RE: Virtual Concerto

Subject: RE: Virtual Concerto
From: Michael Rempel (Michael@VIDIR.COM)
Date: Fri May 21 2004 - 13:39:32 EDT

> partisan to the theory that studying music means taking ONE piece and
> getting to
> know it at least as well as the famous zen disciple, in the John Cage
> story, whose master
> asked him to describe a fish. He started to get to know it after he'd
> exhausted all his
> set categories and the fish was in a serious state of decomposition.

Great example of just what I mean. Precisely that once it has been studied
thusly. If the observations can be shared, then all benefit. If the
observations are the student's alone, then all the benefits of the study are
lost to the rest of us. Working through the piece and making it explicitly
understood where it may have only been implicitly before is a tremendous
step forward.

The problem we have is articulating these observations in a coherent
framework. As soon as we try to use a framework we discover buckets full of
assumptions that we have a hard time codifying. (As you have articulated).
The goal I articulated was doing this hard work repeatedly, and with
synthetic reflexiveness to validate the inferences. Given this work emergent
patterns are discernable, such as the arch. The arch is not essential to
composition, rather when present it is an organizing principle.

Once a framework is articulated, it can be specified as an organizing
principle, and it's boundaries can be formally explored. Stating that some
compositions form an arch is not instruction in creating arches, nor is it
the intelligence to understand when arches are appropriate for a given
style. We want to know both the boundaries, and the norms of interaction. We
don't articulate these as 'rules' but as norms. New music being what it is,
WILL push the definition of anything it messes with, and most pushing is
boundary pushing, rather than norm pushing.

> So though I said above that you could test theories on a
> database, I've
> never actually
> done that myself. I WAS going to do this on the essener database but
> wound up, instead,
> spending a few weeks each on a total of maybe three or four of these
> tunes. Each
> confirmed my impression that there is an amazing wealth of
> invention and
> musical
> intelligence even in simple musical artifacts, and I don't
> believe these
> can yield to the
> blunt instruments of statistical analysis David Huron wrote a paper,
> for instance,
> in which he tried to test the hypothesis that "many melodies take the
> form of an arch."
> He found that this was true. But why is sometimes not true? Are those
> not good melodies?
Yes, and red is a good color. Why is everything not red?

> Should the machine composer not concern itself with those exceptions?
> And further,
> in addition to sometimes being an arch, what other qualities
> need to be
> featured for
> a tune to make it folklorically? Which parts can dispensed with? And
> besides,
> what sort of musical science is this? The subjective impressions are
> mostly here just vague,
> half-inarticulate truisms about generalized properties ("goes up and
> down,") or hopeful
> theses such as "is based on harmony," I think I would make the same
> criticism of
> more sophisticated work that uses ML models like ripper or whatnot,
> without necessarily posing
> coherent and deep questions regarding the nature and
> structure of the music
> it wishes to investigate.
What I am saying is that a statistical description of these half
inarticulate truisms gives a basis for reflexive emulation of same said
generalized properties. When you can articulate your supposed truism on the
computer, and see what a mess it makes of the thing, then you have something
to go back and think about. As you reflexively iterate through this process
you may wind up with a 'good definition' of what a given set of rules
articulates. You will also know when, where, and how it falls apart. This
last thing is what you base your critique of Huron's notion. If Huron had
used a heuristic mechanism like the one I am suggesting, the paper may have
been better written, or the limits of analysis better articulated, or
nothing may have been written at all.

> I was last night looking through some papers about "e-rater."
> the automatic
> "essay content" scoring system for GRE's.. You might like to
> have a look to
> judge whether this is interesting or not. Easily googled.
> If you're a slashdot reader, the #1 item this morning
> featured a fractal
> algorithmic music site with java. I found it elucidating, for
> once, to
> read through
> some of the comments.
I looked but did not find it.

> I was also flipping through Margaret Boden's book on Creativity
> (explored from
> an AI perspective) and reread the bits about Cohen's Aaron and
> Johnson-Laird's
> jazz improviser. In regards Cohen, I as always feel such envy
> that the
> visual
> problem of automatic art making is tractable, in comparison with the
> almost
> metaphysical problem of automatic music making. I feel I need
> to get a big
> alligator to suspend from my ceiling to put me in mind of
> other hopeless
> endeavors.
I like Margaret Boden's premises quite a bit. Neural networks do present
some interesting analogies to human reason. I don't think however, that we
have a tool there that will answer all the questions. Experiential
association, and the peculiar set of sensors, growth, and so on of human
experience are not something a computer can experience, except perhaps
vicariously, if we ever get that far.

I am far more interested in making music than I am in comprehending the
fullness of the creative process. What I am suggesting is far more
mechanical than Margaret's' notions. Yet it delves into meta meta structures
(to the nth power) to investigate this process. In fact I like the idea of
understanding music creation far more than I like making a computer music
creator. The process is the thing, as several people have suggested in
various ways.

The great mystery of music is not that it is easier than visual art, but
that it demands so much more. Instantly upon hearing we decide critically if
it is good or bad. Visually we are inundated constantly with stimuli that
are not judged esthetically. We tolerate more visually and we are accustomed
to 'looking for' visually interesting stuff in the jumble of visual
stimulation. Auditory stimulation it seems needs must be pre-filtered by the
stimulator. We seldom articulate offense at visual pollution but elevator
music rankles instantly.

As a consequence auditory art, when it is done well is in my opinion a much
higher art form.

A lot of compositions in new music use a self imposed discipline that
suspends the esthetic pre-conception and asks the listener to re-evaluate
the terms in which it is accepted. A good deal of it also presents rules
about not making rules. These things help us understand what music is not.
These compositions in effect say 'you may go this far, and no further'.
Paradoxically that creates a rule that in turn needs breaking. These kinds
of compositions on the other hand do not explain what music is.

In a limited sense it is similar to the way psychology can not explain
mental health, but only disease.

> -- eliot

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