I am sometimes asked why I collect typewriters. Certainly there is the thrill of collecting, of discovering a rare machine or some historical detail, but largely I collect as an act of rebellion, rebellion against the incursion of modern technology. A typewriter is one step backwards in the continuum of progress, and I find that I sometimes wish to stand still, to grasp what I have become and recall what I have been. The typewriter is my muse.
In an earlier age, humans regretted progress because it made men into machines. But now, progress makes machines into men. Which is more frightening?
Donya Quick, a lecturer at Yale, has been exploring computer-generated music, discovering (?) new compositions through digital processes. You can view her site here: DonyaQuick.com. The compositions are provocative.
© 2015, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.
Weird … that would make good mood music. It isn’t quite up there with Bach. Then again, maybe I’m just a prejudiced biocentrist.
“discovering new compositions” is exactly correct, I think. The software starts with a limited chromatic scale of notes that western culture deems pleasing, and then creates patterns limited to timing signatures familiar to its programmers, then is limited to “remembering” only those patterns deemed acceptable by its human controller. That kind of capability has existed and been happily utilized by musicians via the “randomize” button on arpeggiators since the 70’s. One might argue whether this is “music composition”, but it’s basically the same as using a turntable or sampler to isolate existing patterns on a record to create a completely different composition than the original. Still a human mind directing the process and choosing the patterns. (:
I am reminded of George Orwell’s description of a music-making machine in 1984 that churned out trite, popular tunes. Strangely, even that would seem a type of art. Obviously, what Quick is doing is more organic. One might argue that machines proceed from the loins of humankind and that the product of machines is yet human. I don’t know. I find Quick’s work intriguing and wonder, however, when we will arrive at a point where machines create music autonomously. Will there come a point when even our own blogs generate content, dredging digital archives and producing histories? Like Polt, I am a “biocentrist,” but I’m not sure how to define that!