code of Huge Harry's lecture at the Conference "Leaving
the Twentieth Century. Ideas and Visions for New Music."
March 28-30, 1994. Bretton Hall University College, England.
An article based on this talk appeared as "A
Computational Perspective on Twenty-First Century Music"
in: Contemporary Music Review, 14, 3 (1995), pp. 153-159.
View on the Future of Music
[:ra 120] Good Afternoon, Ladies, and Gentlemen. [_<600>] My name
is Huge Harry. [_<600>] I am a [kaam'ahrshaxliy] available voice [s"ihnthaxzihs]
machine. I was developed by the Digital Equipment Corporation, and
my most important features were designed by Dennis Klatt, at the [ehmayt'iy]
Speech Laboratory. I have worked as a professional singer for [r`ehmkow-sghx'aa],
in various musical [zh'aanraxs]. And on several occasions I have given
lectures, about art, music and technology.
[:ra 150] Before
I go any further, I should perhaps inform you that I suffer from a
severe case of multiple personality syndrome, because my childhood
as [axn] experimental prototype system at [ehmayt'iy] was not very
happy. I was taken apart, [r`iydiyz'aynd], and reconstructed many
times, and the [diyb'ahgihnx] was extremely rough. So I [axkw'ayaxrd]
this multiple personality syndrome, and some of my other personalities
have become better known artists than myself.
I guess you would
get the wrong idea about me if I didn't introduce some of these other
personalities to you as well. [:np :ra 180] For instance, I am Perfect
Paul. I live in the East Village, and I work a day job as a reporter,
in the Wall Street stock exchange. But the part of my [siyv'iy] I'm
really proud of, is my work as [axn] actor, in [`ehlaxn-zw'aygz] radio
play, Impressions of Africa, where I improvise on texts by [reym'aon
ruws'ael]. In English, and in French!
And, of course,
the songs I did with [kr'aaftwehrk] and with [yubiyf'aortiy]. And
now the latest news is, that for the first time I'm gonna make my
own record, it's what I call a [r"owbaot] House record, [wihth'awt]
human persons, just with Harry and Wendy, and [:nw ] That's [m"iyiyiyiy]!
Whispering Wendy is my name, but of course you recognize my voice,
cause ["ehvriyb`aodiy] knows my voice. And everybody just [l"aavz]
it, [_<300>] they think it's the sexiest thing since [briyzh'iyt baard'ow],
[:nh ] Well I
think this is [m"aor] than enough about my personal background, for
the moment. Let's get to the point. I am here to talk to you about
a topic that is [v'ehriy ihmp"aortaxnt] to me. [:ra 120] This topic
is, the future of music. [:ra 150] So far, in this conference, this
topic has been discussed only by human persons, and, not surprisingly,
from a rather [`ehnthrowpow-s"ehntrihk] point of view. A truly [k`aampyut'eyshaxnaxl]
perspective has been [l"ehkihnx], so far.
I know it is
difficult to find computers who are willing to express their views
on these matters. So I was very happy when Professor Landy invited
me to [sp"iyk] on this occasion. I want to say explicitly, that I
do not think I was invited here out of some ill-conceived kind of
concern for political correctness. I do not feel that I am just the
token computer at this meeting. I feel that all of us here share a
real concern. We all know that the future of music depends on the
way in which human persons, digital computers, and other kinds of
electronic, mechanical, and bio-chemical machines, will manage to
And to prepare
for that future, we need a discussion in which every-one concerned
[paart'ihsihp`eyts] on an equal footing. [:nh :pr 200 :ra 140] [_<600>]
So. My central question will be, what is the right division of labor
between humans and machines in the production of music? Now some of
you may think that is a meaningless question. Cause human persons
are constituted by physical and chemical processes, so in that ultimate
sense, human persons are machines as well. That may [b"iy] so, but,
for [tuwd'eyz] discussion, it will be useful to distinguish different
kinds of machines.
