How I Taught My Computer to Write Its Own Music

Supko_BREAKER-2ROLL OVER BEETHOVEN: A screenshot of the author’s software system, which produced oddly beautiful, inside-out, upside-down music.Photo by Kyle Yamakawa

I wanted to build the ideal collaborator. Was I ever surprised.

On a warm day in April 2013, I was sitting in a friend’s kitchen in Paris, trying to engineer serendipity. I was trying to get my computer to write music on its own. I wanted to be able to turn it on and have it spit out not just any goofy little algorithmic tune but beautiful, compelling, mysterious music; something I’d be proud to have written myself. The kitchen window was open, and as I listened to the sounds of children playing in the courtyard below, I thought about how the melodies of their voices made serendipitous counterpoint with the songs of nearby birds and the intermittent drone of traffic on the rue d’Alésia.

In response to these daydreams, I was making a few tweaks to my software—a chaotic, seat-of-the-pants affair that betrayed my intuitive, self-taught approach to programming—when I saw that Bill Seaman had just uploaded a new batch of audio files to our shared Dropbox folder. I had been collaborating with Bill, a media artist, on various aspects of computational creativity over the past few years. I loaded Bill’s folder of sound files along with some of my own into the software and set it rolling. This is what came back to me:

I was thrilled and astonished. It was exactly what I was hoping for: The computer had created alluring music—music I wanted to listen to!—from a completely unexpected manipulation of the sonic information I had given it. The music was at once futuristic and nostalgic, slightly melancholy, and quite subtle: Even the digital noise samples it used—basically sonic detritus—seemed sensitively integrated. It gave me the distinct, slightly disorienting, feeling that the computer was showing me something vital and profound about an art form that I had practiced for over 20 years. This fragile, beautiful music had qualities that were utterly new to me, and I wondered what else I could learn from the computer about musical possibility.

When I returned to the United States, I met Bill in his studio in a repurposed tobacco warehouse on the campus of Duke University, where we are both on the faculty. I showed him the software processes that produced the music that excited me. We immediately began brainstorming workflows that imagined the computer as a full-fledged collaborator. We wanted to invent a silicon-based life form to help make music that mere carbon-based life forms could never imagine on their own. Our rationale was that the computer could quickly navigate vast amounts of sonic information and return results that would have never occurred to us. If we could increase the probability that the computer would deliver compelling and unusual results, we would have essentially built the ideal artistic collaborator: miraculously inventive, tireless, and egoless.

Bill and I had another—you might say lofty—goal. We wanted to spotlight the creative process in both humans and computers. We wanted to show how it was similar, how it was different, and how the two processes together could expand the scope of artistic expression.

As Bill and I saw it, human creativity can be defined as making connections—governed by unpredictable, subjective forces—between seemingly unrelated bits of information. Music is particularly well suited to serve as a model for the creative process. Human composers have multiple components of information—melody, harmony, rhythm—at their fingertips. But composers don’t normally don’t write the melodies, harmonies, and rhythms of a piece sequentially. These elements tend to implicate each other and emerge together from the composer’s imagination. Bill and I wanted to emulate this organic emergence of interrelated elements in the computer…



How Bach Will Save Your Soul: German Philosopher Josef Pieper on the Hidden Source of Music’s Supreme Power

Art by Carson Ellis from Du Iz Tak?

“Music opens a path into the realm of silence.”

Some of humanity’s greatest and most fertile minds — including Oliver Sacks, Walt Whitman, Virginia Woolf, Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Aldous Huxley, and Friedrich Nietzsche — have contemplated the power of music, and yet the question of why music moves us so remains unanswered, and perhaps unanswerable. Why is it that music can permeate our deepest memorieshelp us grieve, and save our lives?

Four years after his increasingly timely case for shedding the culture-crushing shackles of workaholism, of the German philosopher Josef Pieper(May 4, 1904–November 6, 1997) explored the abiding puzzlement of music’s power in a speech delivered during intermission at a Bach concert in 1952, later published under the title “Thoughts About Music” in his small, enormous posthumous essay collection Only the Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation (public library) — a set of reflections titled after Augustine’s beautiful assertion that “only he who loves can sing” (which Van Gogh echoed in his insistence that art and love are one), exploring what Pieper argues is the “hidden root” of the richness of all music, fine art, and poetry: contemplation.

Piper begins his Bach speech by examining our age-old preoccupation with pinning down the elusive source of music’s singular enchantment:

Not only is music one of the most amazing and mysterious phenomena of all the world’s miranda, the things that make us wonder (and, therefore, the formal subject of any philosopher…) [but] music may be nothing but a secret philosophizing of the soul… yet, with the soul entirely oblivious, that philosophy, in fact, is happening here… Beyond that, and above all, music prompts the philosopher’s continued interest because it is by its nature so close to the fundamentals of human existence.

