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Simulating Human Musical Performance 218

GFD writes "The EETimes has a story about a software program that can mimic the subtlties that humans give to a musical performance to give it a particular emotion or style. Apparently it is already so convincing that some TV producers are using it rather than live musicians. Long range plans are to clone the musical styles of famous musicians. Interesting question - there is no question that a Jimmy Hendrix could copyright his music but could he copyright his style? " Bet they can't mimic all 3 of my power chords.
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Simulating Human Musical Performance

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  • Wow! Jim is alive?! Creepy, maybe he will give me back that bong I left at his grave site...
  • New Kids on the Block were real, man! They'll make a comeback soon! You'll see! You'll all be sorry! I'll be hangin' tough with them, and you'll be out in the cold! BWAHAHAHA
  • But it also includes facilities to combine many different forms of music for instance (ever heard of MPEG-4 SAOL, structured audio orchestra language). SAOL includes the instrumental data. You can combine synthesis (as specified in the standard, i think) with audio streams. For example, tracker-style music with sampled lyrics. That's pretty much compression, if you produce the music with MPEG-4. If I understood it correcly (the subject jumps up occasionally at music-dsp) MPEG-4 is quite different from the previous MPEGs.

  • Come on guys, this is about Sibelius a music notation program. It was brought to you by the Finn brothers, the guys that programmed a RISC chip in Assembler. The article is just some free promotion for Sibelius software

    Sibelius does NOT destill or mimic any musical style. If anything, it mimics the musical style of a particular programmer at Sibelius.

    Mimicking and destilling style is a subject of ongoing research. You could check out the work by Douglas Cope -- who destilled stylistic features of composers. You can also head over to...

    Actually, if you had read the article, it appears that what they are trying to do is mimic the live performance of a real musician rather than the style of a composer - Totally Different.

    I could care less about algorithmic music since most of it sounds like shit, anyway, but to use a computer to recreate idiosyncracies of a particular instrument or performer is actually quite practical.

    For instance, guitar is an instrument that is full of idiosyncracies. Given a sequence of notes, an algorithm would have some rough idea of the physical layout of the guitar fretboard, string tunings, physical limitations of the human hand, etc. The program would then determine, iven these notes, how a guitarist might actually play them. For instance, where would the guitarist need to slide to a fret position (fret noise), where notes might be picked or hammered (attack), which string is in closest physical proximity (intonation, tone, whatever), and there's a whole shitload of other possibilities.


  • I am very torn on this issue.
    I know that I will contradict myself by writing any of the thoughts I have on this issue.
    I admit that right now as we are speaking.

    My boyfriend and I clash on the subject of man vs. machine. He thinks that technology is beautiful and should replace man. What he means is that it is great to see things like music and literature from a machine etc etcera take the place of man. He thinks it is best for man to adopt the machine.

    What about the parallels of "Dune" ? "Thou shall not make a machine in the likeness of the mind"

    Machines are very useful. However, should they replace the abilities that we possess or able to do with our hands and minds?

    Some would say that our potential is driven by the technology field.

    I think it is important that our interests are cultivated. There is something about us accomplishing something. If we carve a guitar out of wood and string it there something special in it. We knew we able to do this with our limbs.

    Does a handicap person want to be rolled around all the time by someone else? We need our independence.

    However, Technology should be advanced in respect to this. It should not take advantage of humanity.
    Humans may be controlling the appartus so thus I implore that we don't take advantage of our inner ability.

    Should really play God and destroy our own species?

    Baby steps come before adult steps.

    Just a thought. But I love the idea of computers being able to span such great feats.
  • Then it already is a sad day! Machines do a LOT of the jobs that used to be taken by real musicians. I've already written a few posts about this, but here are a few examples:

    drum machines, synths, etc.. - sometimes they are played/programmed in musical ways, and used as a truly new instrument. But often they're there simply because they're cheaper than a real performer.

    recordings - yes, a musician is needed at the start. But only once - once the pice is recorded, no one is actually playing it when you hear it. And it shows - for one, the music gets boring pretty fast. For another, the music isn't keyed to it's environment. Also, you can't tell a CD to play something relaxing, or something intense, or anything else, unless you have a CD recorded in that exact way. A musician can take a single piece and play it an infinite number of ways.

    And yes, these HAVE discouraged many people from exploring music! I've talked to a number of people older than myself, and just 30-40 years ago, according to my mother, over HALF of the kids in her high school were involved in bands, etc. For dances, and other events, they always had students lined up to play. Nowadays, highschools might have a handful, though they're rarely anythign close to professional level, or even publicly acceptable. Perhaps I'm being somewhat harsh, but there certainly isn't as much music-making going on among the public in general as there was in the past.
  • In 1984 there was a machine (in the Ministry of Truth, I think) called the Kaleidescope (I think, it's been a while) that generated music for the proles. Unfortunately, the vast majority of our population is so undereducated that they would probably be unable to distinguish the difference between a computer-generated performance and a real one.
  • Maybe you don't understand. That's cool. I don't necessarily get art.

    I can't understand how that butt-ugly sculpture is art, or what some more avant-garde stuff is actually about.

    Calling something 'music' rather than just 'sound' or 'noise' implies that you've made a judgement call. One of my criteria for music is human expression, in a partially structured form. People singing "Here we go" at a football match are musicians. Those people playing power tools in those spoof scenes on Home Improvement are musicians. Some one in a blacksmith's apron hammering out a piece of red-hot steel for a horse-shoe is not creating music, unless that is their intent.

    Music is possibly similar to software. Software does not really exist! It's just small bits of information, that happened to be arranged in an interesting form. An unformatted HD may be very similar in parts to the source code for (say) the new Linux kernel, but as it wasn't what was intended we don't count it as software.

    Maybe this is just me being picky. It seemed like a good argument at the time.

  • I'm not sure of that... It depends what you mean by "understanding". For me, understanding a piece of music involves understanding what makes it MUSIC. For that reason, I "understand" Webern's music, because I've taken 20th century theory courses, and know what 12-tone techniques he was fond of, etc... But I see nothing musical in it at all. Am I missing the point? Maybe! I don't like Schubert, Brahms, or Coltrane much either, and from the huge number of people that swear by these musicians, I know there's SOMETHING there. I just haven't really found it yet. About Webern, I haven't heard as much from people who I know (from experience, etc..) are looking for the same kind of musical experience as me, so I'm not convinced that I'll find anything no matter how long I look. Likewise with the Backstreet Boys. But if I don't like some music, I can't honestly say that I understand it.

    Of course, I know that I'm using very personal definitions for many words here, but that's unavoidable.
  • If you are Sending Midi over a single cable... (Like when I send all 16 channels to my synth)
    You can run into a problem with bandwidth. Yamaha has come up with a specification for sending both MIDI and audio (and video and other stuff) over IEEE-1394 called MLAN []
    This will aleivate both bandwith (as it can grow as firewire grows) and wireing up complex situations, as it will allow software patchbays..

  • I've got quite a bit of jazz theory - enough to know that truly great jazz musicians don't just rely on picking the "right" notes. They often use the wrong notes, they use the space between the notes. One of the differences between guitar and sax in jazz is guitarists don't have to breathe. As my jazz improv class prof used to say - "You're phrasing like a sax player would if he could run a hose up his ass for air!". But a computer doesn't have to breath. You can program it to only play so many notes before it has to leave some space but it will never know what it is to breathe. Plus great improvisors know when you can ignore the chords or change the chord qualities to fit a melodic idea. When does a quote of another melody sound cool and when does it sound corny? How closely does a melodic idea need to fit the changes to work. If you can get a computer to play "Goodbye" like Art Pepper on "Thursday Night at the Village Vanguard", I'm selling my bass!
  • I agree with you for the most part, but there are a few details that I'll nitpick:

    First of all, you talk of the "psychoacoustic" being the primary reason that most people appreciate music. I don't really buy that. I think it has more to do with social conditioning, just like any other trends. How else can you account for the extraordinary variety in popular music in the past 100 years, let alone the past 1000?