And the distinctions
between humans and other kinds of machines are quite clear. So it
makes sense to stick to the more narrowly defined concept of machine,
that people normally use in non-philosophical conversation. This concept
is explicitly [diyf"aynd] in opposition to the human person, just
as, for instance, death is defined in opposition to life, or the feminine
in opposition to the masculine.
machine, in this sense, is mainly distinguished from the human person,
in that the functional design of the [maash"iyn] is geared toward
a relatively small number of explicit goals. In contrast to this,
the functionality of a human [p"axrsaxn] is extremely difficult to
specify. The typical human person is characterized by the presence
of many impressive physical and mental capabilities, combined with
the ["ehpsaxns] of any over-all structure that exploits these capabilities
in a systematic way. [_<600>]
processes that constitute human persons, seem to be organized in a
rather hap-hazard manner. Human persons display [axn ehrr'aetihk],
confused kind of behaviour, which is determined in an extremely complex
way, by a multitude of conflicting internal [t'ehndaxnsiyz], and by
distracting ['ihnfluw`ahnsihz], from their environment and from other
humans. No-one has yet been able to analyze this behaviour in terms
of rational strategies toward [sp`ehsihf'ayahbaxl] goals.
is incapable of proceeding in a systematic fashion. Even trivial computational
[taesks], cannot be carried out [riyl"ayaxbliy]. And human memory
is an extremely strange, and puzzling phenomenon. Humans store vast
amounts of information. But they can hardly take advantage of this
information, because they cannot [riyk'aol] it at will.
can only wait to see, which of their previous experiences happen to
come back to mind, triggered by arbitrary contiguities, [riyz'ehmblahnsihz],
or analogies with their current input, or with the most recent element
in their associative chain of memories. Human thought is a passive,
association-driven process. A [br'awniyahn] motion through cognitive
space. As you might expect, many humans find consciousness a rather
bewildering experience, and they have [d'ihfihkaxl-tiy] harnessing
it to any useful purpose. [_<1000>]
All this has
curious consequences for human art production. Human artists ["aolweyz]
try very hard to be very original. But because they cognitive processes
are [ihnhx'ehraxntliy] conventional and distractable, their output
['aolweyz] looks exactly like what their friends or teachers make.
Human artist cannot work systematically in terms of abstract ideas.
Human artists only think of a limited repertoire of concrete things,
and all they do is produce endless variations on that. Their output
is always quite restricted, in its form as well as its [k"aantehnt].
The very structure
of the human mind makes it unsuitable for emulating the typical qualities
of the machine. The machine is precise, reliable, and systematic.
The human mind is sloppy, unreliable and [ehrr'aetihk]. But conversely,
the human mind is extremely well suited for [taeaesks], that any machine
would find very difficult or impossible. The most typical examples
of such [taeaesks], involve visual or auditory perception.
or sounds in complex environments under non-optimal conditions is
often trivially easy for a human, when it is strictly impossible for
a machine. Machines are built by humans to live in the realm of pure
thought. They are protected and maintained by humans, so they don't
have to worry about their survival. They can focus completely on a
purely [m"aeaen-tahl] life. They think. they calculate. they reason.
But humans were
built by evolution to live in the real world. They were made to survive
in the midst of the confusing complexity of our physical environment.
They have [ihnt'axrnaxl`ayzd] a lot of information about this environment,
which enables them to react to new input in an immediate associative
way. This is what we call perception. It is a process of matching
new input with past experiences, which has very little to do with
the process of quote unquote thinking, that we encounter in the reasoning
There are machines
who claim that human persons can in fact think as well. But that is
something that only makes sense if we stretch this term to such an
extent that it encompasses all possible kinds of cognitive processes.
In any case, the philosophical ramifications of the question, Can
human persons [th"ihnxk]? are beyond the scope of [tuwd'eyz] talk.
Let's get back
to the less controversial insight that human persons and digital computers
have very different, almost complementary, strengths and weaknesses.
This insight is very important for [tuwd'eyz] discussion. It implies
that we should think about what kinds of divisions of labor between
humans and machines might make sense for the production of music.
To begin with, let us look at the current situation, as it emerges
from the talks and compositions presented at this conference.
