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Could computers replace human composers? We may be closer than you think. Over at Slate, Chris Wilson tells how composer David Cope came to invent "the world's most musically creative computer program." Cope's computer has produced albums of music that apparently "long ago reached the point where most people can't tell the difference between real Bach and the Bach-like compositions his computer can produce."

Cope built his latest program, called "Emily Howell," by feeding his computer large quantities of existing works from the Western classical canon. Chris Wilson admits the pieces that are being produced now are "shockingly good for a computer-assisted composition." So is this the way of the future? Wilson is hesitant to make a solid prediction, but he's not dismissing the possibility:

The fact that they sound like original, creative pieces is a testament to the database model of composing. Still, I suspect most people will find Cope's theory of composing inherently distasteful. We prefer to think of art as an art, not a science ... I don't expect Emily Howell to ever replace the best human composers ... Yet even at this early moment in AC research, Emily Howell is already a better composer than 99 percent of the population. Whether she or any other computer can bridge that last 1 percent, making complete works with lasting significance to music, is anyone's guess.

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