    I do think that psychoacoustic effects are there, but on a much lower level. For most people, it really doesn't matter.

    Your second point about "aesthetic relation" doesn't seem quite accurate either. It assumes all (most anyway) music is programmatic, but in actual fact, huge amounts of it aren't. Granted, there aren't too many popular instrumentals these days, but with many tunes, the voice really isn't telling the same story as the music.

    The third notion, of "technical merits" seems closer to accurate, as long as we're talking of compositional technique. Most people don't notice/care about that sort of thing. However, with performance technique, I think most people are more likely respond to something flashy. More than scholars anyway, who typically want something "deeper" (not that the two are exclusive, of course).

    BTW - personally, I love Mingus, like Schoenberg much more than most of his followers, and really enjoy a lot of his music, but just can't get into Coltrane.. I am getting better though - each time I hear a bit more in his playing. But still not NEARLY as much as Sonny Rollins, or Charlie Parker...
  • It's one thing to create a human feel based on maniputation of time, attack and release, and real time variance of an instruments environment, however, there is one BIG thing left out of this equation. The direct influence of the player on the instruments sound.

    Here is an example. With stringed instruments (guitars included) the number of variables that governing how an instrument sounds is immense. With Guitars, a short list would include string guage, string tension, pick guage, the wood the instrument is made out of, the strength of the player, the size of his or her fingers, the amount of dirt on the strings, the amount of dirt on the fret board, the material or metal that the bridge and nut is made of, if electric, the size, type, and shape of the magnets in the pickups, not to mention the shape of the pickup aperature, and on, and on, and on........ Now that's just guitars.

    The attack alone of many types of instruments is something that synths to this day have not yet been able to mimic. This is no small feat either with many instruments. With instruments like Piano, it's a little easier as the actual production of a tone is purely mechanical (as opposed to stringed instruments where there is actual physical contact with the strings). But ultimately, they're not there yet.

    The best way to put this is that this software may come close to mimicing the human element of a perfomance, but it has no clue on how to mimic the human/mechanical interaction between a performer and his instrument and it's ultimate affect on the quality of the sound produced.


    Big Din K.R. [mailto]
  • Oh, hell yes. Imagine this for the rave/techno crowd. You could make infinite length CDs. Wow, that's mind-blowing. I know I'd buy them, just for the experience.

    Wouldn't work with, say, classical, though. Some things are better left alone

  • Okay, since a few people have disagreed with the original author's statements, I'm gonna have to back him or her up here.

    Sure, you can map velocity, aftertouch or whatever other cc's you so desire to adsr, filter cutoff, res, etc. But this has very little to do with timberal changes in real instruments. We're not talking about the groovy havoc it can wreck on a sawtooth wave here.

    The attack time on your k2k will manipulate an amplitude envelope. You could make it take longer to get to the loudest point, but the harmonic structure of the sound wouldn't be altercated.

    On a violin, a slow attack will be varied by four factors that affect not only the amplitude, but the timbre. Where you put the bow, at what angle you hold the bow, how hard you press the bow against the strings, and how fast you move the bow. All these will change dramatically during an attack, and the sound will change accordingly. The k2k will just make the same sound get louder at a different rate, as opposed to changing the timbre -- which is what the original poster was trying to say.

    This isn't to say that you can't get a damn good violin sound out of a k2k -- you can, as with any sampler. It's just kind of dull and lifeless, which is why it's used for soundtrack work and not symphonies.

    I realize that if you went out of your way you could set up another adsr from gate to filter, and this would give a different sound, but not the right sound. You could have different samples linked to velocity, and this would solve part of the problem, but you'd run out of memory before you could do up a real good one, and then you'd only have taken care of one of our aformentioned problems.

    Finally, with stringed instruments, you have a question of where to play the note. Viola part. Open G, or just a fifth up on the C string? Which one you play will produce a very different resonation within the body of the instrument. You pick which one to use depending on what notes are around it, and there's no way to control that via synths at this point in time.

    Looking forward, all this stuff can eventually be taken care of via computers. But let's not underestimate the monumental task at hand, even for one instrument.

    (anyone insterested in starting a project?)

  • Hmm...

    I think you miss my point. It isn't that I see computers as competitors. Rather that the particular instance of software the article spoke of is literally 'souless'. Something any musician will find at least a little repugnant and most music lovers will notice in action.

    To really understand this point, listen to some really old blues. The musicians playing are often not all that good technically. But the point of the music isn't the precision of hitting the right notes at the right time. It is the feelings involved. If, after listening to some really old Leadbelly, Muddy Waters or Lightning Hopkins, this isn't clear to you -- then there is little I can do to help.


  • Why jazz and not classical? Or rock? Or anything else? Why does jazz have to be the only music? Of course, jazz is the only music these days that's consistently improvised, but that's certainly not true historically. In fact, a typical jazz "improvisation" has much more pre-existing material than many typical "classical" methods like those described in millions of French tutors on unmeasured preludes (c. 1700) and CPE Bach's "Essay on the Art of playing Keybaord instruments" (I hope I got the title right). In fact, it seems to me, that a common renaissance practise was for instrumentalists to jam with nothing more than a repeating bass line - no chords, no rhythms, nothing at all planned ahead of time. Anyway, just my little bit of ranting about the current state of improvisation. (and yes, I am working on mine, though I find it difficult to invent harmonies on the fly.. More work is needed!)

    While I'm on the subject, is there really a difference between improv and composition? Of course, a simultaneous performance is involved in the improv, but the only other difference that I can think of is that the time frame is different - and if a computer can compose, it can improvise. All it needs is more processing power to be able to do it real-time.

    Personally, I think that a "perfect" (i.e. as good as a person) performance by a computer would require the vast majority of the same programming as it would need to compose. Really what we're talking about is UNDERSTANDING music, and then showing that understanding. It's the same problems that face any other area of AI. The problem is that humans do the really exciting part so completely intuitively that they can't tell another person how to do it, much less a machine.

    There are a lot of ifs in there, but most of this entire discussion is awfully speculative, so I hope you'll forgive me.
  • I appreciate your response. I cannot argue your critique, they are well founded points. I would like to clarify my statement on "aesthetic relation". I am guilty of beginning to overuse the term "tell a story". Where I work its a postitive term of art that can cover narration, explaining, planning, and backpeddling. I didn't mean to employ that I was focusing only on the lyrics or on any linear progression of theme. (Although both techniques can be used to hit someone.) I was more referring to the relational aspect that music (or all art) has against someone's experience base. And its the relationship the listener gives to the overall piece that bonds their affection to the music.
    I do not think I am unconciously implying any element of programmatic compostion. In fact, I think its this element that will always be difficult for computers even assuming some omniscient AI. Most would agree that music is expressive. If the aesthetic relation is built based on the expression of the artist, it must be close to a theme that can be perceived by the listener. The listner may transform the expression into a pattern that they are better able to relate too; however, the transmission and the receiption must be similar.
    Thus, even assuming computers achieve a comparable or greater level of sentience, its doubtful they will have similar enough experiences to ever express (transmit) a message that is as aesthetically appealing to humans as it would be to other sentient computers.
    If I have misunderstood your critique of programmatic and voice, please let me know.
  • I totally agree. I feel that way about so called free jazz. It is a participant not spectator sport (usually). I went to see Sun Ra in Boston when I was on my honeymoon a couple of years ago and it was fantastic. But I had seen a video about Sun Ra and his orchestra a couple weeks before and thought it was total bullshit. Sometimes its about being part of the moment.
  • To begin with, all sounds can be described in terms of a differential equation. When it comes to music, these equations begin to get really ugly, and unsolvable. By a mathematically perfect song, I mean one that's been carefully calculated in order to take into account the accoustic properties of the room, the the tone, timbre, and placement of intruments, etc, etc. Theoretically, these additional bits of data can make the sound equations solvable by available calculus.

