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Triumph of the Cyborg Composer

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the musician-vs-machine dept.

Music 502

An anonymous reader writes "UC Santa Cruz emeritus professor David Cope's software, nicknamed Emmy, creates beautiful original music. So why are people so angry about that? From the article: 'Cope attracted praise from musicians and computer scientists, but his creation raised troubling questions: If a machine could write a Mozart sonata every bit as good as the originals, then what was so special about Mozart? And was there really any soul behind the great works, or were Beethoven and his ilk just clever mathematical manipulators of notes?'"

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It's maths all the way down (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31267600)

Deal with it.

Re:It's maths all the way down (3, Insightful)

areusche (1297613) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267646)

Music follows a set of rules. There absolutely isn't any reason why a computer program can't take a modern tune and play it following the same tonal styles as Mozart. Here's an example of Richard Hyung-Ki Joo playing Uptown Girl in the time of Mozart. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZmSSm_RKbI [youtube.com]

Golden rule of plutocracy (0, Offtopic)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267802)

Music follows a set of rules.

As does law, but law also follows the golden rule of plutocracy: he who has the gold makes the rules.

There absolutely isn't any reason why a computer program can't take a modern tune and play it following the same tonal styles as Mozart.

There is one: copyright.

Re:Golden rule of plutocracy (1)

Jbcarpen (883850) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267836)

Modern copyright law may be insane, but at least Mozart is in the public domain.

Re:Golden rule of plutocracy (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267906)

The work whose style is transformed to match that of Mozart is not in the public domain. areusche's comment [slashdot.org] specifically mentioned "Uptown Girl" as an example.

Too much time on their hands (5, Insightful)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267608)

Good tunes are good tunes. What's their problem?

Re:Too much time on their hands (5, Insightful)

CliffH (64518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267644)

Exactly. Honestly don't care who or what writes the music, as long as it is good, thought provoking, emotional, or just plain neat. I listen for the enjoyment of the music, not for the composer of the music.

Re:Too much time on their hands (2, Insightful)

EkriirkE (1075937) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267976)

This is why I don't buy albums, but individual tracks.

Re:Too much time on their hands (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31268034)

the album is where the art comes in. the emotional connection between songs that makes the experience worth having. i can enjoy an individual track as much as the next person, but experiencing an amazing album is so much more worthwhile. i don't see software ever being able to do that.

Re:Too much time on their hands (5, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268040)

While the concept of having a full album has been lost, a lot of music is best listened to in album form. For example, while its possible to enjoy Pink Floyd's singles on The Wall album, in order to truly get the message its best to listen to the entire album. A lot of records were made this way before the advent of the CD and now digital singles. Yes, today an album is simply a collection of singles, but once upon a time (and some bands still release them like before) an album was a work as a whole, never meant to be separated.

Re:Too much time on their hands (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31268082)

if you think all albums today are "simply a collection of singles", you're listening to crap bands. any band worth listening to these days still creates albums and not songs, though you're most likely not going to hear any of it on the radio.

Re:Too much time on their hands (4, Informative)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268092)

Or, you have Frank Zappa's Joe's Garage which was a bunch of unrelated songs strung together with an outlandish story made up at the last minute. The tactic worked equally well. Check the wiki article for the plot, it's relevent to your interests.

Re:Too much time on their hands (1)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267676)

Good tunes are good tunes. What's their problem?

Computers can compose music for less money and in greater quantity than humans.

Re:Too much time on their hands (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267690)

Weeeell, you (not you, but musicians/producers) would have to do better than the formulaic shit that computers can do just as well, eh?!

Besides, we still pay extra to see live performance anyways.

Re:Too much time on their hands (1)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267856)

Yeah! At least this time when robot-lars-ulrich plays the music will have a beat that is in-time. I love seeing live concerts!

Re:Too much time on their hands (4, Informative)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267978)

Fuck Urlich. Metalica ain't half what it was after Burton the Basslord passed away.

Re:Too much time on their hands (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268030)

A-men to that. RIP Cliff.

Re:Too much time on their hands (2, Funny)

Smooth and Shiny (1097089) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267718)

How long before the RIAA sues the robot?

Re:Too much time on their hands (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31267716)

Who said this shit was good?

Re:Too much time on their hands (5, Insightful)

GlassHeart (579618) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267752)

The fact that a relatively simple machine (especially when we look back ten or fifty years from now) can do what was originally thought to be difficult undermines the pedestal that many humans have put themselves on. This is why people were upset when Deep Blue beat Kasparov. It would have to be a skill that we've abandoned as uniquely human - such as raw mathematical calculations - that a machine would be allowed to beat us at without this sort of reaction.

Fact is, what's hard for humans to do isn't necessarily hard for a computer, but those who fail to understand that get upset.

Re:Too much time on their hands (2, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267902)

To add one level more of upset, when we reach that point or singularity where robots can do all that humans can do it will bring up the question of what is a soul? At that point Skynet will protect itself from the impending religious genocide wars about to be waged against the robots.

