February 26, 2010

Emily Howell

Great arti­cle on the two com­put­erised musi­cal com­po­si­tion sys­tems built by David Cope. There are some fan­tas­tic quotes through­out, but my favourite:

The atti­tude, which he set­tled on at a young age, is to “treat myself as if I’m dead,” so he won’t affect how his work is received. “If you have to pro­mote it to get peo­ple to like it,” he asks, “then what have you real­ly achieved?” 

Oth­er choice quotes, such as

[In] an anthol­o­gy of debates about Cope’s research, Hof­s­tadter wor­ries Emmy proves that “things that touch me at my deep­est core — pieces of music most of all, which I have always tak­en as direct soul-to-soul mes­sages — might be effec­tive­ly pro­duced by mech­a­nisms thou­sands if not mil­lions of times sim­pler than the intri­cate bio­log­i­cal machin­ery that gives rise to a human soul.” 


“All the com­put­er is is just an exten­sion of me,” Cope says. “They’re noth­ing but won­der­ful­ly orga­nized shov­els. I wouldn’t give cred­it to the shov­el for dig­ging the hole. Would you?” 

high­light the enor­mi­ty of the dis­con­nect between Cope and his peers on the sub­ject of a machine’s abil­i­ty to affect human emo­tion, of which the argu­ment does­n’t seem so much about the music hav­ing being “writ­ten by a machine”, but a sub­con­scious pseu­do-intel­lec­tu­al or spir­i­tu­al rejec­tion of being emo­tion­al manip­u­lat­ed by pure­ly man­u­fac­tured mate­r­i­al. Is it that we find human com­posers (with their stock­pile of neu­roses and emo­tion­al invest­ment) pro­duce art more enjoy­able because of the rich fan­ta­sy we sub­con­scious­ly cre­ate about the gen­e­sis of their work? It’s hard to donate emo­tion­al attach­ment when we know the author did­n’t, and it’s not until we strip back that almost-famil­ial empa­thet­i­cal require­ment that we realise how bizarre it is that we can’t enjoy some­thing pure­ly for how it affects us. Of course with­out that empa­thy soci­ety would prob­a­bly collapse.

Most of our time isn’t spent cre­at­ing, but reflect­ing on the gen­e­sis of oth­er’s cre­ativ­i­ty, and I can under­stand the effect that has upon enjoy­ing com­put­erised work if you believe a ‘soul­less’ machine is gen­er­at­ing some­thing from noth­ing. We aren’t quite there yet, and I won­der whether we’ll be able to empathise with cre­ative com­put­ers when they do expe­ri­ence emo­tions, sim­u­lat­ed or not.

posted by Andrew

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *