EMI: Enter Music Infinitely

About thirty years ago, composer David Cope started to work out a music program called EMI (Experiments in Music Intelligence). Cope gives the general background of EMI on his site here. I just found out about it through further reading of Daniel C. Dennett’s Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking. Here is Dennett getting at the function of such a program:

“As EMI is fed music by Bach, it responds by generating musical compositions in the style of Bach. When given Mozart, or Schubert, or Puccini, or Scott Joplin, it readily analyzes their styles and then composes new music in those styles, better pastiches than Cope himself – or almost any human composer – can write”.

What particular music of a composer is EMI focusing on? Even if it were fed the entire corpus of a composer, is it just focusing on a sample group of pieces, taking the gathered “instructions” in composing a work similar to said composer? I wonder if this sample group changes each time EMI makes a piece or if EMI has a general list of “instructions” it uses after the compiling. These variables could lead to an umpteen amount of variations.

But wait, this can be compounded further:

“When fed music by two composers, EMI can promptly compose pieces that eerily unite their It could take specific styles, and when fed, all at once (with no claring of the palate, you might say) all these styles, it proceeds to write music based on the totality of its musical ‘experience’. The compositions that result can then also be fed back into it, over and over, along with whatever other music comes along in MIDI format, and the result is EMI’s own personal musical style, a style that candidly reveals its debts to the masters while being an unquestionably idiosyncratic integration of all this ‘experience'”.

This constant feed back leads to a number of possible pieces that reaches the sphere of what Dennett calls Vast numbers (explored here).

EMI could at the very least show us the Vast number of possibilities when writing music of any kind. And while EMI can probably take in a whole corpus, most of us might take in a select group of pieces as our sample of an artist to mash with other samples. Pieces and what “instructions” are garnered from them are going to vary from person to person as well (more variation upon the variations we have already).

We should also not forget of the complexity of then writing pieces off of one’s own style (like people asking a band to write another album like the last one). Who knows what “instructions” one focuses on, let alone the “instructions” that are further piled on (more variation upon the variations upon the variations we have already).

All of this racks my brain but in the sort of way that promotes wonder at the possibilities that are yet untapped.

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