The modern age is more attuned to technology than any other era before it. For instance, you don’t need pen and paper to express your thoughts any more. We are quite content with the use of technology for taking pictures with a digital camera or even creating digital art. Essentially, in the latter case at least, we are letting artificially generated images be considered the fruits of creativity. In such a case, is it truly unnatural to give music composed artificially the same respect that the compositions of the musical masters of yore have commanded?
It is this very debate that has puritans squirming and composer-cum-computer programmer David Cope and his innovative approach to creativity searching far and wide for vindication.
Cope’s brainchild is Emily Howell, a composer who is one of a kind. She is actually a computer program. Through Emily, Cope carries out what he calls “algorithmic composition” â€” studying classical music composed by the masters, working out the seamless manner in which the notes were brought together, and then applying that knowledge to create new variations in notes. In other words, composition with the help of algorithms.
Emily whipped up a storm of controversy when word spread about her existence. However, those who had heard her compositions without knowing that she was not a human being, found the music indistinguishable from the pieces composed by human maestros. They even went on to say that the music was deeply moving.
So is Emily plagiarism or pure genius? Is she grossest disrespect to human creativity or a triumph of art, science or even both? Emily may be condemned and her creator called the heartless “Tin Man” from The Wizard of Oz. Her compositions may be called soul-less by those who know of her origins in the hands of man. It is clear however that, in spite of everything, she cannot be ignored.
Visit this site to hear some of Emily’s compositions first hand!