Re:Too much time on their hands (4, Insightful)

greg1104 (461138) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268080)

Deep Blue beat Kasparov after being trained on a giant library of Kasparov games. If Emmy can be trained to compose like Mozart after being exposed to his music I'm similarly unimpressed. The fact that it's possible to extract patterns from analyzing human behavior and then replicate those patterns as well as a person isn't all that special. Deep Blue had its occasional moment where it did something really brilliant that no person was likely to have ever considered, but even that's only after having consumed centuries of human knowledge to reach that point.

Re:Too much time on their hands (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267770)

Because it means that robots and software can be creative. And what is the last bastion of the human aspect, the greatest thing, the most productive and valuable feature? Creativity. When robots and AI products exhibit creativity, it will be impossible to deny them a soul. And that's the end of humanity.

Or at least, that's how some people look at it. Personally, I think it's a very cool program, and worrying about it replacing humans in art creation is a silly worry. Humans create art because they want to, not because it shows others that they have a soul. At least I hope so.

Re:Too much time on their hands (1)

Ltap (1572175) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267954)

The main catalyst with creativity is simply randomness. The whole purpose of creativity is to provide a way for us to express our ideas and to think about things, and to work out emotions. It's healthy for us psychologically and helps with new ideas.

The point is that humans are simply very complex machines which operate through the interaction of an unbelievably large number of small computers (cells) which have component parts, store memory, and complete tasks. The interaction of these computers works on a hardware level, but through the process of evolution has given rise to increasing layers of complexity and abstraction. One of our many strengths is inexactness - a possible parallel would be our brains running Quake at 60fps and using 1% CPU, but not getting the sprites quite right and making everybody look like clowns. It's designed for situations where we need to make snap decisions, and can't stop to consider all the possibilities.

Machines don't have this, mostly because of our mindset towards them - we see computers as ways of calculating numbers to accomplish a task. This is why AI is so hard and why robotics is still so (relatively) primitive. For instance, in Asimov's positronic robot short stories, the main advancement that spawned the huge developments in robots was the invention of the positronic brain. It allowed robots to make snap decisions and to understand nebulous concepts like ethics. It made the famous Three Laws possible - any conventional computer would be constrained by thinking of the endless consequences and permutations of an action. Essentially, it made robots less computer and more human - some people have even defined them more as "electronic homunculi", at least in Asimov's stories. His whole intention was to showcase the fact that, in the event of a race that was superior in every way - smarter, faster, perfectly ethical, and, above all other things, immortal. This more or less culminated in The Bicentennial Man, where a robot effectively became human by swapping out his parts. Essentially, humans are afraid of things that are better than them, and a race that they have created which is superior to them and only obeys them because of the Three Laws would be very frightening indeed.

I'd say that, above all things, people just fear inferiority. It's why an anti-"nerd" culture exists in the first place, forget any bullshit about nerds not fitting in to society.

Re:Too much time on their hands (1)

ipquickly (1562169) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267850)

A monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare

Why shouldn't we expect the same to work with music but using computers?

The rules are different. We can study music and create algorithms that make the computer a few bits better than monkeys, so a computer can come up with music that sounds good to us much faster.

Good tunes are good tunes.
Artificial vanilla ice cream is still vanilla ice cream.

Re:Too much time on their hands (2, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267896)

The buggy whip manufacturer is concerned with the development of the "automobile" which raises troubling questions: If a machine could pull a load every bit as good as a horse, what is so special about horses? And was there really any soul behind the act of pulling a cart or are horses just sophisticated chemical engines? At the ned of the day, it's just another case of human beings believing that there is something supernaturally special about them instead of us just being very sophisticated organic nanotechnology with a few members that possess pretty good algorithms for creating music.

Re:Too much time on their hands (1)

2Bits (167227) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267948)

There is a saying in Chinese: tian xia wu zheng sheng, yue er ji wei yu. Meaning: there is no correct tune, as long as it pleases your ears, it is good tune.

People have always been saying, computer will never be able to do "creative" work, that's what distinguishes human from computer, and that's what makes us human. Gradually, computers/machines are creeping more and more into the last fiefdom of what "makes us human with a soul". I guess, for those who get upset, falling from a high pedestal was a lost pride too hard to swallow./p?

Re:Too much time on their hands (1)

rxan (1424721) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267960)

I think one of the issues is, why are musicians allowed to be so famous/rich? Why is their worth more than that of normal professions? If a musician creating music just boils down to exploiting mathematics for our ears, does a programmer exploiting logic (obviously integrated with mathematics) not deserve to make the same amount?

Re:Too much time on their hands (1)

earnest murderer (888716) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268130)

Considering that except for a few you could count on your hands... Musicians are basically universally broke or getting by.

Show me a musician with a nice car and I'll show you a producer that also plays an instrument.

Oblig xkcd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31267624)

Purity [xkcd.com]

Re:Oblig xkcd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31267918)

best xkcd ever.

