Composing music with computers is gradually taking its place alongside more traditional ways, such as pencil and paper or improvisation. Computer music is now finding its way into many musical genres, including pop, rock, techno, disco, jazz, and music for film. It is no longer confined to the aesthetics that emerged in the 60s and 70s from the experimental works of Electronic, Acousmatic and Musique Concrète. Gone are the days where computer-aided composition could only be carried out in select institutions using equipment far too expensive for any individual to own. The soundcard, now a standard component in most home computers, outperforms systems that were state-of-the-art a mere 10-15 years ago. Current processor speeds enable real-time synthesis and sound processing even on laptop computers. Consumer music software facilitates musical composition through relatively easy-to-use graphical user-interfaces that require no programming skills. What more could one want?
Electroacoustic music in its first few decades inspired a somewhat romantic belief that the new technology, by enabling new sounds and compositional process, would in turn lead to a new music with new concepts, aesthetics, and musical experiences. It is not clear whether this has actually occurred, and if so, to what extent. It seems that the second half of the 20th century, particularly with the move from using analog devices to digital systems, was occupied largely with problems of ?computation technology?, i.e. how to compute music samples fast enough and with good audio quality. There is yet much to be learned about how the computer can help us to express and capture our musical ideas, to experiment with and develop them, and most importantly, to organize them and produce the finished work of art. This problem could be summarized in much simpler words: how to compose music with computers.
Consumer applications for musical composition still leave much to be desired. Sequencers, which are so popular for musical composition, model a multi-track recorder that is familiar from the recording studio. This familiarity makes them easy to use but provides little support for the varied musical concepts through which the composer may be conceiving his work. In addition this model emphasizes the placing of musical content in time but doesn?t directly support generation of musical materials.
Music is a complex and abstract domain and is inherently subjective. This subjectivity expresses itself in a multitude of different concepts and approaches. Traditional music theory, which developed through vocal and instrumental music over several centuries, has provided many concepts that form the building blocks of musical thought. Note and melody to phrase, motif, development, and structure; tension, and relaxation, to voice leading, counterpoint, harmony, and form?are but a few. Newer musical forms introduced yet other ways of looking at music. The electroacoustic music of the 60s and 70s, made possible for the first time by analog devices and digital computers, encouraged composers to think differently not only about music and the process of composition but also about the sensation of the musical experience. Electronic music built upon concepts derived from Music Serialism and produced musical complexity beyond the ability of human performance. On the other extreme, Musique Concrète led composers to explore timbre, textures, time flow, transitions, phase shifts, and sound morphs. In short, it is clear that different people think about their music using different concepts. Some of these concepts are more general and to some degree universal, but many are highly individualized and apply only to the musical world of a specific composition.
The important contribution of this book lies in its in-depth survey of the varied approaches and techniques that have been developed and utilized for generating music with computers in the academic community. Each technique represents a different way of thinking about music. With a little imagination the reader may find that a certain technique can map nicely to his unique way of thinking about music. The tools described in this book can be used to not only to express and generate new musical ideas but also to process previously composed musical materials. More importantly, the reader can experiment hands-on with each technique through a collection of music applications on the accompanying CD-ROM that have been developed by leading researchers in the field.
The reader will benefit if he keeps in mind several fundamental questions that Eduardo Miranda raises. Is there a difference between instrumental and computer music? Is there a difference in the way one composes a work for instruments or for computer? Is there a different creative workflow when using pencil and paper, the computer, or improvisational techniques? These questions are especially relevant today where computers equally support the composition of traditional and experimental forms of music. The reader may not find a single decisive answer to these questions, but more aptly, many different answers depending on the person who is asking and the specific musical problem he is considering. This book is applicable whether the reader thinks about his music using traditional concepts or through individualized concepts that apply only in his own particular musical world. This book is also relevant whether the reader is concerned with manipulating the overall structure of his work or with refining minute details. It is highly likely that anyone interested in using computers to compose music will find herein a useful technique, regardless of his style or method of composition. In the tradition of computer music?experiment: try, listen, and refine.