Harpsichord Meets Computer

11

March
2011

Composer Steve Ricks wrote a new work (for two violins, cello, and harpsichord) with the aid of a computer.

Several years ago, Ricks created a software program that he calls a “universal music machine.” “It’s a little program that allows me to input sets of notes or rhythms,” Ricks said. “The program will combine those in different ways — randomly, sequentially or in other ways. I worked out the pitch sets and chord progressions and input that into the program, then let it make the local level decisions about what comes next.”

The unusual trio sonata is in two movements, titled “Dance of Spheres” and “Baroque Assemblage.” For the harpsichord part in the first movement, Ricks laid out various major and minor triads and different sets of rhythms, then allowed the computer program to organize them into a sequence of musical events.

That accomplished, he composed the string parts that “decorate” the computer-assisted music with man-made embellishments and echoes.

Read more: A computer-composed piece — for the harpsichord? (Salt Lake Tribune)

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