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Algorithmic Composition Substructures
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xbeemer



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2006 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

bachus wrote:
xbeemer wrote:
The wall is how to create large scale, but subtle and polished compositions algorithmically. And how to do it with less effort in the mechanics, and thus more available to be put into the art.


Counterpoint offers an obvious well-defined example of the need for simple local context. But in terms of exploring the scope and qualitative dimensions of the contexts necessary to scale the “wall” it might be worthwhile to spend some effort teasing out the role of the placement of points of salience and caesura* in creating “large scale, but subtle and polished compositions.” Would this tack be of interest?

*Of course, they are often one and the same.


Well, right off, it seems to me the caesura are the users: everyone breaks it at their own place if given the freedom to do so. But I'm open to trying out different tacks. What do you have in mind?

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2006 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

xbeemer wrote:
Well, right off, it seems to me the caesura are the users: everyone breaks it at their own place if given the freedom to do so. But I'm open to trying out different tacks. What do you have in mind?


I will need to request we use a more general definition of caesura:

Caesura: A cessation of musical flow, usually involving relative silence, and often used as a way to separate formal units at any level. These devices may be simple stops or breaks in the texture, having no reliance on standard cadential harmonic or melodic formulae.

Take particular note of this phrase “…formal units at any level.” The break between movements in a symphony and the terminal synchronization of a set of rhythmic patterns in gamelan music are examples of maximum caesura. But a caesura may be as subtle as a salient change in contrapuntal texture in the middle of a phrase. Note that all cadences are caesura but not all caesuras are cadences.


BTW I regret that I am only now getting around to saying how beautifully done ArtWonk is. I am more impressed every time I dig deeper.

Gota crash, back on tack tomorrow.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2006 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

xbeemer wrote:
But it's the small programs that users can create, share and pipe together that you hold out as a good model for an algorithmic music system, not the GUI or super-geek console interface. And that, I do find enthusiasm for.


Absolutely, I agree completely. The window managers are just applications. There are several of them for Unix written to run on X. X is nice because it is a hardware independent graphics system. If one is going to develop an application with a graphical interface, I think X is the way to go. It will run on virtually any platform. But a compositional sytem that requires a graphical interface bound to be optimized to do some things and be weak in other areas.

John - Warren Burt, is he any relation to Joe Burt?

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xbeemer



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 4:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

bachus wrote:
I will need to request we use a more general definition of caesura:

Caesura: A cessation of musical flow, usually involving relative silence, and often used as a way to separate formal units at any level. These devices may be simple stops or breaks in the texture, having no reliance on standard cadential harmonic or melodic formulae.

Sorry, I took it to be a metaphor, from the literary meaning: know then thyself || presume not God to scan.

Quote:
BTW I regret that I am only now getting around to saying how beautifully done ArtWonk is. I am more impressed every time I dig deeper.

Thanks!

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 5:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
X is nice because it is a hardware independent graphics system.


X is also nice because it is clean and orthogonal thus proving that academic committees can do work far superior to that done by the largest corporations.

mosc wrote:
But a compositional sytem that requires a graphical interface bound to be optimized to do some things and be weak in other areas.


But that is also true of text based systems. Many essential musical abstractions are very poorly expressed by code and text data. Seems to me it's kinda like speaker design, it's all about the judicious selection of trade-offs. None will be perfect; all will have strengths and weaknesses. Different systems will best fit the needs of different people.

Trust me, one size does not fit all.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 8:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I wrote:
...it might be worthwhile to spend some effort teasing out the role of the placement of points of salience and caesura* in creating “large scale, but subtle and polished compositions


I’d like to try out the hypothesis that in terms of cognition most music is experienced as if it were “built around” points of salience and/or caesura (POSC). Off the shiny top of my head the only exceptions that come to mind are some examples of continuously evolving “space music.”

In-between POSCs, music has a relative sense of flow, of continuous evolution. After a POSC there is a sense of a new of context or new flow, or the return to a previous context or flow. In any case there is a sense that something has changed. There are several complications. A POSC may actually be a transition passage rather than a single event and worse, the strengths of POSCs are relative and in organization possibly hierarchical*. Furthermore, consider that in tonal music a particularly salient chord progression in the interior of a phrase may be of greater impact than the phrase’s cadence-- of greater significance to the listener and composer... but perhaps not the dedicated theoretician.

The mind is attuned to change. If the sequence of POSCs in a large scale piece of music do not “make sense,” do not, over all, provide a compelling sense of “logical progression” then the piece will not hold together. (This does not exclude novel changes even for the sake of novelty but, to paraphrase Syndrome, when all changes are novel no change is novel, its just chaos.) If neither the flows leading to and from POSCs rationalize them then the work will not hold together well even on the small scale.