    Beyond that, there is the additional fact that such a carefully calculated sound could have subtle effects well beyond concious human capability, much like flashing a singe image occasionally in a motion picture. This sort of calcuation could lead music into a whole new realm.

    Of course, I could just be spouting a load of crap, which is proably a little more likely. :) You be the judge.

  • James Marshall Hendrix

    like his amps

  • Until the day arrives when computers are arguably better able to improvise during a live jazz performance better than a human, I for one refuse to accept the notion that computers can perform music better than humans.

    In addition, until computers can arguably compose a piece of music as beautifully as mozart or thelonious monk (jazz pianist for those who don't know) has, I will not consider a computer's rendition of any piece of music to be professional quality.

    Improvisation and composition requires ingenious creativity. Such creativity, in my opinion, is far beyond the bounds of the abilities of a computer. Therefore it is my opinion, that computers will never be as good as a human musician.
  • The product's website [] has a page where you can download and play some sibelius scores. But you have to install a plugin to do so, which is only availible for Windows. :\
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This comment makes no sense.. MIDI is a standard for mimicking instruments. The synthesizer they are describing will write music or perform music similar to existing music. They might even use MIDI as an engine. MIDI is a great engine, although there can be a lot of improvement to its synthesis, there is no need to replace the engine.
  • by Spire ( 101081 )
    What you describe sounds just like iMuse, which was developed around a decade ago by LucasArts for its own line of adventure games. I first heard it used in Monkey Island 2, and it really blew me away. The background musical score truly changed dynamically, seamlessly, and continuously to suit the action.

    iMuse has since been used in (AFAIK) every LucasArts adventure game, including Day of the Tentacle, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, and Sam and Max Hit the Road.

    Newer LucasArts adventures, such as Full Throttle, Monkey Island 3, and Grim Fandango, use a digital-sample-based version of iMuse (as opposed to the original MIDI-based iMuse). Using digital samples increases the audio quality and fidelity of the music, while decreasing flexibility somewhat, since the musical repertiore is limited to a library of prerecorded phrases and segments. Still, it's a terrific, innovative system that's been put to great use over the years.
  • >If nothing else, it could be interesting to see >what kind of emotions a mathematically perfect >song can evoke in a a human being... I have the >feeling that it would be a little spine chilling. I think Arthur C. Clarke wrote a short story called "The Perfect Melody" or "The Perfect Song", or something along those lines. It's about a scientist who creates the ultimate tune, and it has unusual effects. I'm pretty sure it's in his collection "Tales From The White Hart", one of the funniest sci-fi books I've ever read. I can't check it right now because I'm not at home. Can anyone confirm this?
  • by Stephen VanDahm ( 88206 ) on Tuesday October 19, 1999 @01:00PM (#1600683) Homepage
    "now all pop music can be created by formulaic computer programs!"

    Better than being created by formulaic record producers. At least now when they interview sucky artists on MTV, they'll have to be honest about where their inspiration is coming from. Instead of "Tom -- the producer -- is such an artist. He, like, totally understood where I coming from on this track" we'll finally hear the truth. "Well, like, you know, Carson, the businessmen at the record company used, like, Microsoft Hit-Maker Pro or something to generate the backing tracks and vocal melody for, like, the entire album, you know. Then, you know, some other businessman brought me some lyrics that, like, you know, test well with 14-year-old girls . . ."

    Of course, the MTV dopes will probably market this as the Next Big Thing -- "Cyber Rock -- the all-digital multimedia experience" or something dumb like that.

    take care,

  • It's a big question whether the aesthetics of music have anything at all to do with real life experiences, though. In Hanslick's book "On the musically beautiful" (several translations with different titles exist) he puts forth the argument that music actually has little to do with any "normal" emotion. He talks about "musical feeling", as a sort of underlying emotion, but not anything specific - not love, of fear, or anger, or anything. More of a sort of building, exciting, slow, fast, loud soft - of FEELING though. Not just of music.

    In that view (which I vaguely share, with some undecided reservations) any concrete emotions that are found in a piece of music are purely programmatic elements that don't come from the music, but from somewhere else. The two might coincide and work together (and should, if the music is based on a program of any type) but the music itself doesn't.

    I think that some music does manage to produce concrete emotions - that's pretty hard to argue against! But I can see how those emotions would be a result of cultural and personal associations, rather than anythign actually in the music. Even the association with minor keys being sad is, in some cultures, completely reversed. For example, in most medieval and renaissance music, the dorian mode (rather similar to our minor) is generally used in happy music. It can be hard to think of it as anything other than sad now though, simply because we've been conditioned by all the sad tunes written in minor keys.

    I'd like to try some experiments with listening to programmatic music that is supposed to be very emotional, but without any idea of the program - listen to it as completely abstract music, and see if I can guess the emotions that it's aiming for - and more importantly, if I feel them without referring to the program in any way. Maybe there's a paper in that somewhere....
  • Personally, from what music teaching I've done, I think this would be a bad idea. Already, people do too much mimicking in the early years, and not enough exploring, figuring out and UNDERSTANDING.
    I think students (and professionals!) would be better off using the same tools you did to get a square, bland, "perfect" performance if they needed something like that. Then they wouldn't be stuck repeated the exact same interpretation as everyone else. I'm constantly encouraging people to NOT listen to recordings of pieces that they want to learn soon, because then they'll be stuck doing the same thing as the other performer in most cases. You end up with karaoke, where the performers have to do everything the same as on the CD in order to not get lost.
  • This computer program can maybe mimic Hendrix; that sure doesn't make it the equivalent of Hendrix, any more than the fact that I can transcribe Shakespeare, or even write in a parody of his style, makes me the equivalent of Shakespeare. It takes a whole lot more to create a style out of thin air than it does to copy that style, or else my Beatles song book would render me the artistic equivalent of Lennon-McCartney.

    Anyway I've suspected for decades that the majority of the pop music I hear on the radio is synthesised by computers; in fact, I find it next to impossible to believe that actual human beings had anything to do with its creation. (But I'm crabby and old.)

    The commercial music industry will now be able to fire all those tempermental, substance-abusing musicians and replace them with nice, tractable, buyable machines. Profits will rise, and that's all that really matters in the U.S.A.; won't they, and their artistically numb corporate stockholders, all be delighted! Consumers of mass market music will get exactly what they want, blended as bland and homogeneous as a McDonald's milkshake; and people who want to listen to new, original music, well, for them there's MP3s and live bands in bars. As far as the musicians themselves are concerned, if they want to publicly satisfy their artistic impulse, they can go to releasing all their primitive hand-crafted wares as MP3s; and since they'll all be much poorer, they probably won't OD and croak quite so regularly. So I guess this is a real win-win-win situation.

    Yours WDK -

  • by webslacker ( 15723 ) on Tuesday October 19, 1999 @12:24PM (#1600689)
    What I wanna know is, can they come up with a way to make Britney Spears' lip-synching more realistic?
  • "In five years, the penis will be obsolete!"

    -Opening sentence to Steel Beach, by John Varley
  • I think you misunderstand why people listen to music.

    People don't love live music because the conductor got a parking ticket. We love music because of the way it affects us. For performance software to be successful, it doesn't have to mimic how music sounds when played by a orchestra in a certain mood, it just has to give us the same feeling.

    I'm not saying that its easy, for people or computers. It isn't, or it would have been done already. I am saying, though, that it will happen, because people respond to stimuli in fairly predictable ways, and music is important enough to the human experience that the work will continue until we get it right.


    P.S. Why do so many of these posters sound like they don't *want* this technology to work? The existance of some program doesn't make you any less human, you know...
  • Clearly a "style" can't be copyrighted. Even Elvis complains to me that he doesn't get royalties on all the imitators out there.
  • "An uncreative classically-trained, on-the-beat musician..."