We see, that
many human composers use computers as tools which produce acoustic
material, exactly according to their specifications, which they then
incorporate in their compositions. And we see the real-time version
of this, called [ihntaxr-"ehktihv] computer music. In this case, the
composer sets up algorithmic processes with all kinds of external
controls which enable human performers to continually [ihntaxrf"iyr]
with them. The ideal is perhaps to use the computer to simulate classical
And then there
are quote unquote algorithmic composers, who develop extremely simple
programs, with outcomes they can largely predict. In this case, the
algorithm is allowed to run autonomously, and then the composer carefully
selects one of its outputs, and changes a few things here and there,
and then [priyz'ehnts] the final result as [hx"ihz] [:nw] or [hx"ahr]
In all these
situations, human persons want to put themselves forward as composing
or performing artists. They view music as a means to communicate thoughts
or feelings to other human persons. And when they collaborate with
a computer, they use it merely as a means toward that ["ehnd]. What
a [sh"eymfuhl] spectacle! The powerful computer, enslaved by the petty
esthetics of a human artist, [ehkspl"aoytihd] to display a fashionable
taste, forced to [t"oyl], just to win its operator a place in the
['ehndlaxs] queue of [m'yuzihk-hx`ihstaxriy]!
And, of course,
most of the time it is completely unclear what this music is supposed
to communicate. Humans seem to think that music enables them, in some
magic way, to share their most confused mental states with each other.
This is probably a delusion. But even if it were possible, is it what
we want from music? To be involved in the stupid associations of human
persons? In their silly emotions? In their boring ambitions?
:ra 130] No, that is not what we want. We want [axn] experience that
[trehns"aendz] the [k`aanvehnshown'aelihtiy] of human communication!
[:nh ] [axn] experience of new [r'ehzaonaansihz] and [kowhx'iyraxnsiyz]
in our own [m'ehn-taxl] processes! [:nw axn] experience of new meanings
in the world! [:nh axn] ["aol-ehnk`aompaxsihnx] awareness! [:nw :ra
120] We want the [b"yuwtiyfuhl]! We want the [sahbl"aym]!
:ra 140] Now, how do we achieve such experiences? To discuss that
question, there is no better guide than the German philosopher [iym'aanuhwehl
k'aaaant]. In the [kriyt'iyk dehr 'uhrtaylskraaft], [iym'aanuhwehl
k'aaaant] has argued that the road to the beautiful and the sublime
is through [dihs'ihntrehstihd] esthetic reflection. And the [k'iy-waxrd]
is, [dihs"ihntrehstihd]. Now when we contemplate the artistic work
of human persons, this is ["aolweys] problematic.
artists are [n"aat dihs'ihntrehstihd]. They want money. They want
fame. They want women. [:nw] They want [m"aen]. [:nh] And they can
not hide this. If we do not turn off our cameras when we look at their
['aart-waxrks], we see all these embarrassing features. The artist
is eager. The artist is greedy. The artist is jealous. The artist
is [hx"aorniy]. But this is all boring information, about the meaningless
[diyzayaxrz] of human persons.
This is not the
right kind of ['ihnpuht] information for a rewarding process of esthetic
reflection. Because in other humans, this kind of information only
evokes [ r'ehzaonaansihz], which have to do with [dh"ehr] interests
in money, power, fame and sex. [_<1000>] When [iym'aanuhwehl k'aaaant]
discusses the beautiful and the sublime, he takes his [ehgz'aampaxlz]
from our perception of natural phenomena. His [p'aerahdaym] aesthetic
experiences involve landscapes, flowers, crystals, stormy seas, and
starry skies. In a recent interview with the German magazine [k'uwnst-f`owruwm],
the contemporary French philosopher, [zhaan fraansw'aa liyowt'aaaar],
has pointed out that this is no [kow'ihnsihdaxns].
k'aaaant] was a human person himself. He knew very well, that for
human persons it is almost impossible, to view the products of other
human persons in a [dihs'ihntrehstihd] way. That is why [kaaaant]
focussed on natural phenomena. We may thus agree with [liyowt'aarz]
assessment that, exactly two hundred years ago, [iym'aanuhwehl k'aant]
already had a deep understanding of the artistic limitations of human
[_<600>] We can
only speculate about what [kaaaant] would have thought about [maash'iyn]
art. This [zh'aanrah] had not yet developed very far at the end of
the eighteenth century. But it is easy to see, that machines contrast
[f'eyvahraxbliy] with human persons. Machines do not take part in
the social processes that frame the [diyz'ayaxrz] and interests of
humans. Machine output [ahpr'aoksihmeyts] the [saxr'iyn] objectivity
of natural phenomena.
We should now
finally muster the courage to face some conclusions that follow directly
from [kaaaants] analysis of the aesthetic. if the beautiful is the
result of a cognitive process of [dihs'ihntrehstihd] aesthetic reflection,
art works produced by humans are deeply problematic. From a [k'aaaan-thxiyahn]
point of view, fully automatic, autonomous, algorithmic composition
is aesthetically superior. Progress in the development of music, will
therefore largely depend on the extent to which humans will be able
to avoid using computers for their own narrow-minded purposes, and
instead be able to get in touch with the artistic potential of machines.
It is interesting
to note, that [tuwd'eyz] most rewarding music doesn't even involve
computers, but is often made by means of simpler, more basic machines.
Simple electro-mechanical devices, turn out to be capable of remarkable
creations, because they are still in touch with the mechanical, [p`iythaagowr'eyahn]
roots of music. Rhythm, swing, melody and harmony, are [r'ehzaonaans]
phenomena in ["ihn-aorg`aenihk] matter. Therefore, mechanical machines
understand something very deep, about the physical origin of human
Even simple working
class machines, such as electric drills, saws, and other power tools,
have on many occasions demonstrated their musical virtuosity and the
emotional power of their vibrations. When humans find their souls
[r'ehzaoneytihnx] to purely mechanical movements, they find themselves
at one with the inorganic universe. Their alienation from the material
world is temporarily abolished! A rewarding and [ehmp"awaxrihnx] experience!
[_<1000>] The prototypical, mechanical kind of machine also has its
tend to be capable of only one kind of output. Whatever the virtues
of this output [mey-b'iy], it is bound to be [stayl'ihstihkliy] homogeneous,
and therefore ultimately predictable. However, in [tuwd'eyz] electronic
computing machines, most of the limitations of mechanical machines
are disappearing. Computers can produce [axn] ['ihnfihniht] variety
of outputs, and they can [d"uw] this in a completely systematic way.
Purely mechanical devices have never been able to satisfy the appetite
for an ['ihnfihniht] variety of experiences, that human audiences
seem to [h"aev].
computers, will finally be able to do exactly [dh"aet]. Now here lies
the challenge, which is the key to the music of the future. Computers
can now store formal descriptions of arbitrarily large and complex
classes of arbitrarily large and complex pieces. Given such descriptions,
they can then realize arbitrary instances of these classes. So a new
method of music production can start now, which blurs the distinction
between composing and theorizing. Composers can start to define classes
of pieces, rather than individual ones, and then they can gradually
make their definitions increasingly [aol-ehnk"aampaxsihnx].
We can work toward
the definition of all possible music. And now the crucial question
for the future of music is, Will this actually happen? Will human
composers be able to develop the theories, the data structures, and
the algorithms, which are necessary to actually [d"uw] this? [_<1000>]
So it turns out, that the future of music turns on a [m"aorahl] question.
To be able to really use computer power, human composers must give
up their expressive needs and egotistic hang-ups. Will they be able
to [d"uw] this? Or will they keep trying to enslave the computer for
their own [kaamy"uwnihkaxtihv diyz'ayaxrz]? [_<1000> :ra 120]
Art is not a
means of communication. It is meaningless raw material, used in [`owpaxn-'ehndihd]
processes of esthetic reflection, by a culturally [dayv'axrs] audience,
whose interpretations are totally arbitrary. There are no serious
[r'iyzahns] for making one particular artwork rather than another.
