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System: Algorithmic Composer

Authors

Description

Algorithmic Composer is a compositional tool that enables composers to construct musical structures by connecting virtual objects -- like metronomes, counters, etc... -- with virtual patch cables. The performer can then interact with these structures using a mouse, keyboard, microphone, and MIDI device. Algorithmic Composer is a program that enables composition through the use of abstract object types that are connected together to form part of a patch, which is similar to the way older analogue machines used patch cables to connect different electronic modules together. Algorithmic Composer is a Windows based program that allows users to create musical textures and events by piecing virtual objects together with patch cables on the computer screen, similar to the way a person might join pieces from a Mechano set to create a truck, train, crane, ... etc. With the Mechano set a truck might be created by joining metal panels with bolts, adding wheels, windows, motor, ... etc., which is just putting together pre-fabricated materials in a meaningful way to produce a desired result. Algorithmic Composer allows the user to create in a similar way by connecting counters, delays, metronomes, flip-flops, calculators, and other such devices. The user can interact with the program by using the mouse and /or a midi input device, and the computer sound card or an external midi sound engine produces the sound. Algorithmic Composer does not use a manuscript based representation, and so a person does not have to be able to read music to use the program. Algorithmic Composer is also a powerful diagnostic tool useful for testing the capabilities and limitations of other MIDI software, external MIDI hardware devices, and the computer sound card. I use Algorithmic Composer in my work as a computer technician to test the functionality of sound cards on computers that are reported faulty. I use Algorithmic Composer to test, both individually and collectively, the entire setup from keyboards, sound card, through to the speakers and external synthesizers. The main functionality of Algorithmic Composer is written in ISO/ANSI standard C++, which means that the program could be ported to another platform -- such as Linux or Macintosh -- in the near future. The underlying engine of Algorithmic Composer was used to form the underlying programmable logic control for the Smart Controller. I designed Algorithmic Composer to meet a personal need as both a composer and performer of electronic music. I required a tool for the PC platform that would enable me to send MIDI data, which I was manipulating during a performance, to an external sound engine.

References

“... the individual and the society are deprived of the formidable power of free imagination that musical composition offers them. We are able to tear down this iron curtain, thanks to the technology of computers...”

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“The characteristics of every sound depend on the way in which the sound was produced. Each art-form exploits its special production methods in order to endow the phenomena with unmistakable characteristics. Artistic economy demands that the means be appropriate to the end, and that the exploitation of the means be an end in itself.”

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“Music is then no longer primarily conceived as a guide for premeditated emotions, but as the density of the possible relationships which first become actuality during production under the influence of chance, and which during performance are presented to the listener as sounds beyond any environmental associatiations, independent of bodily actions required to produce sounds...”

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“... and the hope of an extraordinary aesthetic success based on extraordinary technology is a cruel deceit.”

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“... the use of numerical machines no longer stands in need of justification. It is not a mystery. If there is a mystery, it is in the mental structures of music and not in the computers, which are only tools, extensions of the hand and the slide rule.”

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“The computing machine is a marvelous invention and seems almost superhuman. But in reality it is as limited as the mind of the individual who feeds it material. Like the computer, the machines we use for making music can only give back what we put into them.”

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“The use of computers is the logical outcome of a historical development. It by no means heralds a new musical epoch; it simply offers a fast, reliable and versatile means of solving problems that already demanded solution. The person who writes the computer programme must bear the development of musical language up to the present in mind, and try to advance a stage further.”

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“With the development of electronic and computer music, multidemnsionality of sound representation turned out to be both natural and useful. But music goes beyond multidimensionality -- it is even more complex.”

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“The danger is great of letting oneself be trapped by the tools and of becoming stuck in the sands of technology that has come like an intruder into the relatively calm waters of the thought in instrumental music.”

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“... but beware, technique can submerge the user: We must defend ourselves; it is good to use techniques, but we have to dominate them, to stay alert.”

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“Composers are now able, as never before, to satisfy the dictates of that inner ear of the imagination. They are also lucky so far in not being hampered by esthetic codification -- at least not yet! But I am afraid it will not be long before some musical mortician begins embalming electronic music in rules.”

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