By Sean Fenlon on August 19, 2014
Bach, Coltrane, McCartney: New algorithms can produce original compositions in the style of the greats. But are those works actually art?
William HochbergAug 7 2014, 8:01 AM ET
“It’s truly impressive,” says jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, commenting on a track by a jazz-bot programmed by Pachet’s team to sound like sax legend Charlie “Bird” Parker blended with French composer Pierre Boulez. “I sent it to Chris Potter, the saxophone player in the band I am touring with right now, and asked him who the player was. He immediately started guessing people.”
Singer helped devise a computerized band called the “Orchestrion” that Metheny recorded and toured with in lieu of live musicians in 2010. The Orchestrion (also called a Panharmonica) was reportedly invented in 1805 by musician (and, some said, swindler) Johann Nepomuk Maelzel. Beethoven, a fan of early music tech, featured Maelzel’s musical automatons—powered by a bellows—in between symphonies at concerts in 1813.
Metheny thinks he has the answer, and it’s flattering to humankind. “Instead of thinking of it as computer-generated music,” he says, “I tend to think more along the lines of ‘computer assisted,’ since whoever writes the code or whichever user sets the parameters is already going to be making many of the decisions about what the result might be like.”