Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Man vs Machine

I created a MIDI file to analyze a 1972 performance of Dave Brubeck Quartet. The song is the world-famous "Take Five", the tune that I took as a model for my irregular music. The spirit is simple, a complex rhythm does not have to sound difficult or even bizarre. It can sound astonishingly simple and pleasing. The result really is a timeless masterpiece.

Creating a MIDI file to mimic a real performance is definitely not possible with today's technology. Even the same human performer cannot repeat the performance exactly. It shows that music is more than just melody, rhythm, and harmony, all of which can be repeated or copied with almost surgical precision.

The precision, in fact, is one thing that separate us from machines. The subtlety of human-made imperfection in the intonation, rhythmic, or non-ideal timbre, is the thing that created the charm of a live music performance. Software synthesizers came up with solutions that basically try to put random imperfections at the MIDI output. However, the result is still unsatisfactory. There is something more than mere random imperfection.

The MIDI-generated music, with random dynamics variation and "swing" feel:

Take Five Synth.mp3

And the real performance by Dave Brubeck Quartet, for comparison

Take Five 72.mp3

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