An Unnatural Selection (2014)

for Ensemble, Disklavier, and Karmetik NotomotoN

A modified artificial life system, where musical ideas are born, are passed on to new generations and evolved, and eventually die out, replaced by new ideas. Initial populations of phrases are created by rules derived from an analysis of exemplar music. It is a generative system, in that each iteration/performance produces new material; as such, the performers are reading music they have never seen before, from iPads. One unique aspect of this work is that the complexity of the music must be balanced with its immediate readability: only musicians of exceptional ability can perform it.

Generative music systems are based in the notion of creating complete works of art, producing both the details (i.e. the notes) as well as the overall structure of the music. While this may seem like a conceptual curiosity for the audience – who would be unaware of whether a piece of notated music was generative or traditionally composed – live generative music can (hopefully) produce the same excitement that improvisation imbues: a sense that the audience is experiencing something that has never before been heard, or will ever be heard again. However, generative music is different than improvisation, in that it produces multiple parts under the control of a single creative mind: a composition, rather than one line within a performance. As such, aspects of artificial intelligence are necessary to control the relationships between the many musical elements within a work such as An Unnatural Selection.

Titles to individual movements are derived using the same method of musical construction as applied to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Performed by Brenda Fedoruk (flute), David Owen (oboe), Francois Houle (clarinet), Ingrid Chiang (bassoon), Marc Destrube (violin), Marcus Takizawa (viola), David Brown (bass), Daniel Tones (percussion), Owen Underhill (conductor)

Performance #1 – Friday May 2nd 2014

Movement One: Imagination is a Way

Movement Two: Much Beauty is Before You

Movement Three: This Truth Universally

Example Score (movement 1)

(click to view PDF)


Quartet Version

This performance was at Sound and Music Computing in Hamburg, August 2016, as part of the S.T.R.E.A.M. Festival at Kampnagel, and filmed by German television. This is the second movement – Much Beauty is Before You – rejigged for clarinet, tenor saxophone, accordion, and cello.