A piece of classical music written by a computer will be performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, reports The Guardian. The modernist-sounding composition, "Transits – Into an Abyss" was written by a cluster of computers at the University of Malaga in Spain, and seems to be the first ever computer piece to be performed by elite musicians.
A sampling of the performance will be livestreamed tonight on the University of Malaga's web site, in honor of what would have been the 100th birthday of the revolutionary computer scientist Alan Turing. The full performance will be included in a debut CD of the computer's compositions, to be released in September.
Called Iamus, the cluster is named for the son of the Greek god Apollo, who was said to understand the language of birds. Iamus' mastery of human-song isn't quite at mythic proportions yet, but it seems to be getting more fluent by the year (it started making music in 2010): while critic Tom Service panned last year's "Hello, World!," an Iamus composition, for a quality of "greyness," members of the LSO are using similar language this time around to praise the computer's work.
"I felt it was like a wall of sound," LSO chairman Lennox Mackenzie told The Guardian. "If you put a colour to it, this music was grey. It went nowhere. It was too dense and massive, no instrument stuck out at any point. But at the end of it, I thought it was quite epic."
Computer compositions are by no means a new thing, but Iamus is unusual for actually getting an audience (see the case of the deft but ignored computer composer Emmy). Iamus also works solo. The only human directive given is how long the piece should be and which instruments should be included. In "Transits," the style Iamus arrived at by way of its biology-inspired creation process is a close simulacra to modernist music, with dissonant notes layered on top of each other. The score does divert from protocol in one striking way -- it's apparently "festooned" with exclamation marks.
To listen to an excerpt of the LSO playing "Transits – Into an Abyss," head to the Daily Mail.
WATCH a performance of Iamus' 2011 compositon, "Hello World!":