: ” A “Bach Chorale” refers to a style, not a composer – pretty much any SATB vocal piece utilizing the rules of counterpoint. That’s why a computer can do it — once you lay in one of the voices, you really can fill in the rest “by the numbers”. But don’t confuse that with actually composing or creating. And no offense but any real lover of Bach can tell that this sounds nothing like him — it has none of his intrigue or quirkiness (some of which has to do with his deliberate breaking of said rules). It sounds incredibly bland and boring to me. Which is exactly what I’d expect from computer-generated music.” ”

I found the reactions to this experiment more interesting than the audio itself, which I enjoyed, but didn’t find really special. I guess that personally, I feel like music needs some kind of human creativity or spontaneity/randomness to truly be “art.” Because this piece only “fills in” harmonies based on preset rules, it is less interesting/valuable to me, and apparently to quite a few other people as well. I still find the experiment impressive though, and I’d love to experiment with some kind of generative music in the future, if I can manage to learn how to.

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