>David Cope is a professor in the Dept. of Music at the University of California at
>Santa Cruz who has been, for the past 20 years, creating algorithmic programs
>that compose music in the style of classical composers. His trilogy of books
>(Computers and Musical Style, Experiments in Musical Intelligence, and The
>Algorithmic Composer) describe his work in detail and provide source code of
>many of his programs on their accompanying CD-ROMS. There are also several
>CDs of his music out, the most recent of which is Virtual Mozart.
Cope began his talk by playing three segments of "Bach" music. One was actual Bach, one was written by one of his programs, and one was written by another composer who was imitating Bach's style. He asked for a show of hands on which one we thought the real Bach had been. Seven people picked the first piece, ten the second and ten the third. It turned out that the third one was real Bach, and the second was the computer generated one.
He than explained that he got into the computer generated music field because he was stuck on an opera commission, and he had hoped that he could write a program, feed it his other works, and have it produce the piece he was stuck on by copying his style into a new work. Basically he wrote a program that has a fairly small set of algorithms that scan a database of the composers works looking for patterns to put in the output piece. He spent some time explaining that one thing it looks for is patterns within phrases, and another is higher level, dealing with patters over movements.
Cope's algorithmically generated music tools work fairly well with classical music, especially when he can work with a large number of a composers pieces which are all in the same basic style. It doesn't work so well for a composer like Beethoven who changed his style for every symphony. It also doesn't work so well for something like pop music. He talked about doing some work with the Beetles music. His output didn't sound like their music because their music had a large component of artist personality and lyrics to go with the instrumental part, which is the only part his tool could do.
Cope had originally planned to keep his composing tool quiet, but the news leaked out when he mentioned it to someone in a private conversation. After that he had a number of interesting responses to his work, things like a reviewer publishing a review of his show two weeks before the event, and then not showing up to hear what he had already made up his mind about. Since then he has presented his work to many audiences, including the American Association on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI). He described notoriety as something that feels like being a target on a pedestal.
A considerable portion of his presentation was playing samples of music that his program had created, and they all sounded like fine classical music to me.
My favorite David Cope quote: "Reality is a database."