Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Goldsmiths student creates AI version of In C

4:04, 28th July 2016

A computing student from Goldsmiths, University of London has created an artificially intelligent orchestra to play Terry Riley’s In C.

For his ‘In C++’ project, Gregory White created a series of independent virtual performers which make their own decisions about which notes to play, when to progress to the next bar, whether to play hard or soft, and so on, through a form of artificial intelligence.

Each performer is ‘aware’ of the others and corrects itself if it starts to lag behind or rush ahead in order to ensure that what it plays complements the rest of the ensemble.

InC++ Stereo Mixdown from Greg White on Vimeo.

White’s programme produces MIDI notes which are then sent to hardware (physical digital) instruments, software instruments, or any other MIDI-controlled device. He has trialled it with chimes, a drone-heavy version with heavy reverb, and a percussion-only virtual orchestra.

White explained that he chose the piece after realising that the process was algorithmic.

‘I had 53 cells of information, each of which I would repeatedly execute until I decided that I had passed a certain threshold – at which point I would progress to the next cell. When all cells had been played, I would repeat the last until I decided to stop performing, or “terminate the program”.

‘I thought it would be interesting to take the ensemble element out of the piece, and see how it could change, or what new ideas could be explored when the decisions about which pitches to play were taken care of.’

He added: ‘Plus, I just really, really, wanted to do this project so I could make the C++ pun.’

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