Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Haile the Improvising Robot

Leave it to the students at M.I.T. and other “technical” colleges to consider only the lowest common denominator of music composition. The latest scientific attempt to invalidate actual, live composers has resulted in “Haile,” a robot developed by students at Georgia Tech. Haile allegedly plays a drum and improvises with live musicians. An improvising robot! What will those Tod Machovers come up with next?

As you may have noticed in previous posts, I disapprove of composers who believe that the purpose of writing music is to “communicate” with audiences. We wouldn’t tell a Professor of Mathematics to alter his equations to make them more “accessible,” so why should we expect that from a composer? And yet, I find myself recoiling at the idea of a musical “robot” with no human qualities whatsoever. Then it occurred to me: the distinction is one of Artificial Intelligence versus Actual Intelligence.

My TANDY computers never question my judgment when I tell them what to do. Unlike Haile, a TANDY is not programmed to think it's smarter than a human. That's why I work so well with TANDYs. They can be controlled and contained, but there’s no telling what an improvising robot will do! Haile might transform a Stockhausen masterpiece into a men’s drumming circle at a hippie commune. It might decide that Elliott Carter’s metric modulations are nothing but “free jazz.” It might confuse Sprechstimme with the ramblings of “librettist” Robert Ashley. Haile may be smart, but it’s not so intelligent.

Now, I am not opposed to technical innovation. Just the other day, I went down to Radio Shack to have a new memory chip installed in my TANDY Dynomighticon computer. But I’ll be damned if I don’t speak out against this childish attempt to insult the intelligence of Actual composers by creating an Artificial one.


Blogger Freudian Slip said...

Weird. Really weird. First we have computers fixing voices and simulating instruments, and now this!?!

11:12 PM  

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