Technological whizzkids from a groundbreaking computer company have created a new artificial intelligence program capable of writing music by the great Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe.
“Peter managed to create the sound of an authentic Australian culture,” they explained. “So when we received a call from the Australian government asking us if we could manufacture some more of that, we were eager to help.”
John Man, lead programmer assigned to the project, says that after an early false start in which the machine accidentally wrote a racist symphony by Peggy Glanville Hicks, the team was surprised by how quickly their new program was able to produce enduring musical landscapes by the legendary composer Peter Sculthorpe.
“Ninety percent of the job was just telling the computer to use the Djilile melody,” he explained. “In no time it all it was writing powerful cello lines accompanied by indiscriminate bird call sounds, and as it turns out, that was basically it.”
Man was keen to consult some Sculthorpe experts to make sure the program’s compositions would pass muster with a highly trained human ear. “It was quite a shock to hear what it could do,” said Bob Guy, earnest Sculthorpe expert. “For a minute I thought I was hearing the solo cello piece Threnody, but then I thought, no, maybe it’s Kakadu? But then I realised it was almost certainly Cello Dreaming, or Port Essington, the the piano trio Dream Tracks, or one of the string quartets, give or take all of them. It was very convincing.”
Latest reports indicate that Man’s company is working on another program that will be able to add didjeridu to everything the other program writes. “This is to enhance the authenticity of the musical language,” they said. “That’s what didjeridu is for.”