Conference LES ATELIERS, 3rd april 2014 - Nantes, France
We are all familiar with these strange, mythical ‘machines’ – the beatbox, keyboards, synthesizers, sequencers, etc. – at the origins of disco music, hip-hop or acid house, styles that went on to become musical genres or sub-genres in their own right. And that’s the point: it all comes down to a matter of style! But as François Pachet, a member of the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Paris, explained, “We are constantly urged to create. That’s enough! We need to take an interest in what is already great, in great artists like Picasso and his famous bull, for example. If we, like Picasso before us, are to invent a new style, we need to be very aware of what has gone before and apply new ‘constraints’. But how do we invent machines that create or manipulate styles? We know how to programme a machine with improvised bites of piano music, assembling them incrementally until the machine generates a ‘mirror style’. And therein lies the rub. Being creative often involves inventing things that trigger a “It’s funny, so what?” reaction. Gadgets, in other words! The idea is rather to create, say, the “Boulez Blues”. Without imitation or pastiche, this would involve combining Charlie Parker’s style of blues, i.e., chord sequences, with music by composer Pierre Boulez – the constraint – where all the chords are different, and then exploring the style. In other words, transforming the style into a sort of plasticine or toothpaste, and doing a lot of weird stuff with it, including playing solo using a joystick. Like if we were improvising with a quartet of virtual musicians!” All this with the aim of stimulating creativity, whatever the name we give to it, and getting us thinking outside the box.