Saturday, July 07, 2012

Iamus and Intentionality

In the article "Iamus, classical music's computer composer, live from Malaga" (in the Online Guardian), Philip Ball describes the computer program Iamus that is emerging as a disturbing presence in the field of modern classical music. While discussing how we seek for authorial meaning and significance music, he asks,
How does a performer interpret these pieces, given that there's no "intention" of the composer to look for? "Suppose I found a score in a library without knowing who wrote it," says Díaz-Jerez. "I approach these pieces as I would that one – by analysing the score to see how it works." In that respect, he sees no difference from deducing the structure of a Bach fugue.

You can compare it with computer chess, says the philosopher of music Stephen Davies, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand. "People said computers wouldn't be able to show the same original thinking, as opposed to crunching random calculations. But now it's hard to see the difference between people and computers with respect to creativity in chess. Music, too, is rule-governed in a way that should make it easily simulated."
This reminds me strongly of the discussion that took place amongst Mīmāṃsaka philosophers in India about the possibility of a injunctive force being exerted by a scripture having no author and therefore no inherent intentionality (see, e.g., John Taber on this topic).

What would a Mīmāṃsaka say about computer-generated music?  Or computer-generated scripture, for that matter?

And can you tell human- and computer-generated music apart?  Take this test :-)

1 comment:

  1. you are right, a Mimamsaka would have, I believe, no problem with that. She would focus on the way the text (lato sensu, i.e., including all sorts of communication, and thus also music) works and possibly apply Mimamsa rules in case of ambiguity. This is, by the way, what jurists do all the time. Laws should not be interpreted according to the intention of their authors (this becomes apparent in the case of formal mistakes, which lead to different consequences).