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  • System Detail

System: Tangent

Authors

Description

What is Tangent ? Years ago, artificial intelligence researcher Douglas Lenat created a most impressive general purpose AI program called Eurisko. What made it powerful was that it combined many diverse methods into a single program. By careful coordination, Eurisko capitalized on the strengths of individual methods, thus making the whole greater than the sum of its parts. I use this "everything-including-the-kitchen-sink" approach in the design of my music programs, first with QuasiFractal Composer, and now Tangent. Tangent takes the best of QFC and adds many new features. Tangent methods are algorithmic and heuristic, deterministic and stochastic, generative and transformational. I describe Tangent as "neo-generative eclectic". Tangent is a "top-down" composer that works with musical structures, not individual notes. It builds a composition by creating periods of bass and polyphony. It does this automatically but still allows user control. It can even take a simple melody and create an entire composition. Tangent creates polyphonic pieces with melodic, tonal, and rhythmic coherence. Tangent likes to use lots of instruments and can create polyphony that is large and lush, deep and dense, intricate and interesting. Tangent pieces can be traditionally orchestral, ethnically rhythmic, light and cheery, dark and foreboding, and forever surprising. Credits: This project would have been a shambles without the patient help of alpha tester, John Close, and beta testers, Bob Van Belle, Phil Jackson, Tom Rodwell, and Herinx.

“... 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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“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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“... 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 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 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 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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“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 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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“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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