Thursday, October 06, 2005
computer-generated music (CGM)
There's been a lot of discussion recently about using electronics/computers to perform and record new music, which I'm going to refer to as computer-generated music or CGM. I'd stated that I use performances generated by my computer all the time out of necessity, as do many others of us. My stated preference, however, had been for live, if not acoustic performances. A digital violin sounds to me different from a Strad, no matter how much we've progressed in terms of technology.
I have to admit, though, that I've modulated my views considerably in recent weeks. Steve Layton took it upon himself to do his own performance of a 2-hour+ piano work I wrote in the 80's called textbook: music of descending landscapes in hyperspace (piece for IPS), or simply textbook for short. What he managed to do was nothing short of incredible. I view it as an interpretation, not a MIDI realization with better electronics than my cheap setup can put out. Steve did his own thing in many cases, in terms of tempi, balance, and even changed a note here and there based on what the music was doing for him.
If you have nothing better to do for a few hours, you can compare versions:
Steve's version rocks, what can I say. A few comments:
- There are a lot of differences, but the way Steve interpreted the piece is quite valid, and reflects as much of a vision as the best performers bring to the music they play
- I don't think I'd distinguish between his performance and one that might be done with an acoustic piano. That would not have been my opinion of CGM vs live performances several weeks ago.
- One big difference does relate to limitations of MIDI. I was able to provide a lot of crescendos and diminuendos because my file was generated using Finale, which I should add is still vastly inferior to what one could do with a dedicated sequencing program and better sounds. I also accidentally gave Steve a MIDI file that was optimized for notation, rather than performance, so a lot of it is my own fault!
Steve was kind enough to provide section titles in the MP3 file, which should show up on certain MP3 players.
Just wanted to get this out there, since it really did affect my opinion on computer-generated music. I think it's really no different from any other performance situation. One can interpret just as much as a good live pianist would. I'm really glad we have tools like this available, since my piano skills are really, really bad.