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Creating Music and Texts with Flow Machines

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Multidisciplinary Contributions to the Science of Creative Thinking

Abstract

This chapter introduces the vision and the technical challenges of the Flow Machines project. Flow Machines aim at fostering creativity in artistic domains such as music and literature. We first observe that typically, great artists do not output just single artefacts but develop novel, individual styles. Style mirrors an individual’s uniqueness; style makes an artist’s work recognised and recognisable. Artists develop their own style after prolonged periods of imitation and exploration of the style of others. We envision style exploration as the application of existing styles, considered as texture, to arbitrary constraints, considered as structure. The goal of Flow Machines is to assist this process by allowing users to explicitly manipulate styles as computational objects. During interactions with Flow Machines, the user can create artefacts (melodies, texts, orchestrations) by combining styles with arbitrary constraints. Style exploration under user-defined constraints raises complex sequence generation issues that were addressed and solved for the most part during the first half of the project. We illustrate the potential of these techniques for style exploration with three examples.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    “Instead of thoughts of concrete things patiently following one another in a beaten track of habitual suggestion, we have the most abrupt cross-cuts and transitions from one idea to another, the most rarefied abstractions and discriminations, the most unheard-of combinations of elements, the subtlest associations of analogy; in a word, we seem suddenly introduced into a seething caudron of ideas, where everything is fizzling and bobbing about in a state of bewildering activity, where partnerships can be joined or loosened in an instant, treadmill routine is unknown, and the unexpected seems the only law” (In Horn 2014; Becker 1995).

  2. 2.

    “One day…he started work on the famous bull. It was a superb, well-rounded bull. I thought myself that that was that. But not at all. A second state and a third, still well-rounded, followed. And so it went on. But the bull was no longer the same. It began to diminish, to lose weight… Picasso was taking away rather than adding to his composition… He was carving away slices of his bull at the same time. And after each change we pulled a proof. He could see that we were puzzled. He made a joke, he went on working, and then he produced another bull. And each time less and less of the bull remained. He used to look at me and laugh. ‘Look,’ he would say, ‘we ought to give this bit to the butcher. The housewife could say: I want that piece or this one…’ In the end, the bull's head was like that of an ant. At the last proof there remained only a few lines. I had watched him at work, reducing, always reducing. I still remembered the first bull and I said to myself: What I don't understand is that he has ended up where really he should have started! But he, Picasso, was seeking his own bull. And to achieve his one line bull he had gone in successive stages through all the other bulls.” (An account of Picasso’s assistant quoted in “Picasso’s Lithograph(s) ‘The Bull (s)’ and the History of Art in Reverse”, Irving Lavin, Art without History, 75th Annual Meeting, College Art Association of America, February 12–14, 1987).

  3. 3.

    See http://francoispachet.fr/markovconstraints/markov_ct.html.

  4. 4.

    This constraint actually originates from the second Viennese School (Schoenberg, Berg, Webern), and the invention of the serial, dodecaphonic music principle, which states that all 12 pitch classes should appear the same number of times in a musical piece. Boulez was a major proponent of this school in France.

  5. 5.

    Generated leadsheets can be found at www.flow-machines.com/leadsheetGeneration.

  6. 6.

    See www.francoispachet.fr/markovconstraints/markov_applet_style/lyricsgenerator.html to explore all the generated lyrics.

  7. 7.

    See www.flow-machines.com/harmonization for more examples of harmonisations.

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Acknowledgements

This research is conducted within the Flow Machines project, which received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013)/ERC Grant Agreement n. 291156.

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Ghedini, F., Pachet, F., Roy, P. (2016). Creating Music and Texts with Flow Machines. In: Corazza, G., Agnoli, S. (eds) Multidisciplinary Contributions to the Science of Creative Thinking. Creativity in the Twenty First Century. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-618-8_18

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