Dead composers live again as computer gets their measure

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The Independent Online
Can a decomposing composer compose? In the modern world, yes - with the help of a computer. A program written by David Cope, a scientist and musician, has now produced new works by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Mahler, Rachmaninov and the ragtime composer, Scott Joplin.

Among 10 symphonies generated by the program, named EMI ("Experiments in Musical Intelligence"), is Mozart's 42nd symphony, premiered in Santa Cruz, California, in April, and produced 207 years after Wolfgang Amadeus wrote his 41st.

It is "one of the most pro-vocative things ... I've ever come across in artificial intelligence," said Douglas Hofstadter, a cognitive scientist.

Mr Cope devised EMI when he developed writer's block in 1982, aged 41, as a way of analysing music he had written.

But the principle proved applicable to all sorts of clasical music. Thus Mozart's 42nd symphony contains a distillation of the harmonies of Wolfgang Amadeus at his most typical, but with its own themes.

The program takes pieces of music, breaking them up into tiny "phrases", and reassembling them after applying a set grammar and syntax. The distinctive sound of a composer is captured by sifting examples of the composer's music for short sequences that show up in piece after piece.

Record companies and retail chains are taking to the Internet. Virgin Megastores is expected to set up an Internet site in the autumn, while last week, Dillons and Waterstone's announced they would start competing over the Internet with US firms such as amazon.com, a Seattle-based Internet mail order company which started a promotion scheme in which the author John Updike began a mystery story using paragraphs contributed by visitors to the site.

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