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System: BP2

Authors

Description

In the early 1980s, ethnomusicologist Jim Kippen and I developed a computer system called the Bol Processor (i.e. "BP") to help us examine improvisatory methods used by North Indian tabla drummers (Kippen 1987, 1988, Kippen and Bel 1989b, 1989c). Designed for the portable Apple IIc, the rule-based BP1 was able to analyse musical input (in the form of tabla bol s, or onomatopoeic syllables) as well as generate new improvisations that musicians could assess. Details of the philosophy behind BP1 and its modus operandi can be found in our paper: "Modelling music with grammars: formal language representation in the Bol Processor" (Kippen and Bel 1992). The Bol Processor attracted interest from scholars and musicians alike. It was felt that the formal model embedded in it could be expanded to encompass more general musical structures, and in this form could be of some benefit as a tool for music composition. We therefore decided to implement an alternative version of the Bol Processor on the Apple Macintosh. An enhanced version of the algorithmic part of the Bol Processor, namely "BP2", was written in the C language. A sound-object editor allowed it to interact with MIDI devices. BP2 deals with incomplete representations of polyphonic/polyrhythmic musical structures. It uses a very efficient algorithm for the synchronisation of sound-objects. With version 2.5 important features have been implemented, notably an accurate control of all MIDI parameters and automation of tasks with scripts. Version 2.6 introduced client-server technology. The present version is interfaced with Csound, deals with MIDI files, and works under Opcode OMS. BP2 won the Bourges 1997 international award (ex aequo with Piche and Burton's "Cecilia") in the category of computer-aided composition and realization software. It is currently jointly developed by Bernard Bel bel@kagi.com and Srikumar Karaikudi Subramanian srikumar@krdl.org.sg. BP2 may be downloaded from its home web site: http://www.bp2.org.

References

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

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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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“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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“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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“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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“... 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 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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“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 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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