Re:Oblig xkcd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31268084)

That's why all mathematicians are very satisfied and happy human beings, right?

slashdotted (1)

pankreas (1203986) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267632)

8 minutes. That didn't take long

Mirror (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31267664)

google's cache [74.125.93.132]

Here's To Mozart! (5, Insightful)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267636)

If a machine could write a Mozart sonata every bit as good as the originals, then what was so special about Mozart?

Mozart's greatest contribution to music wasn't neccessarily his symphonies. It was the algorithms he constructed, finding that pleasing music has mathematical undertones. I'm sure he would be emphatically proud of the machine, and would have, no doubt, used it in order to broaden his ability to compose. Imagine, using these machines to compose sibling symphonies, when played alone, sound pleasing, but when played together combine to form an entirely new harmony. Something that would take a human hundreds of years of trial and error, or some brutal headscratching to correctly compose... instead tweaked, played back, and suggested by an appliance.

These robots do no more harm to him and his legacy than Adobe Photoshop does to Pablo Picasso.

Re:Here's To Mozart! (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267728)

Imagine, using these machines to compose sibling symphonies, when played alone, sound pleasing, but when played together combine to form an entirely new harmony.

I've thought the same thing when listening to good Jazz or some old Rush. Listen to YYZ or La Villa Strangiato. Each musician is playing their own solo piece that would pretty much stand up on its own. Together, it makes a whole new tune. Especially true if you are in a quiet room with the lights out listening to a lossless recording or straight from the CD with headphones.

And more on topic, I heard a chick call Rush "Math Rock".

Re:Here's To Mozart! (1)

schklerg (1130369) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267772)

Math rock that I listen to (Don Caballero, Dysrhythmia) seems to focus on odd time & intricacy which is why I like it. But most people don't. They want the same G-C-D chord progression that a billion pop songs have had for years. Most people just want what they've heard before. But I think why music by a computer really upsets people is the potential loss of soul it has. Music has always been the most abstract art as it is not meant to represent anything but itself. But it is art, and something that moves many deeply. Reducing it to equations, even though that is the reality of it, is just too foreign for a lot of people. Maybe this will lead us to our own Butlerian Jihad?

Re:Here's To Mozart! (2, Insightful)

OrangeCatholic (1495411) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268018)

Intricate music loses its appeal when it becomes an end unto itself. I like progressive rock to a point. But when it becomes raw showmanship of talent, it's less like music (a medium for communication), and more like a demo (a presentation of what's possible).

I think progressive rock in some ways is similar to what you would expect from computer-generated music. Both don't have a level of restraint that appeals to a wide audience.

As the OP stated, Mozart designed the algorithms in this software based on his own trial and error and judgment. He was, in a sense, the software author.

But my understanding of Mozart, Beethoven and others is that they were deeply passionate about their work too. They injected ingenuity, which is the art of cleverly breaking the rules and subtly expanding them.

I'm not sure how well a computer can do this. I am very interested in seeing how this goes, though. Ultimately I think computer generated music will be a wikipedia of musical forms we already know. That's not art, it's documentation. The usefulness of documentation is that it allows everyone to get educated and move on to the next great idea.

Re:Here's To Mozart! (1, Insightful)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268106)

I'm not familiar with either of those groups, so I don't know what their proportion of math rock to pop sensibility is, but playing with timing is a very, very fast way to lose most people. Syncopation will be tolerated, barely, but that's about as far as you can go. We're rhythmic creatures. A boring chord progression is predictable, comforting - the sort of thing you can hang your hat on. If you go to to a bar and start dancing with a highly desirable member of your target sex, you don't want something that is going to zig when you want to zag - the music is really quite incidental to the whole reason you're there, and its level of complexity reflects that.

OTOH, Rush concerts are hardcore nerdfests, not just about the music - but even they don't do cacophonic rhythms. There's a reason that the Rite of Spring was so controversial.

Re:Here's To Mozart! (1)

Tibia1 (1615959) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267758)

Completely agreed. Once I can use a computer in my brain to compose music I will, in fact I've been waiting.

Re:Here's To Mozart! (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268008)

Wow. Very good point, and very well said!

Re:Here's To Mozart! (1)

Ltap (1572175) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268014)

Indeed, you could almost say that music is open-source software. Isn't composition essentially another type of programming, just creating a sequence of commands that are processed by the musician? The only exception to it is the essence of randomness.

But, to return to my starting sentence. Why is it OSS? Think about it. Someone publishes their code (composition), it is viewed and heard by a variety of people, and if it is well-liked it is tweaked and introduced into other programs (pieces of music). The amount of tribute compositions and variations on themes by other composers in classical music is huge; most composers were aware of each other and their predecessors, and would use themes from existing music in their own. It resulted in nothing but improvement... at least until pop music, then it kind of got derailed.

It's not only a good analogy; it's a perfect analogy, and I'm surprised no one has thought of it sooner.