I’d hope for some argument, discussion, revision and development of this before proceeding.

*Now, brinxmat, don’t go get all excited and soil thyself—I said: POSSIBLY hierarchical. Very Happy

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

bachus wrote:
Trust me, one size does not fit all.

Quite true. That is my point. I you have an open language based underlying system then people can write special tools, including graphical, ones for certain tasks. These can even be written in different languages which may be best suited for those tasks. So part of a system could have graphical tools, but that tool should output something that other programs might use down the chain.

This is the way I think this wall can be broken. The wall comes from single developer or small communities working on the systems.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I wrote:
*Now, brinxmat, don’t go get all excited and soil thyself—I said: POSSIBLY hierarchical. Very Happy


I might should mention that the "hierarchy" raised here is that of schenkerian analysis.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 6:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
The wall comes from single developer or small communities working on the systems.


Assuming that's true the problem becomes one finding a data format that everyone can agree on, eh? That might be a very enlightening process.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 7:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I wrote:
I’d like to try out the hypothesis that ...blah blah blah


I’m willing to proceeded with the assumption that everyone found that too opaque, too obvious or too stupid to be worth responding to.

Soooo, how about I just ask how many if any of you have a direct sense of hierarchical as opposed to sequential processes being at work when they listen to music?

There are a number of compelling reasons why many pieces of computer music generating software have elaborate hierarchical components. The question above relates to this in terms of certain particulars of implementation not validity. I.e. even if we conclude that hierarchy is not directly relevant to the experience of a piece of music it seems clear that the optimum computational representation of many aspects of music is, none the less, hierarchical.

Anyone?

Edit:
"certain particulars of" added for clarity

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 9:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:

John - Warren Burt, is he any relation to Joe Burt?


Don't think so. He is an expatriate composer living in Australia. Google his name and you will get *lots* of info on him. Quite well known in academic/atonal/microtonal circles. Scala even has several of his scales.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 9:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

bachus wrote:
Soooo, how about I just ask how many if any of you have a direct sense of hierarchical as opposed to sequential processes being at work when they listen to music?

FWIW, my take is that people listen mostly linearly, moment to moment. But they respond to the deeper structures mostly on an unconscious level. Unless of course they are trained or have listened carefully to the piece several times. I think this deeper structure is why classical music stays with us, popular music blooms and fades. It is also why classical music aficionados tend to be older and smarter.

In a slightly different context, I discussed this in an article in Leonardo a few years back:

http://mitpress2.mit.edu/e-journals/Leonardo/isast/articles/lifemusic.html

The relevant section is: Nature As a Template for Art Music.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I have a little experience and anecdotal mishmash from a parallel universe that's, at least, slightly related.

I work in game development. If you play enough video games, at some point you will notice that the emotional, experiential difference between a good game and a bad game breaks down to memorable moments. The good/bad axis has different meanings between customers and developers, but by contrast the memorable/trite axis varies between personalities. Roaming around in the dark in Doom getting the crap scared out of you, the meta-game tactics in Metal Gear Solid, seeing a city that you built from scratch thriving with millions of inhabitants in Sim City, etc. For the most part, in hindsight the game seems to be all about the "key moments". Why not, then, architect the entire game around preconceived key moments? Wouldn't that guarantee a good game?

As it turns out... no Smile People have tried it over and over and what you generally get is a sequence of cinematic islands that regurgitate the developer's emotions for the player, and the islands are separated by a sea of discardable gameplay that obviously serves only to hold your hand to exactly where you're supposed to be in order to see the next "good part". Most of the real memorable moments in a game are a complete surprise to game developers. That's why games like Grand Theft Auto are becoming popular to clone among developers - the so-called "sandbox" game. You just give players a fairly flexible and expressive environment, a few simple physical limits, and let them invent the game for you. People combine gameplay elements in real-time according to their own creativity and come up with things that the developers never thought of.

This phenomenon is exactly what you're talking about, mosc, with 3rd party developers having the power to bridge gaps and keep the community moving. VST is a sandbox for programmers and musicians to create things that will create sounds that the people at Steinberg (perhaps) can't imagine.

