Can computer software mimic world’s greatest composers?

Posted on: May 20, 2010

“Composer David Cope has a knack for describing music in the least romantic terms possible,” writes Chris Wilson Wednesday (5/19) on Slate. “Whenever Mozart heard something, Cope says, ‘He was able to digest it and store it in his database. He could recombine it with other things so that the output would be hardly recognizable.’ … There’s a reason Cope talks about composing this way: He is the inventor of the world’s most musically creative computer program, whose latest album came out a few weeks ago. Cope has been writing software to help him compose music for 30 years, and he long ago reached the point where most people can’t tell the difference between real Bach and the Bach-like compositions his computer can produce. … Cope built a huge database of existing music, beginning with hundreds of Bach chorales that he tediously coded by hand. … The software then did essentially the same thing any complex computer model does: It scoured huge amounts of data by breaking them up into manageable chunks—in this case, short passages from the chorales—and looked for patterns. It then altered and recombined bits and pieces into new works that fit the patterns it had found.”

Posted May 20, 2010