A Mechanical Mozart

by Patrick Appel

Ryan Blitstein reports on musical AI:

Emmy was once the world’s most advanced artificially intelligent composer, and because [David Cope] managed to breathe a sort of life into her, he became a modern-day musical Dr. Frankenstein. She produced thousands of scores in the style of classical heavyweights, scores so impressive that classical music scholars failed to identify them as computer-created. Cope attracted praise from musicians and computer scientists, but his creation raised troubling questions: If a machine could write a Mozart sonata every bit as good as the originals, then what was so special about Mozart? And was there really any soul behind the great works, or were Beethoven and his ilk just clever mathematical manipulators of notes?

Cope’s answers not much, and yes made some people very angry.

Blitstein has a couple beautiful tracks from Emmy's daughter program embedded in his article. An AI composing program doesn't make me angry; David Cope is the composer, not the computer. He says it well:

[Cope] just thinks of [Emmy] as a tool. Everything Emmy created, she created because of software he devised. If Cope had infinite time, he could have written 5,000 Bach-style chorales. The program just did it much faster.

“All the computer is is just an extension of me,” Cope says. “They’re nothing but wonderfully organized shovels. I wouldn’t give credit to the shovel for digging the hole. Would you?”

(Hat tip: 3QD)