    *SOMEBODY* doesn't listen to much classical music! Seriously, classical music would, IMHO, be even harder to simulate than jazz or rock, etc, because the variation, and interpretation is there to no smaller extent - it's just focused on (generally) more subtle things. Anyone who plays classical music has been criticized for playing to mechanically, true. But that's because they were doing a bad job at it at the time.
  • Okay, since so far no one has actually talked about what this software actually DOES, I'd like to take the time to clear up a few misconceptions that are floating about by way of analogy.

    First, keep in mind that Sibelius (the software, not the really keen composer guy) is for scoring. It is not a synthesis program. It does not create the sounds. It will send (via midi) the approperate notation to a device of your chosing -- if you send it to your sound blaster, it will sound like your sound blaster. It came highly reccomended to me from an Acorn user across the pond, I used the first windows version (it might be a bit different now, don't know) at school a few times. It is excellent at what it does.

    Getting music done used to be a lot like getting a book published. First you write the story out on a big yellow pad. Then you send it to the typesetter, then to the printer. The process was a lot the same for music -- you hired a composer, who'd give you a hand written sheet back. Then you'd take it to someone who'd do the equivilent of typesetting for music, to make it nice and readable, looking like your average piece of sheet music instead of a scribbled on broadside of notation. Then you take it to the orchestra and they play it.

    Sibelius is for the second step. You click the notes on the staff, add the approperate dynamics markings, and wind up with a really spiffy looking slab of sheet music. It also allows you to play this spiffy looking slab of sheet music via a midi device to make sure you didn't fsck it up.

    This is where the magic comes in, which some people here have read too much into. While midi has 127 steps of velocity, sheet music does not. you've got your fortes, you've got your pianissimos, but this doesn't translate very well when sending to a midi device. Obviously there needs to be some interpolation. Same with trills, crecendos, etc. A real player doesn't play the music in it's quantized form, so some timing variations are introduced.

    This is really handy for someone who's laying out a score, they can quickly discern whether or not they need to change the notation to something different.

    The program is essentially desktop publishing for scores -- and a darn good one. There's a lot of great stuff out there in the synthesis world (sms!), but let's not mistake Sibelius for what it is not.

  • Here is a question, could you use this thing as a teaching aid? I would love to have Hendrix teach me guitar.
  • I don't really agree there. Yes, risks need to be taken, and always playing within the bounds is a bad thing. But when you step outside of the bounds and screw up, it's not GOOD. The good thing is that you're willing to go right to the edge, and that you know where it is.

    People do make mistakes. I think that they can be overlooked though, as long as the parts that are RIGHT are powerful enough to carry it along, and make the mistakes irrelevant. But I find it hard to believe that it's the mistakes that make music good. I think if you play an unbelivably great performance, with one wrong note, fixing that note would make it even better - as long as it's not at the expense of the rest.

    A great performance feels like riding a bicycle along a tightrope - you know you SHOULD be falling flat, but you keep going and push through. If you stop to think about it... well, there'd better be a net there. :)
  • That's the kind of input I need... and I will take that all into account if I ever get this off the ground.
    I know the computer doesn't have certain human characteristics... but using things like genetic algorithms can certainly come close. Granted, I'm not the world's best theorist, but we can at least try it.
  • Jimi's stage name on all of his albums is Jimi Hendrix, not "Jimmy."

  • now all pop music can be created by formulaic computer programs! i wonder if little 14 year old girls find the latest Dell workstation as sexy as the backdoor boys. and peter cetera won't have to get carpel tunnel up all night transposing last year's easy-listening hit into another key for this year's listening enjoyment... even kenny g can get in on the fun! heavy metal/grunge will never be the same!

    too much.

  • 17 is the age of consent.

    Ooooohhhh, now have her sing and play like Virgin Steele [] and I'll really be in love.

    Anyway, here's your age of consent chart [] -- keep it with you where ever you go!

  • It will be a sad day when a teacher can't get hired because someone thinks a machine (television) can do his job better.

    In a worst-case scenario the proliferation of such devices will discourage young people from exploring the opportunities of teaching as a career, and may decrease our chances of.....

    Machines can replace people who perform manual labor. Machines can replace people who perform glorified forms of manual labor. Machines cannot replace creativity. (At least, not in the forseeable future. :)

    You can either lament that machines have replaced most of the need for humans in coal mines, or you can recognize that the continuing division of labor will obsolete certain professions and create others. If a machine can play music better than humans, then so it will be. But until a machine can duplicate human creativity, there'll be plenty of interesting things for us to do.

  • Sounds similar to when Harley Davidson tried to apply for a patent for the way their motorcycle sounds.

    In reality, it was inevatable. I remember in the 80's there was a box called "russian dragon" which would speed up or slow down according to how the drummer was playing (rushing-dragging) to give the sequenced music more of a human feel. The backlash against the 80's music was because it was too mechanical and "on the beat"...
  • by Local Loop ( 55555 ) on Tuesday October 19, 1999 @01:04PM (#1600705)

    There are really two issues here. One is the simulation of time (rythm), notes, and dynamics (volume). The other is simulation of the expressive sounds of the instruments themselves.

    These computer programs all work along the same lines, manipulating rythm, dynamics and notes. I have yet to see any program duplicate the variations in timbre (tone) that a real musician can achieve on his instrument.

    I can tell a computer generated score everytime by the fact that the attacks don't vary, and the timbre doesn't change with the volume.

    Besides, there's something magical about a group of musicians, all together, when then lock into a groove. It's something that a transcends the abilities of any single human, and certainly any single computer. And that space is where most of the best ideas are born.

    On the other hand, working composers banging out MIDI scores on demand will probably find this a very useful time-saving tool. Just lay down kick, snare and hi-hat right on the beats, and turn on the 'humanizer' feature to make it all sound loose. No more twiddling with each note to make it sound right.

    Rambling Again,

  • ...can it improvise?

    This sounds like a great tool for recording strict classical songs with no varriation, or garage-band formula songs. It might even play like Jimi, but it doesn't sound like it handles the once in a lifetime sound one might find from a show of his, or the instant inspiration and back-tracked tangent he takes. - not that I've ever seen Jimi play... But it's the same as a B.B. King, or a DMB (as much as I don't care for them), - all of these people are musicians...

    Play the notes, add technical dynamics and a realistic sound base - but if you can't make music - it'll still just be crap.

    Use of this only looks to stiffle human creativity.
  • I figure if Tom Waits can sucessfully sue Frito-Lay for "style ripoff" (to the tune of $2.5 million) and Southwestern Bell can be made to pull a series of TV ads because they're "dangerously close" to sounding like Lyle Lovett, then people who aim to clone Jimi, Janis, John, Jaco and the like may have a fight on their hands. As a musician, I hope they do. And any TV producers out there who are looking for another way to mediocritize the medium may have hit paydirt with this one. Love, an angry, unemplyed bassist.
  • But for differnt reasons than most people are listing.

    First of all people perform music because they enjoy it. This program may be able to do a better job of creating music than I can, but creating music is something I enjoy. It has no monetary benefit for me, I just like it. Likewise, even if computers learn to perform better than humans can, groups like the Backstreet Boys may disappear, but many musicians will keep playing for their own pleasure.

    Second of all a great deal of the music industry has nothing to do with music. It has to do with gossip. People want to de able to gossip about what such and such a musician is doing. Nobody does this with computers. Many groups right now have no musical talent, have been created completely by the music industry, but survive because they are "cool".
  • There are some distinct parallels to Sharon Apple, the AI singer from Macross Plus. Of course, some things are completely different. I don't think anyone will be plugged into *this* system.

    All in all, a cool developement.
  • His name given by his mom was something different.. I forgot for now, but is dad later named him "James Marshall Hendricks." Jimi later changed his name to Jimi Hendrix. That's it.. that is his full name. So next time a half-wit music historian with no skills tries to impress everyone by calling him "James Marshall Hendrix" you can quickly correct him and be your own little rock n' roll hero.
  • Since most pop music is so rigidly formulaic, that could be done now. Turn on your favorite pop or (especially) country music station. Now imagine if someone gave you the lyrics, but you never heard the song before. For a large number of the songs, you could probably sing it right (taking talent into account, of course) the first time around.

