I’ve just read a fascinating article about composer, David Cope, who is known for creating music in the style of Bach, Mozart, and others with software he developed called Emmy. I first heard David Cope’s work on Radiolab, and was intrigued by his approach. The article, Triumph of the Cyborg Composer, discusses his latest application titled Emily Howell. Cope is using the computer in a more collaborative way to compose music in his own style with the help of his program. A couple of audio examples within the article illustrate the musical results.
Cope has received a lot of criticism regarding his work, including statements that his music lacks soul because it was written by a computer. But was it really written by a computer? I think a better term is generated. Cope wrote the software, so I would argue that the music generated by the software was ultimately written by the software developer. In this case Cope himself. In other instances I might argue that the music was created by the user of the software tool, rather than the developer of the software. It comes down to who is at the controls. What decisions are being made, and by whom, or perhaps what?
Since I’ve developed and am currently using software to perform and record generative music, I am curious about your opinions. You may have heard pieces on this site generated by the GMS. Perhaps you listened to the excerpts in the article. What do you think? Does music generated by computers lack soul? Does it diminish the human, communicative qualities contained in the work? Or, are we using computers simply as tools? Perhaps, as computers and software evolve we might begin to collaborate artistically with them rather than just use them slavishly. Based on Cope’s work and others, I believe that we are closer than we think to this becoming a reality.