Flexatone HFP
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  • System Detail

System: Project 1

Authors

Description

The computer program Project 1 (PR1) was born in 1964 of the wish to test the compositional rules of serial music - rules which were the subject of lively discussion in those days. However, it soon became apparent that rules based on lists of parameters and permutations of rows cannot be described without concrete plans for a composition; at any rate the systematic combination of all conceivable points of departure would have led to an incalculable amount of results which could not have been evaluated without a concrete plan for a composition. It was thus necessary to limit the procedure to a compositional model containing important elements of the serial method, and to test that model under various conditions with different musical goals in mind. This is a departure from the innermost domain of serial music, a generalization, "rows" being replaced by "stockpiles" and permutations by random decisions. The model on which the program is based proceeds from a pair of opposites, "regular/irregular" (the RI principle), inspired by the non-repeatability of serial elements ("irregular") and by group-forming multiplication rows. Between these extremes there are 5 intermediate stages, so that the composer can choose from a total of seven "processes". In PR1 the RI principle is applied to the parameters instrument, entry delay, pitch, octave register and dynamics. Each parameter is assigned a list in which the composer enters the desired parameter values. Instruments are indicated by numbers which the com-poser can interpret while working out the score. Entry delays refer to "metric units", i.e. note-lengths (minim, crotchet, quaver etc.) for which a metronome value has been prescribed. For each entry delay a (maximum) chord size is defined. Breaking up the chords into single parts is done during evaluation of the score table (see below). For pitches a system was developed with which three- tone groups are formed on the basis of two intervals designated by the composer. Automatic transposition of the three-tone groups results in twelve-tone rows. Octave registers are indicated by numbers to be interpreted by the composer in the same way as the instrument numbers. The composer may insert any values he/she pleases in the dynamics list. During the composition process "sections" are produced, in each of which the composer can determine a "process" for each parameter. The result of the composition process appears in the form of a score-table containing all the data. The score-table can be read on a monitor, printed or stored. A MIDI option produces a standard MIDI file which when connected to a MIDI instrument (soundcard) conveys an aural impression of the result. It is now up to the composer to interpret the score-table with a view to producing a score for any instruments he/she pleases.

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

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