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Emily Howell: EMI redux

October 23rd, 2009

A mawkish article appeared in the Guardian today about Emily Howell, David Cope’s new EMI-like program. Mark Lawson retreads a lot of old arguments about whether machine-created art is actually art, and how Cope’s contribution to Emily Howell factors into consideration.
Those arguments aside, my own view is summed up nicely by commenter speedkermit.

22 Oct 09, 10:13pm (about 7 hours ago)
I don’t see a conceptual problem with arguing that David Cope is the author of this music. He wrote the software with a particular outcome in mind and has created something that produces almost infinite variation, some good, some crap I should imagine. A lot of experimental artists define their role as merely setting the parameters of their music then allowing the results to surprise them. The composer Terry Riley did something similar on ‘In C’, by laying a set of loose rules for his musicians who were then allowed to apply them as they saw fit. Cornelius Cardew produced bizarre graphic scores such as ‘Treatise’ that could never be interpreted the same way twice. There isn’t much difference really.
At the moment Emily sounds like a formulaic prototype, but I don’t see the need to fear that machines might one day be the equal of human musicianship. I quite like the idea of having my own sound-droid who belches out originals on demand.

Incidentally, I wonder what Lawson’s own compositions are like.


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