EMS Proceedings and Other Publications

Real-time Composition or Computer Improvisation? A composer’s search for intelligent tools in interactive computer music

Arne Eigenfeldt

Simon Fraser University, BC, Canada


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Twenty year ago, live electroacoustic music could not compete with tape music in terms of sonic complexity. As a result, composers tended to concentrate upon a complexity of interaction, most often through the note-based paradigm of MIDI, using improvisation as a model. Today, complex DSP processing is available in real-time, and interactive music now tends to explore sample playback and live processing, thereby more closely resembling studio composition. If contemporary creators of real-time composition systems wish to match the complexity of studio-based composition, they will require more than the existence of real-time processing algorithms; intelligent tools that assist in the creation of the composition itself are necessary to assume responsibility over many high-level decisions.