Peter Hoffmann: Music Out of Nothing? A Rigorous Approach to Algorithmic Composition by Iannis Xenakis (2009)
Filed under thesis | Tags: · algorithm, composing, composition, computer music, computing, electroacoustic music, listening, music, music theory, sound
“GENDY3 (1991) by Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) is a piece of computer generated music. But it is more than just ‘computer music’. GENDY3 is the culmination of Xenakis’ lifelong quest for an ‘Automated Art’: a music entirely generated by a computer algorithm.
Being a radical instance of a pure algorithmic composition, GENDY3 is, in a precise mathematical sense, a computable music: every aspect of its sonic shape is defined by an algorithmic procedure called ‘Dynamic Stochastic Synthesis’ (‘Génération Dynamique Stochastique’, or GENDYN for short).
The GENDYN Project, started by the author in 1995/96 with a research at CEMAMu, then the composer’s research center near Paris, exploits this computability for developing and documenting the GENDYN concept, in order to understand its various ramifications and to make it accessible for further research and production. To this end, the author implemented Dynamic Stochastic Synthesis in a new program called the ‘New GENDYN Program’ which, in addition to ‘recomposing’ GENDY3 in real time, makes it possible to inspect and control the algorithmic composition process, thereby opening up new perspectives both in Computational Musicology and in computer music creation.
For music analysis purposes, GENDY3 has been completely resynthesized. The simulation of the genesis of GENDY3 ‘in vitro’ made possible by the New GENDYN Program permits the systematic exploration of the ‘decision space’ of the composition model, contributing to a deeper understanding of both its potentials and limitations, and the complex interaction between ‘material requirements’ and compositional freedom within which the composer navigated.
The study of the GENDYN compositions provokes many fundamental questions about computing, listening and understanding, of creation, interaction and computer music aesthetics. It is shown that Xenakis, unlike many computer music composers, had no ambition whatsoever to emulate traditional musical thinking with the computer. Instead he realized his sonic vision in an abstract physical model of sound pressure dynamics yielding higher-order musical structures as emergent epiphenomena. This unusual approach addresses the medium of electroacoustic algorithmic music, i.e. the physics of sound, as well as the computability of sound as subjects of artistic creation. This approach seems to the author to be of a higher value for the foundation of a ‘true’ computer art than the widespread ambition to emulate human creativity by computers and to build up an artificial brave new world of music.” (Abstract)
Fakultät I – Geisteswissenschaften, Technische Universität Berlin
Vorsitzender: Stefan Weinzierl
Berichter: Christian Martin Schmidt
Berichter: Helga de la Motte-Haber
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