It would be interesting to try and apply the sandbox concept to generative music performance software. You play it more like a game than an instrument - as a player/performer, you're not always sure what the consequences of your actions will be but when you find something you really like, you have the freedom to repeat, refine, and explore that particular corner of the sandbox. The real gold happens in the corner cases where quirk leads to kismet; the application becomes a tool for searching a large problem space to find happy accidents Surprised

(EDIT: for the record, my statements about key-moment-driven gameplay are an absurd generalization of a very complex topic.)
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 8:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I have rarely worked far outside of tonality and perhaps that limits my imagination. But if a system is to include anything like tonality one has to deal with the fact that the music is a series of phrases and every phrase has to end in a cadence--a caesura in the harmonic rhythm which is a particular realization of one of a finite set of cadential forms. Further the root of the final cadence is virtually always known in advance. A random choice of roots for the preceding cadences is unlikely to result in a satisfactory conclusion. And this problem seems to be recursive. I.e. the harmonic progression within the body of the phrase must rationalize the root of the cadence. Schenker and those following his general path believe/d that this plan is hierarchically recursive throughout a tonal composition, phrase to period to section etc.*

In any case, if tonality has not a necessary grammar then it has something the end result of which is analogous to it and when not observed the results are not good (tonality).

Kookoo wrote:
Why not, then, architect the entire game around preconceived key moments? Wouldn't that guarantee a good game?

As it turns out... no Smile People have tried it over and over and what you generally get is a sequence of cinematic islands that regurgitate the developer's emotions for the player, and the islands are separated by a sea of discardable gameplay that obviously serves only to hold your hand to exactly where you're supposed to be in order to see the next "good part".


And I think that’s my point. The good parts can’t be good unless they are "rationalized" in a compelling way by what comes both before and after.

Or so it seems to me.

*a gross over simplification.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

xbeemer wrote:
FWIW, my take is that people listen mostly linearly, moment to moment. But they respond to the deeper structures mostly on an unconscious level. Unless of course they are trained or have listened carefully to the piece several times. I think this deeper structure is why classical music stays with us, popular music blooms and fades.


My intuitions exactly.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 7:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I had really hoped I'd come up with something useful. But I guess one gets stuck in one’s thinking patterns. And on top of that I generally don’t function in real-time. So I’m having a hard time getting beyond my preconception that temporal structure comes first.

Common, at least to my mentor, and myself was the approach of doing design before composition. One might start with some fragmentary ideas of texture, motif etc., but for a movement or a complete work one would usually at least set the relative temporal position of the climax and a few lesser points of high salience before beginning composition, and possibly one would work out a more elaborate shape*. Once composition started (and frequently this is not at the beginning) the shape became a guideline to be freely violated as dictated by the emerging music.

D.M.Green in Form in Tonal Music wrote:
The term “shape” when applied to music, refers to the surface contour of a piece and depends on the action and interaction of the surface qualities of tension and relaxation. These qualities can be influenced by any of a number of factors:

1. Rise and fall of melodic lines, particularly in outer voices
2. Rhythmic activity
3. Dynamics
4. Texture
5. Instrumentation
6. Relative amount and degree of consonance and dissonance
7. Harmonic rhythm (rate of chord change)


That certinly doesn’t rise to the level of insight but for now it’s the best I can do Sad

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 10:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kookoo wrote:
This phenomenon is exactly what you're talking about, mosc, with 3rd party developers having the power to bridge gaps and keep the community moving. VST is a sandbox for programmers and musicians to create things that will create sounds that the people at Steinberg (perhaps) can't imagine.

It would be interesting to try and apply the sandbox concept to generative music performance software. You play it more like a game than an instrument - as a player/performer, you're not always sure what the consequences of your actions will be but when you find something you really like, you have the freedom to repeat, refine, and explore that particular corner of the sandbox. The real gold happens in the corner cases where quirk leads to kismet; the application becomes a tool for searching a large problem space to find happy accidents Surprised


I haven't used VST much and I've never programmed VST devices. Maybe that is a good way to work. My instinct is to go with a textural interface as I have mentioned.

Imagine some generalized lanugage constructs for describing seqence of musical notes - not too unlike a MIDI stream. There would be note number (freq), duration, volume, and many other parameters (user definable) for each note. A phrase is zero or more notes. Phrases could be generated and transformed by programs or functions that read them and and write them out. These programs might be generators (make new phrases) or analyzers (add annotation). Thus, given a phrase, one program might generate a harmony and another program might annotate the phrase with harmonic analysis.

Programs might take input phrases and generate movements based on some parameters that are specified in the same phrase language. For example, Bachus is interested in tonal music. Perhaps a special parameter phrase could describe harmonic movement.

