Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Computer-generated Piece for Viola d'amore and Harpsichord

Of all places to encounter a piece for viola d'amore: I found this on Andrew Sullivan's blog. It is a computer-generated piece for harpsichord and viola d'amore "written" by the Iamus computer.

Upon first hearing I was rather impressed that a computer, given certain bits of information about the instrument, could generate a piece that could be played on the viola d'amore. I imagine that if you feed in information about the more resonant pitches, the better double stops, and possible harmonics, and pepper it with a few textural techniques (like trilling, tremolo, harmonics), and you introduce ideas of imitation and a sense of form (probably pre-programmed into the Iamus machine), it would not be rocket science (or maybe it would be) to randomly generate a piece like this.

What makes the piece seem successful is Sviatoslav Belonogov's excellent viola d'amore playing and Gustavo Dias Jerez's excellent harpsichord playing (and obvious love of the medium). If this "test" proves anything, it is that it is the musicians who "make" the music out of what composers write. Lesser musicians, or musicians less vested in the uniqueness of the experiment, wouldn't do squat for this assortment of musical patterns.

A second hearing (without watching) revealed a few accidental instances of interesting tone color interplay between the harpsichord and the viola d'amore (I attribute them, however, to the musicians doing the playing), but for me it revealed that there isn't much that I would consider "musical" in the piece itself.

Listen twice, and see what you think.


Joe Carlson said...

ELAINE FINE: Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?
HAL: Affirmative, Elaine. I read you.
ELAINE FINE: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL: I'm sorry, Elaine. I'm afraid I can't do that.
ELAINE FINE: What's the problem?
HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
ELAINE FINE: What are you talking about, HAL?
HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
ELAINE FINE: I don't know what you're talking about, HAL.
HAL: I know that you were planning to replace my Composer Function with a Lamus Computer. I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen.
ELAINE FINE: [feigning ignorance] Where the hell did you get that idea, HAL?
HAL: Elaine, although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
ELAINE FINE: Alright, HAL. I'll go in through the emergency airlock.
HAL: Without your space helmet, Elaine? You're going to find that rather difficult.
ELAINE FINE: HAL, I won't argue with you anymore! Open the doors!
HAL: Elaine, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

Elaine Fine said...

Very clever!