[microsound] Books on algorithmic/interactive/generative music

David Powers cyborgk at gmail.com
Wed Oct 27 12:34:57 EDT 2010

Here are my suggestions:

Alfred Mann, "The Study of Fugue"

William Kinderman, "Beethoven's Diabelli Variations (Studies in
Musical Genesis and Structure)"

George Perle, "The Operas of Alban Berg, Volume I: Wozzeck"

George Perle, "Serial Composition and Atonality: An Introduction to
the Music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern, Sixth edition, Revised"

Okay, you may ask what these books have to do with algorithms, but I'd
say that ALL music great music of the last 500 years tends to be
algorithmic, but in fact structured by multiple rule sets, so that one
can't just reduce the work to a single set of rules since there are
inherent contradictions in the rule sets. I came to the conclusion
that it's much more beneficial to study the work of great composers,
as opposed to those silly "cookbooks"... After many years I have
realized that the solutions to many of my compositional problems are
already out there, in the works of composers such as Beethoven and

If you want to broaden your perspective, also look into books about
medieval and early renaissance compositional techniques, jazz theory
(lydian chromatic concept perhaps?), or classical music of India. Any
of these systems will give you tons of ideas you can extrapolate from
and apply to composition with machines.

Also, don't forget that it is often the breaking of a rule that is the
most expressive moment in music... but that this expressive moment
depends on the rules (algorithms) for its meaning.

Finally, I personally think composers who are utilizing algorithms
need to be especially careful in the way they treat time, and always
remember that machine time is not the same as lived, embodied time...


On Wed, Oct 27, 2010 at 7:35 AM, Tobias Reber <tobiasreber at sunrise.ch> wrote:
> Hi Sofus,
> There's a book called "Algorithmic Composition: Paradigms of Automated Music
> Generation" by Gerhard Niehaus.
> I haven't read it myself as I couldn't find it in any library around here,
> but I'd be very interested in hearing about it if anybody else has read it.
> Tobias
> Am 27.10.2010 um 11:37 schrieb Sofus Forsberg:
> Hello
> I have in a long time been circling around this area, but never really
> gotten very deep into it, and was wondering if anybody here could guide me
> to some good books or other material on the subject.
> Thanks :D
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