Listen To: Classical Music Composed By A Computer (No, Really)




Tech/Gadget/Science

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Can a super computer really be the new Mozart? Short Answer: Yup. Meet Iamus, Spain’s new classical composer who has just released its debut album, “Nasciturus.” Iamus, you see, is not a man or woman but rather a computer cluster of 352 processors located in Spain’s University of Málaga. Without any human interaction beyond the initial programming, Iamus was able to compose nine pieces of music beginning with a simple input and using a complex algorithm to evolve the pieces into full songs.

Iamus, named after a Greek God who could understand the language of birds, composes by mutating a simple input in a manner similar to human evolution. Just as humans have evolved over time, the compositions each have a musical core, like a human genome, that slowly builds until Iamus has altered its source material into a full composition. The only restrictions are the ones that would limit a person and their instrument. This all takes the computer less than a second to do, and eight minutes to translate the composition into a format that humans can read (and play).

Pianist and composer Gustavo Diaz-Jerez, a software consultant for Iamus explains how the computer works:

“We have taught a computer to write musical scores. Now we can produce modern classical music at the touch of a button. We’ve just told the computer some very general technical things. We have informed the computer that it is impossible for a pianist to play a 10 note chord with one hand. We only have five fingers on one hand.

Each composition has a musical core that becomes ever more complex and evolves automatically. It starts with very complex structures inside the computer. It is very different from other computer-generated music. When people hear the phrase they imagine that you can hear the computer playing music. Iamus does something different, it projects the complexity we are growing in the computer into musical structures”.

The ability to program a computer to write musical scores is a milestone for music and technology, and could be the next exciting and scary step into a future of Artificial Intelligence. But where will this technology leave musicians and music sales? For now, musicians can be reassured knowing that while Iamus may be the next Mozart, or even Zappa in terms of composing, it still needs a human’s personal touch, interpretation and talent to bring the compositions to life. As for sales, the commercial offshoot for Iamus is already alive with US-based Melomics who offer music similar to iTunes with the added twist that the songs are all computer generated and that purchasers can buy both the songs AND their copyright.

So musicians and music fans, is Iamus awesome or scary?!