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Burns, Kristine H.

The History and Development of Algorithms in Music Composition, 1957-1993

Ph.D. Ball State University, 1993
(Kristine.H.Burns@Dartmouth.EDU )

This dissertation traces the history and development of algorithms in musical composition from ca. 1957 to 1993 and attempts to clarify related terminology from the contexts of computer science, information science, and music theory and composition.

The first of three sections begins with an extensive definition of the term algorithm. Because this term is relatively new to musical vocabulary, the definition appearing in this dissertation will include both musical and non-musical applications.

Historically and currently, there are three major approaches to algorithmic composition with computers: 1) algorithms for sound synthesis; 2) algorithms for compositional structure; and 3) algorithms for the correlation of sound synthesis with structure. Consideration will be given to the latter two approaches, algorithms for the generation of the micro- and macrostructural elements of musical composition.

Several different processes exist under the umbrella of algorithmic composition. Included in the body of this dissertation are detailed explanations and descriptions of specific software and hardware from the following processes: stochastic, chaotic, rule-based, grammars, and artificial intelligence.

Second, an historical survey of musical compositions and related written literature covering musical and non-musical resources organized into three chapters: 1957-1972, 1973-1982, and 1983-1993. These compositions and written resources have had significant impact on determining how subsequent composers made use of computers for composition.

In the third section an annotated study of the algorithmic compositions from ca. 1957-1993 will be presented. Special emphasis has been placed on information garnered from personal correspondence and interviews.

Five appendices are devoted to relevant cross-disciplinary information from the fields of computer science, information science, and music theory and composition; included are: 1) a list of terms; 2) an alphabetical listing of algorithmic compositions; 3) a discography; 4) a bibliography of relevant information from the disciplines discussed; and 5) a list of algorithmic computer systems, languages, and programs covered in this research. There is significant overlap in the use of computer algorithms by the scientific and the musical communities, therefore, the inclusion of definitions and terminology is necessary for a deeper understanding of the musical applications.