“Song for the Computer”:
This piece has two parts. Together, they speak to our changing relationships with technology
and accordingly employ the aural personification of machines. The first part of the piece
draws from the concept of writing music for computers. In the second part, the computer
“listens” to the piece created in the first part and “responds” through a Max patch. The
complete portfolio piece results from combining and mixing the two parts. There are two
computer programs involved in order to achieve this idea.

In one program, the composer “talks” to the computer by typing in words. The computer
randomly generates a number from 1 to 7 for every letter the composer has typed in. These
numbers then represent the scale degrees in a scale. Essentially, the program generates
lines of numbers in response to the words of the programmer. These represent the notes that
the computer “wants to hear.” Finally, the composer creates a musical piece based on these
notes.

There are several rules that the composer needs to follow during the composition process.
The piece can consist of several instruments. Indeed, the composer should decide the
instrumental arrangement as well as the octave of the notes. Although all the instruments
have to share the group of notes that the computer generated, they do not have to play
exactly the same note at the same time. However, the piece has to strictly follow the order of
the numbers that the computer generated, but repetitions of the same section are allowed. It
is also important to note that no other computer processes should be allowed in the
composition and recording processes; this piece was written for the computer to “sit back and
enjoy”.

The second program involved in this work is a Max patch that enables the computer to
“speak.” Coupled with a pair of binaural microphones that act as the computer’s “ears,” the
Max patch is used as the computer’s “mouth.” The patch is designed to analyze the input
sounds received by the microphone and subsequently give feedback sounds through a
speech synth. There is a short delay between the time microphone receives the sounds and
the output of the actual response frequency, in order to emulate giving feedback after hearing.
The completed piece, “Song for the Computer,” would be the result of recording the
responses of the computer and mixing them with the composed track.

You may also like

Back to Top