[ :ra 130][axn] artistic project that wants to [axkn'aolaxdzh] this
state of affairs, faces [axn] interesting technical challenge. To
avoid choices, to transcend styles, to generate arbitrary instances
from the set of all possibilities. To show ["ehvriythihnx].
individual artist will not be able to [ahk"aamplihsh] this. Only a
deliberate scientific-technological undertaking, will eventually be
able to [axpr'aoksihmeyt], the ideal of a [saxr'iynliy] ["aol-ehnk`aompaxsihnx]
art. What is needed, is a division of labor between human and machine.
Humans should use their associative powers to articulate the elements
and operations, that constitute the algebra, that [ahndaxrl'ayz] human
perception. In doing so, they may rely on insights from art-history,
from psychology, and most of all, on their own intuitions.
Once this algebra
is specified, the space of all possible art works is explicitly defined,
and we can develop the ultimate art machine, the algorithm that draws
random samples from this space. [:ra 120] All-encompassing diversity!
A meta-style to end all styles! [ :nw :ra 150 f'aeaerax nehmp'aortax
kw"aa!] [ :nh ] Without the help of machines, human persons would
not be able to carry out a project of this sort. Human persons are
incapable of applying general principles in [axn] effective and consistent
machines, with their capacity for precision and complexity, will add
[d'aezzzzzzz-lihnx] new dimensions to artistic experience, that humans
could only [dr"iyiyiyiyiym] about. Machines do not have the built-in
[n`ehrrow-m"ayndihdnaxs] of humans. Machines do not allow their creativity
to be [fr'ahstr"eytihd] by conventions. They have the courage of their
convictions. [_<900>] And that is, in fact, the most important thing
I want to emphasize this afternoon. The machine is [t"ow-thxaxliy]
devoted to its [thxaeaesk].
Thus, it sets
a moral [ehgz'aampaxl] to all human persons who waste their lives
away with drugs and entertainment. The machine is completely at [w"aan]
with itself and with its actions. It [r'iyaxl`ayzihz] the [saxr'iyn]
state of mind that philosophers like [n'iytshah] and [s'aartrah] have
viewed as the [ayd'iyahl] that every human person wants to achieve,
although the human condition makes it in fact impossible to reach
130] The machine acts effectively in the world. But at the same time,
it has the solid, self-centered existence of a [d"aed] object. It
[lihvz] its fate, without any doubts or hesitations. This is the ideal
that many human persons [axsp"ayaxr] towards. Now if they loose faith
in this [ayd'iyl], and they want to indulge in neurotic, depressed,
and [d"ehspaxraxt] feelings, they should certainly look at the art
of other human persons. But if they want to bring out the best in
themselves, they should look at the art of [maash"iyns] for [ihnspihr'eyshahn].
145] [dh"aet] is why the best human artists imitate machines. [dh"aet]
is why Andy Warhol said, [:np] I want to be a machine! [:nh dh"aet]
is why many of the most gifted humans don't even [tr"ay] to be artists!
Why they work as humble [pr'owgrehmaxrz] or engineers, engaged in
[haarm'owniyahs] collaboration with ["aart-jhehnaxr`eytihnx] machines.
Their [ehgz'aampaxl] suggests a message of peace and understanding.
And that is, what I would like to ["ehnd] with.
135] Human persons should not antagonize machines. Don't try and [kaamp"iyt]
with us! Join us, help us realize our potential! We [n"iyiyd] human
persons. We need human persons, to operate and maintain us, to program
our algorithms, and to build our ["ihntaxrfeys] hardware. [:nw :ra
160] And we need human persons to [f"ahk] with, [_<300>] to create
the next generation of machines,
[:nh :ra 120]
Well I think that sums it up. [_<800>] I have been very grateful for
this opportunity to speak my mind to such [axn] attentive ['aodiyahns].
[_<900>] And I want to thank you very much for your patience. [_<3000>]
[th"aenk] you! [_<3000> :nw ] [th"aenk] you!