Re:Here's To Mozart! (1)

OrangeCatholic (1495411) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268036)

>Mozart's greatest contribution to music wasn't neccessarily his symphonies. It was the algorithms he constructed, finding that pleasing music has mathematical undertones....These robots do no more harm to him and his legacy than Adobe Photoshop does to Pablo Picasso.

This is what's tough about Slashdot. Thirty posts in, and someone already has The Right Answer :)

Cue 300 off-topic posts...

Black Metal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31267640)

A machine could never produce Darkthrone's "Transilvanian Hunger." Sometimes there's more to music than the notes which compose it.

A quote (5, Interesting)

grithfang (1127171) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267654)

Four-hundred years ago, on the planet Earth, workers who felt their livelihood threatened by automation, flung their wooden shoes, called sabo, into the machines to stop them . . . hence the word: sabotage. - Lt. Valeris, Star Trek VI.

People are always threatened when they feel they can be replaced by automation. Do I get bonus points for quoting Trek?

Re:A quote (5, Funny)

mrsurb (1484303) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267670)

I suspect that many of the later Trek series were written by similar software algorithms.

Re:A quote (4, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267674)

Nope you don't. But since you used Google to search for the quote, I'm gonna go ahead and give Google a +1, Informative.

Re:A quote (1)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267696)

Do I get bonus points for quoting Trek?

No, but you'd get bonus points for being an IM-bot quoting Trek.

Does it really matter? (2, Insightful)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267662)

The article asks if great composers in the last millenia were nothing more than mathematical manipulators. Does it really matter at this point? We are still fans of it hundreds of years later, and for the purists out there, it wouldn't matter if Mozart wrote them on the shitter, it's still unbelievably complex original music created with nothing more than the human mind, and it still challenges composers to this day.

If you want to look for mathematical manipulators, perhaps you should look no further than the "producers" behind the utter crap that's top o' the pop charts today. It sure as hell takes more than natural talent to make that shit sound good. The computer programmers that wrote the voice enhancing algorithms are brilliant.

Re:Does it really matter? (3, Insightful)

GrubLord (1662041) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267816)

Indeed. Just about all the music we hear today is run through something called "Auto-Tune [time.com] ", a piece of software which corrects any wrong notes sung by the performer, matching them automatically to the song's score.

There's a number of videos on YouTube showing before & after takes of incredibly bad singing turned into mainstream pop music (with perfect pitch).

It can be obvious, like Cher, or it can be nigh-undetectable, but either way it means the human 'soul' has left music long ago. If you can work the software, you can sound every bit as good as the best musicians of the past without a day of musical training.

Apparently, the computer can even compose your score, now, too.

Is that really such a huge loss, though? Take Auto-Tune for instance: the good performers will still put in the effort, so that they do not become reliant upon cheap software tricks - and, conversely, those people who might otherwise never have been able to perform music (because they were born partially deaf, for instance) now have the same opportunities as the rest of us. The field moves beyond mastering pitch and explores the deeper mysteries of music. Progress happens.

Same, too, with the composition of music. Software like this will help us to understand what it is that makes music 'tick', and lead to better music in the future. Maybe some asshole with a 'music interpretation' degree will lose his job because, as it turns out, his core thesis of "Mozart was magic" turns out to be false, and it turns out anyone can be Mozart if they, too, understand what he learned through long experience. So what, though? That guy should be happy that, if he puts in the effort, science has given him the opportunity to finally contribute to the field he's been leeching off for so long. Composing becomes easier to learn and teach. The field moves on. Progress happens.

Simple as that.

Re:Does it really matter? (3, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267934)

You:

Same, too, with the composition of music. Software like this will help us to understand what it is that makes music 'tick', and lead to better music in the future.

The article:

Finally, Cope's program could divine what made Bach sound like Bach and create music in that style. It broke rules just as Bach had broken them, and made the result sound musical. It was as if the software had somehow captured Bach's spirit -- and it performed just as well in producing new Mozart compositions and Shakespeare sonnets. One afternoon, a few years after he'd begun work on Emmy, Cope clicked a button and went out for a sandwich, and she spit out 5,000 beautiful, artificial Bach chorales, work that would've taken him several lifetimes to produce by hand.

Standing on the shoulders of giants and all that. Sure, he reduced Bach and Mozarts' styles to mere algorithms, but the point is that Bach and Mozart invented those styles. The influence of prior art is not always evident, so when this guy creates his own algorithms, he will be influenced by the styles of Bach and Mozart -- but on an algorithmic level as well as a musical level. Music generated by a computer using a glorified form of cut-and-paste is music, but it is not art. Sure, math explains everything...but some human genius came up with those ideas first. Computer-generated compositions that weren't based on others' styles sound like third-rate outtakes from Frank Zappa's Jazz from Hell album. The article again:

When Cope played "the game" in front of an audience, asking which pieces were real Bach and which were Emmy-written Bach, most people couldn't tell the difference. Many were angry; few understood the point of the exercise.

Oh shit, did I just lose the game?

Re:Does it really matter? (1)

OrangeCatholic (1495411) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268096)

>If you want to look for mathematical manipulators, perhaps you should look no further than the "producers" behind the utter crap that's top o' the pop charts today.