    Replacing that schlock with computer-generated compositions is only a small matter of programming.

    Creating something on the level of Dream Theater, Steve Vai or Spock's Beard, not to mention Bach, Beethoven or Mozart won't happen in our lifetimes.

    Of course composition isn't everything. One thing that fascinates me so much is that so much of the blues uses a very simple twelve bar I-IV-V progression that is butt-head-simple. In this case the genius is in the performance and improvisation. Again, something computers won't be doing well for a long while, Sibelius notwithstanding.
  • I sorta see what you mean then. But there remains the question of whether "mathematically perfect" has anything at all to do with "musically perfect". Myself, I really doubt it. Typically, perfection in music is boring. For example, you might think that always playing it tune is a good thing. But many composers' music sound much better in temperaments in which some chords are VERY noticeably out of tune. Meantone temperaments, which were commonly used in the 16th and 17th centuries are quite unusable in some keys. But composers took that into account and wrote so that the out-of-tune chords were SUPPOSED to sound harsh.

    Many people analyze music based on ideas of tension and resolution. With mathematically perfect sounds, there is NO tension. Unless you use the math to determine large scale forms, and leave the tension to the small subtleties. Some people would argue that the same tension release needs to be present in large forms as well though....

    If a "pure" sound did have some effect, I don't think it would be at all the same as a typically musical effect.

  • They're doing some incredible work on this at Silicone Graphics...


  • Sibelius is primarily a music composing program. I've used Sibelius7 first hand on an Acorn computer myself. There is a feature to play back what you have composed but it sounds like wavetable type instruments. What I think this new development is is an improvement on the playback to make the instruments sound more real, that's all. (ie no auto-composing features etc)
  • Off-topic from actual story, I know; sorry.

    I honestly don't think the appeal of simulated music by a computer will ever completely diminish the desire to see a group of humans play in sync, putting their emotions and feelings into their music, or to hear their creations and feel the composers' emotions at the time of their works' conception. In fact, if simulated music ever did rise to popularity, I wouldn't be surprised if there was suddenly a backlash against it in the next decade after it--somewhat like the grunge movement of the 90's that emphasized emotion and feel instead of the technical virtuosity of the 80's shred players. There would probably be a movement of live, human players that would diminish the popularity of music generated by a box.

    It's like sports. Even if in the far future when we could build cyborgs to simulate humans, do you think we would go to watch a football game played entirely by robots? I don't think so. The mere fact of knowing that the players aren't real humans disconnects spectators from the players. Part of watching football is relating to the struggle of the players to win, their emotions due to a win or loss, their personalities, etc. Knowing that they are emotionless robots following algorithms and formulas to perform their plays would suck the human emotion out of the game. Could you imagine the classic shirtless beer-bellied fan with the team logo painted on his stomach cheering for a team of soulless robots like he does a team of humans? I couldn't. Sure, there will always be that coolness factor of seeing robots battle each other, but it's just not the same as a real battle between humans.

    Or how about art. If a computer was advanced enought to produce art, it would be appealing for that novelty factor of knowing it was produced by a computer and some smart programmers, but the fact will remain that there will always be the expressive, creative artist painting his moods, thoughts, emotions, and feelings. The viewer of the painting can look at the painter's work and feel what he was feeling at the time of the painting. Knowing a painting was made by a box will take away that appeal.

    I think the same goes for simulated music. There will always be that appeal of hearing music created by a computer, that novelty factor. But a live concert is a live concert...anyone who's been to a good one knows that a computer won't replace a damn good live performance, especially when the human players really put on a show. And there will always be that human appeal...the emotional connection of knowing that humans, with feelings, emotions, and souls, are putting their hearts into the music, and expressing their innermost thoughts and perceptions. Trust me--if anything, live concerts and performances will keep human players as popular, if not more so, than computer players. The ability of the listener to relate to the performer will keep musicians in business. Groupies will always exist to love and adore the human musician, as will mosh pits to smash into each other at the musician's big laser-lighted concert. Computers won't get those. :)

    It goes beyond emotional connection as well...there is just something cool about seeing another human being perform an awesome slam-dunk over his opponents heads, or watching an artist draw a realistic human face using dots, or seeing a guitar player wiggle his fingers at lightning-speed then watching him slam his guitar into the stage floor at the end of the show. That has always been the appeal of sports, art, music, or any performing arts--human beings doing cool things. Whether you like wrestling or not, you have to admit that its appeal to viewers is its vast collection of personalities, attitudes, and muscular human beings doing cool moves on each other. Robot wrestling wouldn't be as popular--beside the loss of emotional connection with the spectator, how could they trash-talk each other between matches and seem like they mean it with us knowing they're programmed to say it? :)

    I've strayed from where I started, but to sum it all up, computers will never completely replace humans--athletically, musically, whatever. They will have some novelty value, but the big appeal will always be humans doing cool things. I am a musician, programmer, and comic book artist, and I am not worried about losing any profession to a box (well, maybe the programming thing... :) (but really, though, could a box create a new, never-before-done type of 3d engine or write an RPG with a good story? Even programmers will exist, I think...computers may do a lot of the boring repetive donkey work but the real genius stuff will still be done by human beings...which is basically like using an already-existing library to do the boring stuff so you can get on with the creative big difference, really)

    Really, though, all this kind of stuff is probably WAY off in the far, far future, so I don't need to worry about it anyway. Just my $0.02. Multiplied several times over. :)

  • I'm not trying to dispute the vaule of the old sounds, and in the long run, would probably prefer the older methods, on older intruments. Say, Back played on the original instuments of the day. In fact, I don't think musical and mathematical perfection have much to do with each other at all regularly, just that they might interact in intriguing ways.

    Actually, I think that a tune free from mathematical chaos would sound and feel truly alien. It's so far beyond human experience that we can't really understand it. Discord and harmony in their own measures are major part of tradtional music, as is the tension in the mood of the music. Music is as much a play with the human psyche as it is anything else. A mathematically perfect would would probably worm it's way into you in a way that's totally unlike anything you've ever experienced before.

    Anyway, I don't think a non-chaotic sound is better for music, I just think it might sound wierd, and possibly worth hearing, once, just to experience what it's likely to do to the psyche. You'd have to totally abandon current musical theory to create something listenable. After all, music is an art, and math is much more like a science.. or a language, depending on how you look at it.

  • Its the people who will program the machines to spit out the music, who will be the musicians of the future. It is obvious to me that music made by "traditional" instruments will never go away, but computer generated stuff will only grow as well. Just take a look at a lot of the newer Techo, Industrial and Synthpop. They already have some computer programs that will emulate these synthesizers perfectly, so why would one want to dump the enormous amounts of money into the units, when once can get a soft synth for a fraction of the price.
  • But new software from Sibelius Software Ltd. demonstrates that computers, which have succeeded in creating art and beating chess champions

    There is software that can actually _create_ art? Where can I get it??
    (there is a big difference between creating music and playing music..)

  • Don't you guys listen to the modern schlock pushed upon us by Mtv and the radio. The industry MUST have had this technology for at least 5 years if not more. All they have to do is find a few pretty boys who can fake playing a guitar pretty good and sing not too bad.. then viola! You have a poopy pop band. Ever since the last Dire Straits video was played on Mtv, we have all suffered greatly.
  • MIDI is a standard for mimicking instruments

    No, MIDI is not a standard for mimicking instruments. It's a communication standard for controlling Musical Instruments using a Digital Interface. If you look at MIDI messages, they are almost all of the "turn this note on", "turn this note off", "turn the volume up" and "use this patch" variety. (BTW: here, the term patch refers to a set of parameters that make up a sythesised sound, kinda like a sample, but not really.) There are a few uses of MIDI to dump samples and sysex data, but MIDI is kinda slow for that so most people use disks or SCSI interfaces.

