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Can Computers Write Classical Music?
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Author: Chris Wilson
Composer David Cope

........................There's a reason Cope talks about composing this way: He is the inventor of the world's most musically creative computer program, whose latest album came out a few weeks ago. Cope has been writing software to help him compose music for 30 years, and he long ago reached the point where most people can't tell the difference between real Bach and the Bach-like compositions his computer can produce. Audiences have been moved to tears by melodies created by algorithms. And yet, it's not exactly that Cope has created a computer than can write music like a human. The way he sees it, it's that humans compose like computers.

The current version of Cope's software is named "Emily Howell," and it is the successor to an earlier effort he called "Emmy," an almost-acronym for "Experiments in Musical Intelligence." (Howell is Cope's father's first name and his middle name.) Ms. Howell's ancestry dates back to 1980, when Cope—by then a successful human composer—hit a brick wall while trying to write an opera. Cope, a genuine polymath with an aptitude for computers, had been playing music his entire life and was respected among modern composers, but around his 40th birthday his ideas started to dry up. In desperation, he wrote a computer program to generate random melodies and musical ideas.

The results were predictably unlistenable. But his composer's block persisted, so he kept working on the software. His first breakthrough came when he began to rethink how human beings compose. His software had been starting its work.............

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