Found poem. Reported in All Things Considered on December 22, 2009.
What was billed
as the first intercontinental musical interaction
and robots took place the weekend of Dec. 17.
It involved humans in Japan
using an application called ZoozBeat on their iPhones
and a robot named Shimon in Atlanta.
According to its makers,
unlike other robots that can play music,
Shimon is perceptual.
The robot can listen
to what is played, analyze it
and then improvise.
And it has been taught to improvise like some jazz masters.
Gil Weinberg of Georgia Tech's music technology
program recently spoke to NPR's Robert Siegel from Japan,
where he witnessed the historic interaction.
Weinberg says the result is music meant to inspire people — not an effort
to turn our music-making over to robots.
"The whole idea is to use computer algorithms
to create music in ways that humans will
never create," Weinberg says. "Our motto is, 'Listen like a human,
but improvise like a machine.' "
Weinberg programmed Shimon
to play like Thelonious Monk.
He says that, though he and his team
were trying to teach the robot to play like a machine,
they first had to teach it how a human plays.
To do that, they used statistics
and analysis of Monk's improvisation.
Once they had a statistical model
of the pianist, they could program the robot
to improvise in that model.
Weinberg says the robot
won't play everything exactly like the bebop pianist —
or any other jazz master —
would, though he says,
"It probably will keep the nature
and the character of [the musician's] style."
"It's difficult to predict exactly
what they would do in every single moment in time,"
"But our algorithm pretty much
looks at the past several notes that it plays
and, based on that, it sees what is the probability
of the next note to be, based on all of this analysis
of a large corpus of transcribed improvisation."
Some musicians are harder to program than others.
Weinberg says Ornette Coleman
would require a much larger body
of transcribed work than Monk did.
"In a sense, it kind of reduces music
to numbers and statistics," Weinberg says.
Given enough tweaking to the algorithms
that the program uses, he says
he thinks they'll be able to create
something "very similar to the jazz master."
But Weinberg says
he doesn't think the robot
should try to play just like a human.
"In all the emotional
and expressive energy,
I don't think a robot can capture [it],"
Maybe someday a computer program could,
but at least right now, Weinberg says,
"I don't think we have the math for that.
We have some math to get the notes
and the rhythm and the scales.
Whether this can capture
the genius of Thelonious Monk,
I hope not.But maybe."