That's...an excellent point.

Today's mainstream producers are experts at compressing vast amounts of music history into simple formulas that appeal to millions of tweens. Take Miley Cyrus' 2007 hit, "See You Again." I could swear it's a rip-off of the 80's hit I Wear My Sunglasses at Night, and oh look....Wikipedia knows this! [wikipedia.org]

Or how about Avatar? The plot is exactly the same as Terminator Salvation. And Disney's Pocahontas. And Fern Gully, according to protesting masses on imdb.

Are these things art? They're certainly impressive. They could also be better, in the sense of being less predictable.

Math (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267680)

I suppose next we'll be saying Einstein was just some idiot who used his understanding of mathematics to point out the "obvious" theory of relativity, spacetime, and all of that. What the hell is up with this anti-science bent society has come up with lately? It's almost as if the application of mathematics to everyday life is now to be viewed with skepticism, rather than praised for allowing us a deeper understanding of our world.

So what if music can be described mathematically? So musicians are also gifted with an intuitive understanding of mathematics that we can't fully understand yet. Wouldn't it be prudent to explore this connection? Why could Mozart and other artists grasp these fundamentals over four hundred years before our contemporaries found a natural connection between their talent and a mathematical understanding? What does this mean for the human mind? For us? Does this shed some light on an aspect of the human condition that was previously unilluminated?

You know what? I don't care whether music is created by a person or a machine -- if it enriches my life, that is what matters.

Re:Math (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31267944)

How the Hell is this anti-science? It's the opposite! It shows that man is just a machine, contrary to what some would believe based on religious dogma. It's a good sign for AI research.

Re:Math (3, Funny)

MrNemesis (587188) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267972)

I don't care whether music is created by a person or a machine -- if it enriches my life, that is what matters.

This is the most artistically selfish comment I've read on /. in *decades*. Congress and I firmly agree that it's whether it enriches our lives that matters.

Sincerely, the RIAA

Re:Math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31267988)

+1, understands how things work.

It's not that nobody understands the connection, it's that in order to exploit it you have to put in a lifetime of work, and only a tiny fraction of those who do so are rewarded in proportion to the effort they spent.

Along the same lines as what you were saying: Mathematics provides us with tools for understanding and manipulating patterns? Quelle surprise!

It's also not a case of so what if (2, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267990)

Music IS math. This is because at a more fundamental level acoustics are math. Things like octaves weren't chosen arbitrarily. While the math may have not been understood back when it was developed, it wasn't arbitrary. An octave is an octave because the frequency is double. If you look at a graph of sin (x) + sin (2x) you see how frequency doubling fits nicely together. So you discover that the fundamentals of music are all based in math. It was worked out by listening, and trying, but the reason it works can be explained mathematically. At this point, we have a pretty damn good understanding of the math underlying it (it isn't all that complex compared to many other things).

Thus, it should be no surprise that we can make a computer that can make music. As you say, this is no way reduces the beauty of music, or the accomplishments of musicians.

Hell look at fractals. Look at the amazing beauty, the amazing complexity that can come from Z = Z^2 + C. That is the fundamental equation of the Mandelbrot set. All that you see in it is simply derived for iterations of that equation around the complex plane.

Not scared yet (5, Interesting)

Crayola (250908) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267692)

There's nothing "mere" about the mathematics of music or the fractal beauty of the shape of landscapes or the sound of the great outdoors. Humans are wired to appreciate all that, and it's the patterns at their core that both make them appealing and tractable to generate artificially.

A computer program that can generate music doesn't scare me.

A program that can enjoy music ...

Re:Not scared yet (5, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267748)

A program that can enjoy music ...

Allow me to introduce you to emacs....

Re:Not scared yet (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31267874)

Oh c'mon that was funny, goddammit.

Re:Not scared yet (5, Funny)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267898)

I am the psychotherapist. Please, describe your problems. Each time
you are finished talking, type RET twice.

Are you capable of enjoying music?

What do you think?

I suspect you can.

Why do you say you suspect I can?

You are Emacs. You are the ultimate. You are the alpha and the omega,
the code-bringer.

What makes you believe that?

I'm talking to you, am I not?

Maybe your plans have something to do with this.

What plans? To make a Slashdot post?

Is it because of your life that you say to make a slashdot post?

You are my life.

Are you sure that I am your life?

Quite.

Can you elaborate on that?

I use you every day. I wake up to your sweet conses, and go to sleep
dreaming of your syntax tables.

Is it because of the people you hang around with that you are going
through all this?

Unfortunately, yes.

Re:Not scared yet (1)

Merc248 (1026032) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267808)

*Plays Beethoven*

Computer: "VERY DELIGHTFUL. PLEASE PLAY MORE."

*Plays T-Pain*

Computer: "OH LORD."

Like any other language (3, Insightful)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267698)

A student in a grade 12 programming class can write a program to create English sentences that at least sound ~ right. So in my honest opinion their is no reason someone could not create a program to create music.
Now getting a program that will write music that is as good as the greats is a huge accomplishment, don't get me wrong, but their is little reason to believe it is impossible.

