Algorithms and Music

The conversation of who musically believes in "inspiration" versus "rationality" as it relates to composition, ends up sounding rather quickly as a discussion between a christian and an atheist to settle on when and how life began, if not, where we all come from. However, we can all agree on one point: music is an activity of the human mind.

Human life is a sequence of problems for which we must find solutions in order to survive. An algorithm can be described as a set of constraints that effectively accomplishes at least one task in a finite number of unambiguous steps. Algorithms are everywhere decision making is involved.

Any musical style can be defined by constraints. Theoretically, a composer has unlimited freedom of choice, but music composition is just about “what you can do” as with “what you can’t do”: the establishment of a grammar.

To compose is to resolve musical problems following sets of instructions and observing rules: a massive chess-game situation. Any type of constraint requires algorithmic solutions. Every composition is a finite sequence of steps. It is logical, then, to assume that, regardless of who the composer is, the act of composing can be described as an algorithmic process. Algorithms emerge, then, as the most appropriate tool for the creation and study of music.