    For more information, check out [] .

  • THis article seems to be saying that the software simulates the imperfections of a performance, but doesn't actually harness any of the performers creativity. An experiment in the computer assisted writing of music by David Cope has led to the creation of a piece of AI software that will actually write new music in the style of other composers. Imagine Mozart's 42nd, well now it's been written. Experts say that it sounds like the real thing. This thing can even write its own original music by interpreting a predetermined list of influences. Bad thing is that it takes months for a composition to be completed. tml
  • This is very strange... every time I use preview before posting, my post turns up as an AC
  • This kind of "dynamic" music has been in games for quite a while. I remember listening to the score change while playing the original X-Wing. This music is not as dynamic as what is proposed here, however. Unreal basically has a built-in s3m player with hooks in each levels soundtrack to switch moods when an enemy comes near or something like that. This is about as simple dynamic music as you can get.
  • There was a latish episode of TNG where Data thinks he has found his "mother" (the wife of his inventor?). Near the start of it, the two of them are playing some violin piece IIRC. Then they play it again, half way through and this tweaks Data's memory into some analysis. Although she sounds like a human with all the emotion in the playing, he realises that she's played it exactly the same way twice - something that only an andriod is capable of.

    Reading through this article, it seems to be exactly the same thing. There doesn't appear to be any randomness associated with it based on how the "player" is feeling. Pass the piece of music through the machine and you get exactly the same reproduction time after time. (like a previous poster talked about the pissed conductor etc)

    I think the music generated would be OK for TV themes and that sort of stuff, but to get real performances you need all the extras. The sounds of the coins rattling in the Double Bass player's pocket, the clicking of the keys on the woodwind instruments (my bassoon sounds like a train when played fast - clicketty, clicketty clack, click, clack...), turning of pages etc that make a performance. There used to be a time 10-20 years ago where the record companies would try to eliminate all of this extraneous sounds from a recording. If a muso dropped a mouthpiece on the floor, they'd stop the recording and start again. These days, the trends are to realistic sounding recordings - just have a listen to the latest re-releases of the Star Wars sound tracks for example.

    So the basic message is, real musicians will never be replaced by this because there are so many other factors that go into making a recording than just being able to do a drum-roll correctly. Besides, look at the community orchestra/concert band scene. Do these people play music just so they can be on CD, or for the pure fun and relaxation of it?

  • Note that I didn't say "all classically-trained musicians." I listen to enough classical music to know that there's a huge amount of interpretive leeway and that wonderful intangible feel. There are a bazillion different ways to treat dynamic markers, accents, staccatos, etc. However, there are a lot of classical musicians for whom technique comes before feeling (just like rock Yngwie Malmsteen and Stu Hamm come to mind?).

    I'm not dissing classical training--without it, a lot of my favorite musicians wouldn't be as good as they are. Robert Fripp and John Myung (the latter of Dream Theater) spring to mind.

  • The Matrix become a reality, c'mon be serious, actually, the Truman Show is how things really are, hopefully they won't delete this post before you see it...
  • I'm trying to understand your response. I think you're saying that it's okay to hear the computer if it has no style, but it's bad if the computer puts style into the piece because the students won't learn to be musical on their own.

    Yes, this happens. if you go to some high school bands you'll find everyone in a section playing the same mistake because only 3 out of 10 kids can truly read the music and the rest copy what they hear their friends playing...

    it's always going to be that way. The mature musicians are the ones that can listen to a performance and criticize it to decide on their own rendition.

    To me, a computer generated performance sounds like an instrumentalist who plays in an overcliched manner at best.

  • ...those academic physical models keep getting better. There's some research being done at least at the CCRMA [] at Stanford and the acoustics lab at the Helsinki University of Technology and probably other places too.

    Sampling technology can't imitate all instruments well enough. This is where physical modeling comes in. Consider the guitar... every string can crossmodulate the other strings as you play it causing subtle differences in the sound. You can slide a note and it won't sound realistic if you just play the sample faster; the effect is different. Realistically to get a good guitar sound on a sampler you would need too many samples and extremely complicated logic to select the sample being played.

    IMO traditional computer music instruments are getting a bit boring and unexpressive (TB-303, TR-{808,909} anyone ?). I'd really like to see (and hear) something more subtly expressive catch on.

  • Its not so silly as it may sound. Indian classical music (ICM) has been built for several hundred years on the idea of a set of rules which prescribe (a) the modal structure (b) a set of required rifs (c) a theme statement and (d) certain other rifs (I'm avoiding a lot of Hindi terminology and nuances here). Any of the rules can be broken, but with discretion, and the (a) rules are more important than (b) and so on.

    Using available techniques, this is could be programmed, and some are beginning to try. I don't expect to see a cybernetic Bhimsen Joshi or Nikhil Banerjee in the near future, but certain other performers could, frankly, be replaced.

    Western pop is a heck of a lot easier to capture in this fashion than, say Ahir Bhairav. The bandish (rule c) requires some serious creativity. But beyond that, I think most of the people reading this could learn enough in a year or so to be quite dangerous on the MTV scene.
  • MPEG-4 []

  • Um, I want my computer to be able to write my code for me and be better than me at it. Duh.

    It certainly doesn't mean that I'd have to find work elsewhere. Someone with expertise still needs to oversee the code/music that the computer puts out. Someone needs to set up the system.
  • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Tuesday October 19, 1999 @01:29PM (#1600742)
    Oh, you mean you have the sound turned on?
  • If I remember correctly, he was sued by the record company he recorded for while he was in CCR. The record company owns the copyrights to CCR's songs, and they sued him for plagerizing one of his own songs for a solo album on a different label. The whole thing was pretty stupid, and I'm glad he defeated the lawsuit.

    Take care,

  • I won't be impressed until it can simulate my junior high school band with a substitute teacher leading.
  • You obviously don't know a whole lot about music if you're bagging on Yngwie and Vai. Yes their music doesn't necessarily appeal to the average person, but in their respective areas well... they are the Itzahk Perlmans.
    If you think Yngwie is all speed, no style or emotion take a listen to Crying off of the Trilogy album. It will blow you away. As for Vai, well, Vai is Vai. He's Zappa reincarnated, which normally doesn't appeal to me, but you can't knock the guys skills. He is absolutely amazing. Vai can do anything with a guitar. Anything. The fact is he chooses to do some really weird stuff. But he has complete and total mastery of his instrument. This may be a stretch but imagine having the ability to program anything you wanted on a computer. OSes, Kernels, Code Breaking, anything. It's all in your head. That's Vai. Now Vai chooses to take his ability and do some really far out experimental stuff. No computer could EVER dream up the weird stuff he does. Listen to Alien Love Secrets. On the track Bad Horsie Vai does a killer donkey impersonation... on a guitar.
    Just because you don't understand the music, don't pick on it. Now I wouldn't be surprised if a comptuer came up with a Nirvana song every now and then though....
  • FromHow to have a #1 the easy way []

    We await the day with relish that somebody dares to make a dance record that consists of nothing more than an electronically programmed bass drum beat that continues playing the fours monotonously for eight minutes. Then, when somebody else brings one out using exactly the same bass drum sound and at the same beats per minute (B.P.M.), we will all be able to tell which is the best, which inspires the dance floor to fill the fastest, which has the most sex and the most soul. There is no doubt, one will be better than the other. What we are basically saying is, if you have anything in you, anything unique, what others might term as originality, it will come through whatever the component parts used in your future Number One are made up from.