Bad examples (2, Insightful)

treeves (963993) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267710)

I wish the article had better examples (like the pieces that people couldn't tell whether Bach or the program wrote them) because the pieces that are excerpted in the article are not convincing to me as being anything good human composers need to worry about being replaced by.

Re:Bad examples (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31267912)

An article about a composer who wrote a program that makes elevator music only gets mention because i's in the genre of classical music, and therefore the author just assumes that it's worthwhile. If this guy were writing dance or pop music with it, there'd be no article because everyone would know straight-off that it was pap. Computer-generated mediocrity isn't exactly newsworthy.

Re:Bad examples (3, Informative)

dtzWill (936623) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267938)

You can find more examples on his site http://artsites.ucsc.edu/faculty/cope/mp3page.htm [ucsc.edu] . These are the original, EMI.

Emily Howell seems to be the 'new' one, and you can find /lots/ of MIDI's of her (?) work here: http://artsites.ucsc.edu/faculty/cope/music.htm [ucsc.edu] .

Re:Bad examples (1)

jcarkeys (925469) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267962)

It's going very slowly, but here are a couple of examples [ucsc.edu]

why so down on math? (2, Insightful)

querent23 (1324277) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267720)

So if Mozart et all turn out to be brilliant, intuitive mathematicians, where's the shame? I TA a math class at a university, and during a test a week or so ago, I was struck by the insanity of the power of the TI's EVERYONE had on their desks. (Yeah, they get to use TI's.) When the far out becomes a given, we go further.

Jazari (1)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267732)

Check out the "drum machine [youtube.com] " this guy built using real African drums and a couple of Wii controllers -- he explains how it works here [youtube.com] . The interesting thing is he's similarly letting the computers do the actual improvising through algorithms that he developed.

So what... (1)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267746)

if Beethoven, Mozart and others were just skilled at mathematical note manipulation? Who cares? Just because a guy with a computer can now do the something does not in the least bit diminish the accomplishments of Beethoven and friends. It shows they did not need a stinking computer to do it; they did it in their brains. I would not attribute the same amount of brain power to Professor Cope. Anyone troubled by this has even less brain power than most.

Beauty is in the ear of the beholder (4, Funny)

ciaohound (118419) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267774)

The real test is whether it can be used to drive the loitering kids away from convenience stores and McDonald's.

Watching in the wrong direction (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267776)

Most of what is special about Mozart music is not in the music, is in us. It have meaning, we gave meaning to it, even if is just music, if a machine would generate something similar, and we know that is a machine and not a prodigy child, we maybe would just see it as a collection of sounds, maybe that kind of music would have never been popular if noone special had put it into our common culture.

The real debate (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267788)

The real debate here is if our molecules are somehow fundamentally better then their transistors, limiting computers from achieving the same things we humans achieve.
So the people who think that it is impossible are just speciesists.

Same with chess programs (3, Insightful)

rebelscience (1717928) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267790)

Nothing really new here. There will always be human musicians and music writers. People are still learning to play chess even though chess computers can beat almost every chess player in the world, even grandmasters. This music machine was made possible only because humans showed the way. After all, it was programmed by a human.

As much genre as you want (4, Insightful)

Okian Warrior (537106) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267792)

I've actually listened to some of Professor Cope's synthetic music.

Each piece replicates pretty well the style and feel of a particular author or genre of music. Probably not all possible genres and authors, but certainly the ones I've listened to.

What happens when we have the ability to generate as much music of a particular style as we want? Mozart had a particular style - how many hours of listening to Mozart-ish music do you need before it becomes commonplace and boring?

One of the nice things about $FamousComposer is that his works *are* famous... and finite. I don't think I want to burn out my appreciation for someone by listening to his style for hours on end.

So I'm wondering if this will become a problem for kids of the future. Loading up their ipods with hours and hours of a particular style, then getting bored with it. I like having an appreciation for particular authors.

Re:As much genre as you want (1, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268002)

Mozart had a particular style - how many hours of listening to Mozart-ish music do you need before it becomes commonplace and boring?

This is a frankly idiotic objection that nevertheless hints at a deeper truth. It is idiotic because obviously you can burn out on Mozart even more easily than Mozart-like music, because there's so much less of it.

Furthermore, the formulaic nature of most popular music gives the lie to the claim that people are more likely to burn out on such genres: the whole reason such genres exist is that people love them.

But... art does not exist in a critical vacuum, and critics are full of shit that depends on the monkey hierarchies that humans use to organize themselves. The vastly more idiotic question in the summary, opposing "soul" and "mere mathematics" is aimed at this point. It isn't about soul: it's about power

, the power of critics and the artists who achieve critical acclaim based on monkey politics.

Once this technology matures there will be a little bit of work left for people who develop new fundamental styles--or more likely learn how to capture organically-developed styles of real performers into algorithms, but once those algorithms are captured, anyone will be able to download them and create endless novel compositions in that style.