Thus, a composition could be much like a unix shell program where generators are piped into harmonizers, counterpoint generators, rhythmic generators, orchestrators, movement makers, etc. You may have a really nice pipe that when fed different inputs would generate different music.

For such a system, I wouldn't be particularly interested in realtime processing.

I think the Keykit language is quite well suited for this. [/right]

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

VST is essentially to move audio around, and while it is very good for that, it doesn't help much with composing. Instrumentation, yes, but not the composing.

KeyKit has been around for some 10 years. So has anyone here beside, perhaps, Howard, actually used it?

It's free, and it works with Linux, Windows and the Mac. So that's saying a lot. But - like Unix itself in this context - having something you can actually use vs. something that looks good on paper but basically leaves you on your own with little or no support, little or no startup help, puts things in a different perspective.

Maybe it's just me, I do have an ax to grind, being a competing developer, but it seems to me that an algorithmic package that has not changed substantially for nearly a decade and remains low level and exceptionally difficult to get started with - while may for good reason sound great on paper and be politically cool for some, probably is not the best choice if you are a composer looking to work in this area without having to build a lot of the superstructure yourself.

Here, on this forum, you have two experienced developers tackling the issues of large scale algorithmic composing, from two distinctly different but synergetic perspectives, who are willing to listen to your suggestions, have actually asked for your input. Maybe you should take advantage of what is available rather than wish for what isn't and do nothing? Or in this case get bogged in the swamp because you thought a different bridge would be cooler?

Sorry, Howard, to go against what seems like a pet idea of yours, on your own forum. I suppose it's bad form on my part. But I held my water for several days on this, and it didn't get any better. So now I've said my piece. In the future I'll try to remember to wipe my feet before I come in.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 2:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Quite true. The VST concept is suited for exactly what it is being used for these days, which is mainly "outboard effects" and "instruments". It is possible to handle midi data, but for the two classes of VST devices already mentioned this is mainly limited to very simply stuff like parameter control and such. I cannot see how an advanced composition machine could be implemented inside the VST format and I cannot see why it should. That said, I am not completely sure that is what Howard actually meant.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Quote:
Sorry, Howard, to go against what seems like a pet idea of yours, on your own forum. I suppose it's bad form on my part. But I held my water for several days on this, and it didn't get any better. So now I've said my piece. In the future I'll try to remember to wipe my feet before I come in.


No problem. Everyone doesn't have to agree.

It is just that I haven't seen any language based system yet proposed that would enable such collaboation. There is a very active Keykit community and it is supported very well, BTW. IMHO, longevity in a software system makes it attractive.

My suggestion would allow people to use the Keykit environment or not. Since it is a language, one could parse and write with whatever tools you like.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 2:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Quote:
That said, I am not completely sure that is what Howard actually meant.
I wasn't suggesting using VST as a composition tool, I was commenting on Kookoo's post back upstream. He said it was an example of a good cooperative programming environment.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 2:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I have been messing some with KeyKit. It is really nice. My big problem is to figure out something I would like to use it for. Whenever I start to play around with either stuff like KeyKit or algrorithmic music tools, I usually find I prefer pen and paper anyway since I already know what I want to do.

On the other hand, I can see stuff I might want to explore with something like what you guys are discussing here. I did have a "vision" ( Shocked MNG ) some days ago about using such a tool, but then I figured out I would like some sort of pen and paper style document interface to it. Anyways, this is probably not a good idea. Ignore that one.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
Quote:
That said, I am not completely sure that is what Howard actually meant.
I wasn't suggesting using VST as a composition tool, I was commenting on Kookoo's post back upstream. He said it was an example of a good cooperative programming environment.


Aha! Very Happy

That is how I read that post of yours.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
but then I figured out I would like some sort of pen and paper style document interface to it.


I am very curious as to what you would want from the "pen and paper style document interface."

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

...It made a lot of sense some days ago. I am still kinda remembering the essenstials but I am not sure how well I can explain this.

Basically when writing you will also annotate sections and voices and stuff and I imagined some kind of virtual sheet music überinterface for structure of the composition and then a kind of hypertext interface into the inner workings of the algo-extragavanza.

Anyways, I can imagine using your most excellent übercomposer for dressing groups of interconnected clusters where now and then subcomponent voices will break out and form new groups but now playing tonal polyphonic parts. You can hear this in very subtle way happening inside the piece "Utmost Savagery" and in others too. When I am working with less than say 50 voices this isn´t too bad to do with pen and paper, but then I can imagine I could explore some interesting stuff with a lot more voices and your tool could be perfect for this. But then still, I tend to think too much and then I find anything but pen and paper to be a nuisance.

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