  • The assumption seems to be that you have to switch to entirely separate scores for different parts. That's not so. This is something I've put some thought into, not that I can code it right now, but USE this, anybody who can, gpl it or something.
    Take an extended musical piece, let's say something as MIDI for the purposes of the example (the idea was designed around MIDI). Set up some chord changes, an entire little score. Then do an extended improvisation or composition. Have it be major-key, and long enough to avoid too much repetitiveness.
    Now copy it to another track, just duplicate it straight across- then change every major third to a minor third. Boom! Suddenly you have a programmatic switch between two almost-identical scores, where at any point you can subtly shift the mood according to what's happening on the screen at that second. It's not a grand score change, it's imperceptible, but serves as a subtle cue that something ominous is going on. The solo turns foreboding, and you turn to look and WHAM! ;)
    Then add drums and bass, in a relaxed groove. Fine- now record them again, busy and violent. Then for kicks record a drum track that's all fills. Now you have another level- an activity monitor. If the game picks up, the groove picks up as well, and if things happen suddenly you can hit a drum fill at any point (if desired, doubled with bass).
    Now add some synth pads- let's say the game is like Joust or something, where you might be going up or going down or staying at a level. If the player is going up, up_pad is on: if the player's going down, down_pad is on: otherwise they are muted.
    Your result is a completely fluid piece of composition in which the dynamic nature of it was also human-composed. Every game will be different, and the score tracks the activity so closely that it might be a sound effects track, but it does it in a completely fluid manner. You could easily have other lead voices to accompany different monsters or prizes- the whole score is so completely dynamic that there is no such thing as 'the score', it's completely a product of how you play the game and is never quite the same.
    Computer involvement is a tool not a replacement for human input... in fact the example I've given could be implemented with current technology while using entirely human-performed musical tracks.
  • I think you're confusing talent with appeal. I do not doubt that Yngwie has talent; he's very good with a guitar. I just do not enjoy his music or his playing nearly as much as others (for instance, David Gilmour's). Gilmour doesn't run down the neck at the speed of light, nor does he know every medieval Moon Harvest zyther scale in B minor, but his style of playing appeals to me. I'm also a big Frank Zappa fan, mainly for his skills as an outstanding composer, but to say Vai is "Zappa recincarnated" means (to me, anyway) that Vai is a composer of a similar level. I don't see that in him.

    I play guitar, but I don't claim to be great. I can understand some music without liking it, but it doesn't mean you can't.

  • A decent use of a performing tool like this
    might be for teaching.

    Back in high school (many years ago) I used a
    computer to program difficult etudes (musical
    exercises) in to see how a technically perfect
    rendition would sound.

    The computer helped with difficult rhythms or
    runs, but it had no concept of style. everything
    sounded "square".

    Such a tool could now be used to play prewritten
    music in such a way that beginning and intermediate
    musicians have help "visualizing/aurealizing"
    pieces that are beyond the scope of their present
  • I know that a lot of people dissed Kraftwerk back in the 70's for a concert tour they did - where they showed up on stage, set up their synths (all sequencers), and left the music to play on autopilot.

    Then again, at a Front 242 concert many years ago, the performers were so boring to me, they could have just as well not been there. The light show and music, and especially the crowd, was the experience. eh? Just go to a dance-club then, I guess.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • Uh, sure. It's easily possible that a machine can string chords together or pick along the major scale; my fourteen year old brother can do that. Damn near any combination of random chords/notes can be considered a "song" if they're all taken from the same key/have same rhythm/etc. Computers can certainly be made to do this, and maybe even realize how to step up and down to make it appear less random. But for a computer to to be equated to Chuck Berry, or Jimi Hendricks? Not a chance. Not today, not tomorrow, not next year.

    BTW, CmdrTaco, I remember you wanting to use slashdoting to win a guitar like two years ago... if you've been playing that long and only know three chords, well, maybe it's time to take some lessons ;-).


  • The real action in this area is in console games. Banjo Kazooie (Rare) had awesome dynamic music, all done via MIDI. Totally seamless blending of different threads of music depending where you move -- you could have fun standing on musical "borders" and listening to the music blend. Zelda64 also does this (not as well).

    But the coolest yet (IMO) is NiGHTs on the Sega Saturn (I know, I know). That had MIDI music that could evolve via a genetic algorithm depending on your treatment of little AI creatures in the game. Now _that's_ neat!

  • I seeing something the telly a couple of years ago about this guy (sorry, no URL, not even a hint of an idea for your searching pleasure. Please supply one if you know) who had written a program to distil the main melodies from complicated scored classical music. He could input Mozart's magic flute (my fave) in all of it's multitimbral glory, and then get back the melody you or I would whistle. Pretty neat.

    Even neater was that the process could be run in sort of in reverse. Of course, he didn't recreate the complexity of ol' Wolfie, but he was able to expand the melody to a polyphonic piece.

    Something like that could be used here; generate a randomish melody from snippets, tell the expander whether to make it happy or sad, snappy or gloomy, and then add heuristic variations to the presumably stilted accompanyment.

  • "I would love to have Hendrix
    teach me guitar."

    So track down Ernie Isley. It's the closest
    you'll get -- Ernie was Jimi's teacher...
  • I suppose they could choose the best random improvisation using a genetic algorithm. . .

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • Actually, that's a degenerate case, since many of us aren't looking at her lips anyway.
  • I can't see any reason to feel bothered about computers being able to do what you do, eg. write music in this case. After all, you'll still be able to compose and perform your own original material.

    It's no different to the existence of other human musicians. They can do everything that you do as well, yet this doesn't in any way stop you from being original.
  • *grin* *chuckle* *ROFL*
    Of all the examples they could have picked...
    For those puzzled, Jimi did a freeform version of the Star Spangled Banner at woodstock, at deafening volume with feedback and complete digressions into other musical quotes like "Purple Haze" if I remember the story, and mutated the bit about 'the rockets' red glare' into a raging shriek of atonal feedback followed by a bomb explosion by way of political commentary.
    If anybody thinks a computer can take the notion of a national anthem and twist it into such a powerful, creative, and politically significant statement on its own volition, they are quite mad. You could program the thing to do it- but then YOU become the musician, indirectly. At any rate, these silly people (was it the reviewer or the developers who didn't notice this?) who suggest seeing what would happen if you fed the Hendrixbot 'The Star Spangled Banner' have inadvertently illustrated in the most graphic and unforgettable manner... just how much can be _lost_ >;)
  • First off, I'm primarily a computer scientist... music is a [serious] hobby.

    When we talk about computers _replacing_ musicians, I don't think that will happen. Even if a computer can write better music than I ever can, I'll still compose, because it helps me respond to emotion. In fact, many people will likely do the same. With reasonable probability, some of these types of music will be emotionally more satisfying than computer generated score and computer generated lyrics sung and played by computers. After all, if this technology was invented when only classical music was played, pop music would probably still have evolved (maybe differently, but that's the subject for another post) because of the change in culture and expression.

    Saying that computers will ever kill music is like saying they'll kill painting or what-not. Technology can simulate some instance of a human's creative spark, but IMO it will never be able to simulate the spark itself. Perhaps this will make it difficult to make a living as a professional recording/performing artist (not that it isn't difficult even now), but such is the nature of technology.

    I'd argue that this won't make us less cultured, because people will still pursue music for personal fulfilment; it will just change how people are compensated for music. The change would be similar to how if all software was open-source by law, some people would still program, and in fact the people who stick around will be among the best.
  • This program does not write music. It performs music. For TV they still hire a composer to write the music but they don't need to hire musicians to play it and record it. So no, whoever asked, they can't just play a track off a CD. Also this is different from the program that could compose in a composer's style. This can perform a piece with emmotion. It adds accents and vibratto the way a human player would.

    I find it annoying that people post responces like "I don't believe it. A computer can't do x." When the article said that this new computer program can do y. Slashdot has been invaded by the posters on Amazon that say "Well I havn't read the book but this is what I think..."

    Just a request... before you flame me or moderate me down read the article and read some of the potings on this story.

  • by Monty Worm ( 7264 ) on Tuesday October 19, 1999 @02:10PM (#1600783) Journal
    (disclaimer: I am not a professional musician. I have, however, been taking making music for 17 years (with lessons for the first 12 or so...))

    I'm sorry, no. I really don't think the music scene is equipped for this sort of thing.

