Tag Archives: Composition

Scarlatti’s creative process


Four analyses of Domenico Scarlatti’s keyboard sonata K.296 demonstrate the possibilities and problems with analyzing this unusual and fascinating technique of composition—devising sequences of keyboard events while at the instrument, a forerunner of present-day procedures.

This approach diminishes the value of all conventional approaches to Scarlatti’s keyboard works, both of his time and ours, putting them in a new light.

This according to “F.244: 4 Annäherungen an eine Sonate” by Peter Böttinger, an essay included in Musik-Konzepte 48-49: Morton Feldman (Musik-Konzepte 47 [1986] pp. 57–121).

Today is Scarlatti’s 330th birthday! Below, the sonata in question.

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Filed under Baroque era

Berio’s creative process


Luciano Berio’s sketches and drafts show how he worked with a clear and well-defined core of poetic values and constructive procedures while exploring a wide range of musical characteristics.

His concepts and techniques included redundancy, rereading, alliteration, saturation of the chromatic aggregate, rhythmic cells and their transformation, permutation of tone rows, and harmonic construction from pools of intervals. Many of his compositional devices originated in his serial practice of the 1950s or were designed in direct response to serial problems.

This according to “Berio at work: Compositional procedures in Circles, O King, Concerto for two pianos, Glossa, and Notturno” by Christoph Neidhöfer, an essay included in  Luciano Berio: Nuove prospettive/New perspectives (Firenze: Accademia Musicale Chigiana, 2012, pp. 195–233).

Today would have been Berio’s 90th birthday! Below, the Concerto per due pianoforti e orchestra, one of the works discussed in the article.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music

SMUG: Scientific Music Generator



SMUG is a system for generating lyrics and melodies from real-world data, in particular from academic papers.

The developers of SMUG wanted to create a playful experience and establish a novel way of generating textual and musical content that could be applied to other domains, in particular to games.

This according to “SMUG: Scientific Music Generator” by Marco Scirea, Gabriella A. B. Barros, Noor Shaker, and Julian Togelius, a paper included in Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Computational Creativity (Provo: Brigham Young University, 2015, pp. 204–211).

Many thanks to Improbable Research for bringing this to our attention! Above, an excerpt from the score generated from Charles Darwin’s On the origin of species by means of natural selection. Below, an app that generates music from barcodes.


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Filed under Curiosities, Humor, Science

Slime mold music

Physarum polycephalum

Die Lebensfreude is a pioneering piece of music composed with the aid of an amoeba-like plasmodial slime mold called physarum polycephalum.

The composition is for an ensemble of five instruments (flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano) and six channels of electronically synthesized sounds. The instrumental parts and the synthesized sounds are musifications and sonifications, respectively, of a multi-agent based simulation of physarum foraging for food.

Physarum polycephalum inhabits cool, moist, shaded areas over decaying plant matter, and it eats nutrients such as oat flakes, bacteria, and dead organic matter. It is a biological computing substrate, and has been enjoying much popularity within the unconventional computing research community for its astonishing computational properties.

This according to “Harnessing the intelligence of physarum polycephalum for unconventional computing-aided musical composition”by Eduardo R. Miranda, an article included in Music and unconventional computing (London: AISB, 2013).

Many thanks to the Annals of Improbable Research for bringing this to our attention! Above, the co-composer; below, the work’s premiere.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Curiosities, Nature, Science

Connect 4™ music

Connect 4

MIDI-Connect4 is a program that composes music from the unfolding of a board game, Hasbro’s Connect 4.

The system uses evolutionary computation to evolve from scratch a neural network that plays the Connect 4 game. Music is produced when a user plays the game against the system. The system generates music by associating the moves of each player with musical forms (see above).

The program was inspired by a musical event called Reunion, which was conceived by John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, and Teeny Duchamp in 1968, in which sounds were spatially distributed around a concert audience as a chess game unfolded.

This according to “Composition as game strategy: Making music by playing board games against evolved artificial neural networks” by Eduardo Reck Miranda and Qijun Zhang, an article included in Proceedings of the 31st International Computer Music Conference (San Francisco: International Computer Music Association, 2005).

Below, the game’s intrinsic acoustical properties.

Related articles:

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Curiosities, Science, Sports and games

Routledge studies in music theory

Routledge inaugurated the series Routledge studies in music theory on 3 April 2012 with Music and twentieth-century tonality: Harmonic progression based on modality and the interval cycles by Paolo Susanni and Elliott Antokoletz.

The book explores the web of pitch relations that generates the musical language of non-serialized 12-tone music, and supplies the analytical materials and methods necessary for analyses of a vast proportion of the 20th-century musical repertoire.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Theory

Dialettica del suono

The first Russian-language electronic journal for contemporary art music, Dialettica del suono, was launched in 2011 as a joint project of the independent creative association Диалектика Звука (Dialectic of Sound) and the Молодежное Отделение Союза Композиторов (МолОт/The Youth Department of the Union of Composers).

The journal, edited by Дионис Афоничев, is published twice a year and is available online in PDF format.  Dialettica del suono provides a publication platform mainly for young professional musicians, musicologists, composers, and critics. A supplement with scores by young Russian composers is appended to each issue.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, New periodicals

Schriften der Frankfurter Gesellschaft für Neue Musik

In 2011 Pfau-Verlag launched Schriften der Frankfurter Gesellschaft für Neue Musik, a series devoted to writings by members of the Frankfurter Gesellschaft für Neue Musik. The first book in the series is Mind the gap! Medienkonstellationen zwischen zeitgenössischer Musik und Klangkunst, which presents essays focusing on works that explore the gaps between media formats in the contemporary music scene.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, New series

Clamor: Colección Digital de Música Española

Launched by the Fundación Juan March in 2011, Clamor: Colección Digital de Música Española presents open-access documentation of performances of over 800 Spanish works—mostly from the 20th or 21st century—at over 130 concerts presented by the Foundation since its inception in 1975.

In addition to the concert recordings, this resource presents pre-concert talks given by composers or specialists, program notes, scores, photographs, and over 230 composer biographies and works lists.

Below, Suzana Stefanović performs Jesús Rueda’s Love song nº 3 at the Foundation in October 2011.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Resources

LEGO™ music

Sonic constructs is an interactive sound installation that uses LEGO Mindstorms™ semi-automata musical robots; it was created by Pedro Rebelo, Franziska Schroeder, and Graham McAllistair.

In Sonic constructs, two robotic devices move and interact while performing trajectories that produce sound as a by-product of the movement itself. Direction, speed, acceleration, position, scratching, and collision characterize an environment for kinetic and acoustic participation.

This according to “Sonic constructs: Robotics and the residue of sound” by Rebelo and McAllistair, an essay included in Systems research in the arts. VI: Music, environmental design, and the choreography of space (Windsor: International Institute for Advanced Studies in Systems Research and Cybernetics, pp. 58–62).

Images, sound clips, and a video are here.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Curiosities, Science