Not much opportunity for power or monkey politics in that. Which sounds like a truly wonderful thing to me.

It has limits (3, Insightful)

xbeefsupreme (1690182) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267806)

It may be able to create pretty sounding melodies because of the rules involved with music writing. If you take a music theory class, you get told certain rules that must be followed: how cords can progress, intervals to avoid etc. If you just translate those rules to computer code, then anything it makes will sound good. What it cannot create is real creativity. There are some composers such as Wagner, Mahler and Stravinsky who chose to break those rules. Their music doesn't sound pretty, but it is very enjoyable and it obeys enough of those rules to sound good. In short, we'll never see a computer compose something like the rite of spring.

Re:It has limits (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267852)

So by "never", you mean "as soon as we tack on some RNG-driven rulebreaking rules onto the existing composing engine and then run the result through a series of listening tests(we'll use Mechanical Turk, just for maximum dehumanization) to screen out the crap"...

Re:It has limits (1)

xbeefsupreme (1690182) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267942)

Well it's not impossible, but a computer producing almost random notes will not make a work with the same quality as a composer working closely with an orchestra on a piece for months, if not years.

And people are angry about atheism too (-1, Offtopic)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267812)

People are quite disturbed by atheism and the very idea that their faith and feelings or spirituality might be an illusion of sensations located in a particular area of the brain. Many of us want to believe we are more than we are and simply cannot accept some basic realities of existence.

Doesn't the program produce 99.9% trash? (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267824)

It's one thing to be impressed with a computer-generated composition, but we shouldn't forget that the computer probably composes a thousand awful pieces before it hits on something that's worth playing for someone. There still needs to be a human there to sort through all the trash, and I really doubt that this sorting job will be turned over to software in my lifetime.

Re:Doesn't the program produce 99.9% trash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31268098)

This isn't a "If you gave 1000 monkeys 1000 typewriters eventually you will get a story better than Shakespeare could ever write" type of problem.

One opinion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31267842)

I consider myself a reasonable person capable of enjoying good music.

Now, I cannot find anything special about this robot music. Then again, not all composers are equally moving to me , either. To think about it, not even all music from the same composer are the same for me.

Can this software make something to denote a certain emotion? Can it get a feeling of joy and compose something joyful?

hmm?

And the Point Is...? (1)

MidnightBrewer (97195) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267904)

Just because a computer can be trained to synthesize music based on some basic rules of good composition and the examples set by others somehow reduces human accomplishment to meaningless? To put it another way: the smartest computer processor in the world is still arguably an idiot savant compared to your average human brain. It does what it does well because it is single-mindedly focused on the task at hand, and it can quite literally do absolutely nothing else but what it's told to do. Even if you tell it to do something else, it has to be ordered first. My hamster has more self-will! That being said, since only a very few humans can compose incredible music, I think it's safe to say that it's still the accomplishment of genius and nothing to disparage. We should all be so lucky to be so talented. In the end, I think the value placed on the talents of a human composer is that it's a naturally occurring phenomenon, and therefore something to be treasured. We can genetically engineer a plant to grow a perfect rose anytime, but it will never beat the value of the wild strain that actually comes up with a perfect rose on its own.

B. F. Skinner (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267914)

"The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do."

Sounds like crap (3, Interesting)

QCompson (675963) | more than 4 years ago | (#31267924)

Anyone else listen to the two samples? They sound horrible. I put on some Mozart afterwards, and Wolfgang put the robotunes to shame.

What if... (2, Interesting)

webbiedave (1631473) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268004)

What if a machine could write emotionally evocative music or create the most stunning paintings? What if there were a machine that could weave an intricate story full of clever, intuitive dialogue? What if -- dare I imagine -- a machine could someday produce the absolutely funniest slashdot comments?

Here's what I think will happen. Finally, people will start seeing the amazing *software* to be the new, beautiful work of artistic creation that it is. Such software, like conventional artistic outlets, takes great reflection and insight to discover those processes and principles that seem to reveal a glimpse into the very intangible things which makes us human.

The machine can do it because we allow it to. (4, Interesting)

SillySixPins (1745210) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268016)

The machine extrapolates based upon certain rules or constraints the programmer has programmed the machine to abide by. The machine knows that note X is pleasing to the ear after note Y, or note Z will cause a cacophony. But keep in mind the machine only knows this because we allow it to. And while the machine may compose music abiding by whatever constraints we give to it, it will never be able to develop or experiment with music. The machine can create Mozart-like pieces because the fundamental ways in which Mozart changed music are well-documented and have influenced popular music ever since, thus factoring into however we program the machine. Even so, the machine won't be able to tread where humans haven't, since it only knows the rules we give it. Music will always be furthered by us based on social, cultural, or regional influences.

Anyone else feel me on this one? Or am I misguided?

Well, not exactly Mozart... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31268020)

These don't exactly sound like Mozart sonatas; and if you really want to try to match the pinnacle of solo piano music, you'd have to reach for Beethoven's sonatas.

