Dissertation Index

Author: Hoffmann, Peter

Title: Music Out of Nothing? The Dynamic Stochastic Synthesis: a Rigorous Approach to Algorithmic Composition by Iannis Xenakis

Institution: Technische Universitaet Berlin

Begun: August 1995

Completed: January 1998


The Dynamic Stochastic Synthesis (GENDYN = "GENeration DYNamique"), conceived by Iannis Xenakis (b. 1922), is a comprehensive computational procedure (algorithm) for composing music by synthesizing sound on a computer. To investigate into this rigorous example of algorithmic composition, the working environment of the composer has been reconstructed in order to be able to study the genesis of compositions like GENDY3 (1991). The Xenakis algorithm has made to run in a graphical, real-time environment to allow for immediate inspection of various details of the synthesis process. Musical analysis can thus benefit from the fact that the creative act is fully reproducable "in vitro" thanks to its total algorithmical formalization. Used for the purpose of analysis, the new tool enables the systematic exploration of the "decision space" contributing to a deeper understanding to both the potential and limitations of rigorous algorithmic composition. Alternatives can be explored and side conditions changed in order to ascertain the complex interaction between "material requirements" and compositional freedom, within which the composer originally navigated. The technical possibilities for both analysis and synthesis of Stochastic Synthesis compositions provoke many fundamental questions about computing, listening and understanding, of creation, interaction and aesthetics and of the essence of what is machine music. It is shown that Xenakis, unlike many computer music composers, has no ambition whatsoever to model traditional musical thinking. Instead he realizes his sonic vision in an abstract physical model of sound pressure dynamics yielding higher-order musical structures as emergent epiphenomena. This radical approach which addresses the medium of electroacoustic algorithmic music, i.e. the physics of sound, as well as the computability of sound as being a subject of artistic creation as such, seems to be somehow more valid for a foundation of a "true" computer art than the widespread imitation of human qualities by the computer and the strive for artificial musical "intelligence."

Keywords: Iannis Xenakis, Algorithmic Composition, Stochastic Music, Non-Standard Sound Synthesis, Real-Time Systems, Analysis of Computer Music.


Algorithmic Composition
Analysis of Computer Music
Computability, Complexity, Creativity
The Dynamic Stochastic Synthesis
Analysis of GENDY3
The Development of the New GENDYN Program
Future Research


Peter Hoffmann,
Skalitzer Str. 96
D-10997 Berlin

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