A very short comment on machine learning for music

In pursuing some machine learning studies for harmony, it strikes me that the input/output relationships are often too far from one another.

Especially: it may not always be clear what the input/output relationships are. But, perhaps more importantly, it seems excessively difficult to make the inputs change their relationships to one another.

Parameters which seem to be working independently should be able to suddenly seem related: that an increase in harmonic tension might suddenly and palpably correspond to an increase in dynamic or tempo or some other identifiable parameter. The parameters might not have so much meaning on their own (like a single note – fairly arbitrary). But the relatedness of the parameters to each other is something which can bring a strong musical impression (like a sempre PP in Beethoven, which seems to suppress another compositional development, until it can be suppressed no longer).

Context and Contact: playing chords in Berio Sequenza or Bach Solo works

For a first example: on a violin, the venture away from the text and into context begins with the very first contact.

This is clear in the playing of chords.  In the matter of playing chords such as:

 in Berio


 in Bach

… there is not only a departure from the rhythmic simultaneity of the chord-notes as written, there is a certain amount of expressive time necessary to lift it from the page.

This is not to say that a chord is being interpreted from an expressive or even emotional point of view, but rather that the writing itself asks for a gesture beyond what it can represent. And this is only the very first step, before anything close to ‘interpretation’ might happen.

What’s happening to print?

I want to extend a thought, a question:

What’s happening to print?

My answers, or clues at least, come from the area of music. For years now classical musicians – and historians, and students of literature  – have been hounded by questions of the relation of text to context.

It’s not a new question at all, but it keeps multiplying as printed/recorded material reproduces exponentially in the world and continues to fail to bring the two together.

It feels as though the world is seeking technological completion for the problems of representation (the achievement of ‘virtuality’) through ever faster reproductions of the world and of the mind itself. As though mapping things and mapping the sensations of things will bring understanding of the world, or finally stop time.

I’d rather not take this in too philosophical direction, but rather, each day, take a musical/textual/representational example and seek a meaningful direction in it.