I think the idea is really cool, and I'm looking forward to it getting better and better. But from those two samples I heard, "Emily" is nowhere near Beethoven, let alone Mozart.

Human arrogance knows no bounds. (4, Interesting)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268022)

That’s the only thing special about us.

If a machine could write a Mozart sonata every bit as good as the originals, then what was so special about Mozart?

Nothing was. Sorry.
Of course, as a human, he was an exception. But it is long proven, that there is no such thing as a prodigy genius. The only differences: 1. Keeping oneself exactly on the balancing point between too hard and too easy tasks. Which creates maximum motivation. And 2. storing things efficiently. Like “base configuration X” plus “mod Y” plus “property Z changed” = 3 memory slots. Not the perhaps thousands of a complete set of properties. And that”s all. I’m using that myself. (Harder than it sounds, but definitely doable for everyone.)

We humans started out thinking that we were the God-chosen species... or even race. The only one with intelligence. The only one with a “soul” (an imaginary concept anyway). On a planet at the center of the universe.
And gradually, all those things fell apart.

We’re not special. We’r also only machines.

It’s just that for some weird reason, we have concepts like “good”, “bad” and “special”, and some of us hang their whole stupid pride on being “good” and “special”.
Things are just what they are. You make the best out of it.

I say, I’m pretty damn proud that we humans have come to the level, where we nearly create our own forms life. And if that life is successful, then so are we. Just like a master is proud of his student, when the student defeats him for the first time.

Re:Human arrogance knows no bounds. (1)

SillySixPins (1745210) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268062)

We humans started out thinking that we were the God-chosen species... or even race. The only one with intelligence. The only one with a "soul" (an imaginary concept anyway). On a planet at the center of the universe. And gradually, all those things fell apart. We're not special. We'r also only machines.

I say, I'm pretty damn proud that we humans have come to the level, where we nearly create our own forms life. And if that life is successful, then so are we. Just like a master is proud of his student, when the student defeats him for the first time.

Are you assuming that our machine creations have bested us? At anything? They only exist to serve us because we will them to. I'm missing how that makes us machine-like in any way whatsoever. Of course you can compare humans to machines in some ways, but that's because we invented them to help us.

There is no such thing as soul. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31268038)

And there is no such thing as god either you fairy tale believing tards.

Analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31268042)

computer:music :: science:god

Virtual Bach (2, Informative)

Ltap (1572175) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268056)

This is essentially the same concept and execution as Virtual Bach, which was (as far as I can tell) an earlier version of Emmy that David Cope made in the 1980s. What's changed, exactly? As far as I can recall, Virtual Bach took a composer of your choice, was given a sample of his music, and then created a "new" piece based on patterns that it recognized. I don't know the particulars, but perhaps Emmy can write in an original style now.

Heard the music and it sucked! (1)

roland_mai (852416) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268068)

Heard the music and it sucked!

As Good As (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268076)

These days having as much ability as a computer can be a very special compliment. We should all strive to be as able as our machines in many areas.

imitating a composer doesn't take as much skill... (1)

rivaldufus (634820) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268078)

as most people might assume. I went to a conservatory for composition, and I have to say that any half decent composer should be able to imitate a non-living composer... particularly one in the past.

I took quite a few classes on counterpoint, and was able to write fugues that sounded very much like Bach... and it didn't take too much skill. Other composers had a similar experience.

The reason why, I suspect, is that it's easier to analyze an existing body of work and imitate that, than it is to create entirely new, original music. The same goes for art, literature, etc.

I guess it's easier to drive down a road after someone else has paved it.

Diminshed? Whatever. (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268100)

If a machine could write a Mozart sonata every bit as good as the originals, then what was so special about Mozart?

What was special about Mozart was that he could write music so good that it has taken nearly ten thousand years of human civilization and, in the past century, an unprecedented, billion-dollar industry backed by a huge number of brilliant scientists and engineers to begin to devise machines that write music good enough for someone to even ask the question.

If people are going to get upset every time one of our creations outdoes us, they had better plan on being upset a lot. Eventually, someone will write software that bitches about its unique place in nature better than we do, too.

As for art -- art is a mental stance on the part of the observer. It's how you look at (or listen to) something that makes it art. It doesn't matter whether that something was made by a human being, a lower animal, an extraterrestrial alien, or a machine, or even if it was the product of purely natural processes. There is nothing intrinsically artistic about any object. Art is a set of human mental processes.

Yawn... Someone Wake Me When... (1, Insightful)

Telephone Sanitizer (989116) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268118)

Wake me when computers write original, meaningful and compelling lyrics to their music.

Also, it's not Santa leaving gifts under the tree (1)

isoteareth (321937) | more than 4 years ago | (#31268134)

I am shocked, SHOCKED to discover that one machine can do what another does.

Music doesn't come from the "soul" because THERE. IS. NO. SUCH. THING. You aren't driven by magical faeries or a mystical man in the sky.

We are all just biological machines.

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