March 21, 2004

Art formulas. Should we shake our heads at the production of formulas for art, like "Hit Song Science"?
PolyphonicHMI says the software uses a proprietary algorithm to weigh and analyze more than 20 components of a recording (tempo, rhythm, cadence, etc.) and assign each song a value. The company used that algorithm to analyze 50 years of music released in the United States - album tracks and singles, pop, jazz and classical, totaling 3.5 million tracks - and graphed each song in multiple dimensions to create "the music universe." Plotted, it resembles a picture of a far-away galaxy, millions of song-specks floating in cosmic precision, presenting the illusion of randomness.
Some people do object, thinking art is all about individual imagination, but music is already based on some pretty constraining patterns. Artistic creativity always occurs within some kind of structure, and there is reason to think that a constricting structure enhances artistic creation. Think of the sonnet form or Dogme95. These limitations could be based on philosophical principles or scientific analysis of existing works, like Polti's Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, or it could be a game of limiting oneself, like the surrealist games. Obviously, these devices can produce bad art too, but so can a blank sheet of paper or an empty canvas. I love these efforts at constraint and limitation. Some of them are good and some aren't. Devising them is itself creative, even if it is also analytical and scientific. Art is not anarchy.

No comments: