Sunday, October 30, 2011

Re: Wesley/ Peter "Contribution and Computer Generated Music"

An ongoing topic in blogging this semester is computer generated music. Wesley recently talked about a program from Hans Zimmer & Pharrell Williams which can turn any hum or whistle into a song. He ended with the question "How much contribution is needed to consider something music?" Peter then replied and ended with the question, "Does something with no contribution whatsoever have the right to be called music"?

Nowadays music producers do not write a single note of their own. They take tracks from older songs and replay a clip over and over again in the back ground. Or they take midi loops and organize them in their own sequence. I would consider that as sound art and not music. If you take loops and do not compose every single note yourself, then it is not truly yours, yet I may not goes as far to say that any contribution aside from ones self makes the piece not music or sound art. In writing articles, books, or any other publication, the rule of thumb for plagiarism is that it cannot be more than 20 percent of other works. Since composing is a type of writing, I think we should apply this principle. If a work is not at least 80% of the composer(s) then it is not their music. So if a composer took one loop and had four harmonies that he/she wrote themselves they are safe. Yet, if a composer took two loops and wrote three harmonies it would be sound art. I agree with Peter that computer generated music is at least sound art. These percentages are just a starting point, feel free to offer suggestions if you feel that they are too strict or not strict enough.

Questions: I'm going to change this around a little since it is such a recurring theme, let's talk about the ethics of these "composition machines". What if the creators of these computer programs never told anyone that they created it and they used it to generate compositions in their credit? Would it be plagiarism? If you never knew it was created by a machine would you call it music just the same? It is the conception that it is an artificial creation rather than the quality of the composition that makes us dislike it. Are we being racist towards computers? (Just kidding).