    Music is interpretation, it isn't an equation. You should not simply use some sort of hokey Scoring + Emotion = Music equation and expect to have something worthwhile come out. Maybe for genuine on-the-fly stuff like context-sensitive game music stuff it could be welcome.

    The key here, is art. Music, like other more physical art forms, is all about human imput. If Mike Oldfield's classic 'Tubular Bells' album was released today, and he'd played synthesiser, instead of actually learning and playing that myriad my instruments, it just wouldn't get it.

    Even for a group, flexibility is key. I've played with (concert) band conductors who refused to say 'in the concert we will do it this way'. He preferred to deal with the specifics as the situation developed. Things like the crowd are getting bored, let's play this bit faster; the acoustics here really suck, let's make that instrument a bit louder..)

    Maybe it would be good for bland elevator/Mc Donalds background music, but not for anything else.

    Music is my recreation (listening, playing, creation). Anything that takes that away is bad.

  • I am a musician, and I want to hear my computer making music just as much as all you programmers want computers to write your code for you, and be better than you at it. :-)

    When you think about it, there's quite a difference between the two for our respective economic futures. I think there would be many, many people who would continue to listen to human-written music, even if people in double-blinded tests were unable to tell the difference. People might even claim to tell the difference, and look on an ability to tell the difference as indicative of cultural refinement or something. However, I doubt anyone would care whether the program they use is coded by humans or a not.

  • Instead of the latest pop group comming out with a album of mundane audio tracks, they could come out with a style album. It would have samples, wavetables, voice samples, lyric generator tables, and a musical style description for use with a computer music generator. You stick it in your computer and push go, and it spits out an "original" track in the style of the group. If you hear one you really like, you can dump it to an MP3. An infinite number of tracks on a single CD. And given the originality of most popular music, who would know the difference? Probably already in use now.

  • by Overt Coward ( 19347 ) on Tuesday October 19, 1999 @12:39PM (#1600803) Homepage
    The (now cancelled, please bitch to Sierra -- it was 3-6 months from completeion, at most) Babylon 5 space combat simulator was supposed to have a dynamically created soundtrack. Not quite up to the level we're talking about here, but it would seamlessly blend in fragments written by series composer Chris Franke in such a way that it would fit the on-screen action. This of course would be based on a rule set as to which fragment(s) would be appropriate and how to make a smooth transition into it. Still, the obvious benefit to games should be readily apparent.

    Moving this same type of system to a completely independent composition is obviously an order or two of magnitude more difficult, but essentially, it would require using style fragments instead of music fragments, a way to provide it's own "mood" (instead of being fed by an external source [the game]), and some more complex rules on music theory in general to make things cohesive.

    All in all, pretty cool. It'll be unlikely that such a system produces anything particularly innovative or moving, but it will certainly help lower budget TV shows or movies build up better scoring -- it's a sad shame that music is one of the first things cut when budget gets tight. Looking back at B5, Franke's score adds so much to the on-screen scenes, often more than 20 minutes of original music for a 44 minute show...


  • It's just a MIDI file with random delays between notes. It is so realistic that when they played it at a session of my local Oompah Band we could hardly believe our ears!
  • Excuse me but this just sound plain stupid, if you ever would want to replace a musician because you dont have the money to have real ones, you probably would replace them with prerecorded pieces of music in appropriate lengths that you have on a CD or DAT.

    I dont really know how their system would work, but i thought of some alternatives.:

    If the thing is about dynamically created music content, I doubt that you could get any interesting music from it, you will get musically correct results that follows correct scales and such, but i doubt that you get anything that affect the listener or anything like that. It would only sound like a cheap home-multimedia hobby midifile.. Computers can not feel.

    If its about ready made midi-style music thats "groove-quantitized" in real-time, then whats the deal? You can just have a digital recording of the music, and that would mean much better sound quality.. (by sound quality i dont mean the quality the music is made in, like cd-quality or such, but how professional the results sounds after mixing and mastering and all the other stuff)

    All these ways of doing things would still only give you midi-style quality, since its realtime rendered sound, and just wont sound real enough for most instruments. Even if todays midi-intruments can sound real enough, you need very clever sequencing from the musicians to get it realistic, and its totally different on different instruments and is higly dependant of someone clever that can make it feel real, and a computer just cant do that until our computers have evolved a lot.. (think androids)

    just a thought :)
  • by Jon-o ( 17981 ) on Tuesday October 19, 1999 @03:31PM (#1600828) Homepage
    You betray some ignorance of classical music when you say that - not that it's different from the vast majority of people!

    Classical music, though usually lacking in the wholehearted improvisation of jazz (though even that almost always relies on pre-existing chords and styles), still involves a lot of variation from performance to performance. The notes might be the same, but that just means that the musicians are concentrating more on the subtle things than on the notes themselves.

    As well, just for the record, it's only quite recently that "classical music" (when will we get a better term?!?!) has not been improvised. Mozart, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Bach, Paganini, etc.. all improvised - most estimates say they improvised (in concert!) much more music than they ever wrote down. Some classically-trained people still improvise a bit - most decent church organists do, for one. Early music specialists (of which I am one) are always trained in some extemporization.

    Perhaps more subtly, but also more importantly IMHO, is that ALL music is improvised when performed half decently - not necessarily everything, but aspects of it.

    One example is a saxophone player (mainly classical) who told me in a master class that he takes into account the acoustics of the hall when he's playing. In a boomy, echoey hall, notes that he wants to be short much be played EXTRA short, in order to not be stretched by the reverb. Likewise, in a dry acoustic, notes need to have resonance added to them by the player, as a kind of performing trick, because the room won't create the sound on its own.

    Even more importantly than little technical things like this is the fact that any performance is unique, no matter what style. A musician will be playing for the moment - judging his interpretation based on the audience, his feelings, the sound produced, the physical sensations, ambient sound in the hall, etc etc etc... For a truly exceptional performance, all of these things need to be taken into account.

    Any music played "without variation" is far from a classical song, in my book! Rather, it's a technical excercise, devoid of music. I'm skeptical of the abilities of this program to do much more than that, though I'll reserve judgement until I can hear it for myself.
  • I think there would be many, many people who would continue to listen to human-written music, even if people in double-blinded tests were unable to tell the difference.

    Please let me know when the computer passes the double-blind test where it goes up against Vanessa-mae singing "Johnny". Oh, and don't forget, she wrote it too. If it passes that test, I'll happily listen to the computer, and maybe even try to get a date :)
  • ...After all I am a musician myself and am not sure I want to think that a computer can do everything that I can do.

    But I am also a computer programmer, a Science Fiction writer and a (to a small extent) an extroprian believer in a future where computers do do all the things that people do. Even including emotions and creativity. Given time I do think that true AI will happen, it may just be so strange that we don't recognize it as such at first.

    So I stepped back and looked at this a little more carefully -- and dang, it is just a simple rule based system. Easy, I could do it myself if I wanted! If the software produces a note that sounds expressive, it isn't because the computer is experiencing the feeling I know when I bend a note up and sustain it for a second before I do a full tremelo. It is just following rules that say 'Bend up at this speed, sustain this long, do tremelo with these parameters'.

    Hell, perhaps that sounds good enough for a TV Producer, but it also means that any difference between one performance and another is based on random numbers. Not due to the mood of the performer and how he or she reacts to their audience. It will be a while before a computer can really play the blues...


  • It will always take real musicians to do something truely great.

    Just as well as your computer can generate a believable landscape, with natural subtleties, a computer can generate a sound;

    Perhaps some day it may progress to the point of resolution where it is very nearly indistinguishable from real musicians.

    But, there is always something to be said for those who take art to a new and exciting level.

    I am a musician, and I want to hear my computer making music just as much as all you programmers want computers to write your code for you, and be better than you at it. :-)

    -stuff to think about

All seems condemned in the long run to approximate a state akin to Gaussian noise. -- James Martin