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Algorithmic Composition: Paradigms of Automated Music Generation [Hardcover]

Gerhard Nierhaus

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Book Description

5 Nov 2008 321175539X 978-3211755396 2009

Algorithmic composition - composing by means of formalizable methods - has a century old tradition not only in occidental music history. This is the first book to provide a detailed overview of prominent procedures of algorithmic composition in a pragmatic way rather than by treating formalizable aspects in single works. In addition to an historic overview, each chapter presents a specific class of algorithm in a compositional context by providing a general introduction to its development and theoretical basis and describes different musical applications. Each chapter outlines the strengths, weaknesses and possible aesthetical implications resulting from the application of the treated approaches. Topics covered are: markov models, generative grammars, transition networks, chaos and self-similarity, genetic algorithms, cellular automata, neural networks and artificial intelligence are covered. The comprehensive bibliography makes this work ideal for the musician and the researcher alike.


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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ok for some basics 3 July 2012
By Red Cherry - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I was going to buy this but luckily I found a copy in my uni library. This book has many errors and it only covers style imitation, not musical composition. I was amazed that the author even admits this in the book, and goes on to erroneously say that real algorithmic composition is not the subject of the book. I have just been looking around, and I found this review very helpful:

The basics of the key tools of algorithmic composition are adequately covered in this book, and as such it does a mostly competent job of presenting them fairly clearly, but only in the realm of style imitation and despite many detailed errors. One of the things I found while reading the book was that I wished for an included disc, or even a Web site, with the musical examples available for playback so that I could quickly listen to them. I hope that the publisher and author consider this, as it would improve the book as a teaching resource. I also found the numerous errors misspellings, and typographical errors to be distracting, and potentially worrying.I approached this book with a large degree of enthusiasm and optimism, unfortunately I left it feeling disappointed.

The emphasis on style imitation in the book and the lack of discussion of "genuine composition" is, I feel, a great shortcoming. There was an important opportunity here togo beyond style imitation--to me, as a composer, it is the least interesting or useful aspect of algorithmic composition--and delve into the more difficult realm of creative composition of compelling musical works. Furthermore, the book does not delve into algorithmic sound synthesis(surely still micro-composition), or examine in detail how some composers have used algorithmic principles to create great works, let alone attack the core issue itself. While the systems outlined in the book may be applied in a range of ways from the superficial and trivial to the very sophisticated, nowhere is the problem addressed of what musical composition really is. This has been a problem with some other books on algorithmic style imitation, but to my mind, musical composition is something other than the application of a set of rules (particularly music theory rules), and it goes beyond this. Style imitation already has a large body of literature; I feel this book does a competent job of pulling much of it together, but it has missed an opportunity to go further and add to the literature on algorithmic approaches to genuine composition.

Maybe if I'm doing musicological research on specific styles, this book would be useful, but not for a composition student or working composer.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXTENSIVE, CAREFULLY, POTENTIAL FOR MORE 29 Aug 2011
By Dr. Gerd Doeben-Henisch - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
POINT OF VIEW

My standpoint as a reader of the book I would describe as 'experienced in algorithms', an expert in learning systems, but an amateur in music production - including computer-generated - and composition. My special interest in reading the book was the question of which methods are currently used to enable computer-generated music. Specifically I'm interested in how a computer program may be made able to 'learn' to play and and to compose music.

A GREAT WEALTH OF MATERIAL

The book 'Algorithmic Composition' provides undoubtedly a very broad introduction to the topic. The concepts of algorithm, markov model, generative grammar, transition networks, chaotic systems, Lindenmayer systems, genetic algorithms, cellular automata, artificial neural networks, and artificial intelligence are discussed conceptually, and examples are given for each chapter. At the end of each chapter you will find final assessment, where the strengths and weaknesses of the discussed algorithms for the purposes of the composition are pointed out.

ALGORITHMS AND COMPOSITION

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the book does not begin with a detailed representation of the compositional process, but with a very extensive chapter (almost 60 pages) about the development of the human sign systems, the concept of algorithm, the development of machines for computation (computers), and the foundational issues of computability and decidability by a computer. What is missing is a similar introductory chapter about to the composition process. While the introduction about the concept of an algorithm provides a good framework for all the subsequent chapters, the concept of 'composition' remains a little 'in the air'. Even in the final discussion this gap is not really closed. Possibly does this lack express the limits of a representation of such a complex topic as 'algorithmic composition' , otherwise this can be seen as a challenge for a possible future revised edition, in which the concept of a - certainly idealized - compositional process will be elaborated to an extend which allows a better interaction with the different algorithmic methods.

Within each chapter, as in the concluding discussion, the book repeatedly makes clear that between the great diversity and complexity of challenging pieces of music and the possibilities of algorithmic formalization has always been gaps, which will not be closed easily by a formalization. This is due not only to the limits of formalization - which has not yet been fully exploited - but also due to the conceptualization of the phenomenon of composition as such. We are always able to play or to compose music, but not so readily we are able to talk the same time about our doings in an 'appropriate conceptual' way (even 'great' composers like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven would not have been able to describe their process of composition in each case in a sufficient theoretical manner).

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE?

While the preceding chapters are quite clear about the different algorithmic methods, the chapter on 'Artificial Intelligence' is unsatisfying. Nierhaus himself points out at the beginning of the chapter that the very notion of 'intelligent' or 'intelligence' is used very inconsistently in the literature. This short chapter about AI is no remedy from this fuzziness of the field (one should notice that the algorithmic concepts of all preceding chapters are today in use within the context of so-called 'intelligent' systems or in the context of 'machine learning', the preceding chapters therefore deal already 'somehow' with 'artificial intelligence').

EVALUATION

Despite the criticisms in detail, I would like to award the book five stars because it deals with a complex issue in a way that gives a good inroad for everybody who wants to understand the field a bit better. In particular I appreciate the thoroughness of the individual chapters combined with helpful further readings.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! 8 Feb 2010
By D. E. Mcanulty - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I cannot praise this book highly enough. It is open and clear, and really makes a significant crack into the world of algorithmic composition. In addition, each chapter is extensively and conscientiously followed by a list of source publications that promise endless hours of enlightening research. It is a significant and elegant contribution to the field of computer music.
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