Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Artificial intelligence and the death of the modern orchestra

I am not commenting on whether I like this idea or not, I am just theorizing...

Once upon a time we had baroque orchestras and minstrels that wandered throughout the country side. These groups eventually became what is known as our modern orchestras that we hear in our sacred concert halls.

At the same time we go to hear these fine ensembles play, the computer age is rapidly developing. We now have music software programs such as Sibelius and Finale that can realize and perform scores on a somewhat primitive level, but good enough to use if you want to hear the music. Sample programs are getting more sophisticated as well. Gordon Moore's law at Intel states that computer power doubles every eighteen months. So it will only be a matter of time before computers with artificial intelligence will be able to read and realize a score, with feeling, as good if not better than any orchestra today.

This may sound like science fiction now, but when Jules Verne talked about going to the moon it was the same. I do not need to list all the other examples. The coming computer orchestras will not be limited by performing skill as the human being is. The range of instruments will be extended as well as the degree of performing skill. Composers will not be limited by the limitations of the human body trying to produce sounds from a physical instrument. I believe new computer sounds and instruments will emerge very quickly as this technology develops.

This will be the Golden age of the composer. Not being subservient to an orchestra to realize their art form. There will still a few orchestras that tour. They will be novelties like we go see early music groups. But the new way to hear serious music will be from a computer.

David Chesky