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Iamus in the Morning: Catching Up With the Composing Computer

Okay, so, how’s that Iamus thing coming, the computer they were teaching to compose totally original musical compositions? It’s been a little more than two years since the first fragment of a composition from the computer, “Opus one,” premiered, a little over a year since another, “Hello World!,” debuted; the BBC caught up with the team at Spain’s University of Malaga, and it’s pretty amazing. The video’s at this link; forget trying to embed the video in this particular publishing system (oh, I’ve tried, Lord, how I’ve tried), but go check out the video and BBC story for the overview and update. It’s worth a look.

In lieu of the news video, here’s a concert from last Summer playing the collected fragments of the works of Iamus, with more explanation and footage of the project:


This is “Hello World!”


And one called “Nasciturus,” played on viola d’amore and harpsichord:


They’ve put in several parameters, like telling the computer to keep the music to chords the human hand can play with our puny 5-finger hands, and they’ve set it up so they can get a new classical piece with, basically, the touch of a button. We’re getting closer to the day when our culture will not just include material created WITH computers but BY computers. In fact, they’ve had pieces composed by Iamus recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra already. And commerce is involved now, too: You can not only license a track composed by the computer, but you can buy the copyright to the song along with it. Ostensibly, the thing can crank out original works forever. Will you be able to tell a computer-composed piece from the real thing? Will it ever cross over into pop music, and, if so, how WOULD you be able to tell it from the latest auto-tuned Top 40 hit? Can they make a pop music creating machine that can also dance and sing? Because the world desperately needs a robot One Direction, like, now.