Flexatone HFP
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  • System Detail

System: Project 2

Authors

Description

The computer program Project 2 (PR2) followed Project 1 fairly quickly (around 1966). The aim was to give the composer greater control over the composition process. Instead of a work consisting of "sections", "variants" of a model described by PR2 are composed. Control has been extended to cover the following parameters: Instrument: lists of instrument names; each melody or percussion instrument is defined in terms of its pitch, duration and dynamic range. Rhythm: lists for entry delays, durations, rests and tempi. Harmony: a choice of three harmonic principles: chord list, row, interval table. Dynamics: list of dynamic indications. Articulation: list of articulation modes. The flow of data from the list into the score is effectuated in all the parameters, with the exception of Harmony, by way of "tables" and "ensembles". A table contains "groups", a group contains any number of elements from the appropriate list. An "ensemble" contains one or more groups. Table groups for an ensemble and ensemble elements for the score are selected by various methods: arbitrary selection (Alea), serial i.e. non-repetitive selection (Series), weighted selection (Ratio), selection with group repetition (Group), directionally defined selection (Tendency) and the composer's own selection of individual elements (Sequence). The parameters are hierarchically interdependent so as to avoid conflict between a subordinate and a superordinate parameter. Hierarchy is composer-defined or random. Basically, Project 1 produces a homophonic sequence of chords which the composer may subsequently break up into polyphonic parts. PR2 is based on the same principle. It can additionally produce polyphonic structures when ensembles contain several, separate groups. Every layer is based on one of these groups; they commence simultaneously and are formed - independently of one another - in accordance with the method used to select them. They can remain harmonically independent or, pitchless at first, be given a common harmonic structure later. Data input is effectuated by a list of more than 60 questions. The composition process is autonomous, i.e. the composer cannot intervene. The resulting score-tables can be printed, stored or played with the aid of a soundcard.

References

“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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“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 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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“... 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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“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 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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“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 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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“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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