Pieper considers the question of what we actually perceive when we listen to music. Surely, he points out, we perceive something greater and beyond the sum total of the specific sounds and words, something of additional intimacy and meaning, just as in poetry we “perceive more and something other than the factual, literal meaning of its words.” Echoing Aldous Huxley’s exquisite assertion that “after silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music,” Pieper writes:

Music opens a path into the realm of silence. Music reveals the human soul in stark “nakedness,” as it were, without the customary linguistic draperies.

Art by Julia Kuo from The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito

With an eye to the canon of ideas about music in Western philosophy — including Schopenhauer, who believed that music is superior to all other arts for they “speak only of the shadow, but music of the essence,” and Nietzsche, who dramatized his monumental regard for music in the proclamation that “without music life would be a mistake” — Pieper summarizes the landscape of thought:

The nature of music variously [has] been understood … as nonverbal articulation of weal and woe, as wordless expression of man’s intrinsic dynamism of self-realization, a process understood as man’s journey toward ethical personhood, as the manifestation of man’s will in its aspects, as love.

All of these ideas, he suggests, can be summed up in a single formulation. A decade after the trailblazing philosopher Susanne Langer framed music as a laboratory for feeling and time, Pieper writes:

Music articulates the inner dynamism of man’s existential self, which is music’s “prime matter” (so to speak), and both share a particular characteristic — both move in time.

Much as the great Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky would argue decades later that cinema is the art of “sculpting in time,” Pieper argues that this temporal element of music gives us a vital tool with which to sculpt our personhood:

Since music articulates the immediacy of man’s basic existential dynamism in an immediate way, the listener as well is addressed and challenged on that profound level where man’s self-realization takes place. In this existential depth of the listener, far below the level of expressible judgments, there echoes — in identical immediacy — the same vibration articulated in the audible music.

We now realize why and to what extent music plays a role in man’s formation and perfection… beyond any conscious efforts toward formation, teaching, or education…




What Happens in Your Brain When You Learn a Song

The human neocortex learns and recognizes new songs with amazing efficiency. See how it works

The neocortex is the part of the human brain that processes the world around us. It controls language and motor function. It helps us recognize our friends’ faces or our favorite songs. And it’s where our brain stores all of the information we learn.

When you listen to a song, the sounds enters your ears and neurons fire in your neocortex. If you hear that song a second time, fewer neurons will fire. This is because your brain forms new synapses when it recognizes the song as a pattern instead of as distinct notes. That’s how you learn a melody—and how you’re able to tell the difference between two similar songs.

Jeff Hawkins, founder of Numenta, a company that studies the neocortex, refers to this process as “learning through re-wiring”. Hawkins explains that neuroscientists used to think learning was based on how effectively existing synapses fired. Now, they understand the process differently. New synapses replace existing synapses, forming new patterns of firing neurons.

This realization gives scientists a better understanding of how the neocortex works, and Hawkins thinks it could lead to significant advances in intelligent machines that learn like humans.


‘Sgt. Pepper’ Is the Greatest Album Ever — Unless You Don’t Think So

Robert Fraser /EMI Records LTD

On its 50th anniversary, is it finally time to stop expecting a silly, catchy album to be an unassailable cultural totem?

Tomorrow sees the release of a deluxe reissue of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, almost exactly 50 years since it first hit record shelves. It’s a major anniversary of the greatest album ever made. If that claim makes you roll your eyes, don’t blame me: It’s what the culture decided a long time ago. The record that featured the Beatles on the cover dressed up as a fictional band, Sgt. Pepper has been considered a masterpiece for as long as it’s existed.

Case in point: In the December 1967 issue of Esquire, music critic Robert Christgau wrote, “Partly because the 10-month gap between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper was so unprecedented, the album was awaited in much the same spirit as installments of Dickens must have been a century ago. Everyone was a little edgy: Could they do it again?” Although Christgau loved the record, he pushed against the ecstatic, blanket hosannas that greeted its release.Sgt. Pepper is not the world’s most perfect work of art,” he declared. “But that is what the Beatles’ fans have come to assume their idols must produce.”

In the 50 years since, Sgt. Pepper has only remained an unassailable musical totem. In 2003, Rolling Stone polled journalists, critics, musicians and others to put together a special issue commemorating the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” Sgt. Pepper topped the list. Nine years later, when the magazine revised the list, Sgt. Pepper was still number one. Summarizing the record, the staff wrote,is the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time. … [T]he 13 tracks on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band are the pinnacle of the Beatles’ eight years as recording artists. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were never more fearless and unified in their pursuit of magic and transcendence.”

Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison

With that kind of description — and with that kind of imposing history behind it — how could anyone approach Sgt. Pepper in 2017 with anything other than skepticism? As much as people like discovering new music, we tend to resist when it’s being shoved down our throats. It’s very hard to love something — to really embrace it as ours — when everybody else has already laid claim to it.No wonder that when NME made its own list of the greatest albums in 2013, Sgt. Pepper landed all the way down at number 87, the snotty write-up noting, “Considered the ultimate achievement of recorded music at the time, the gleam has dulled on Pepper’s medals over time, its psychedelic visuals and flower power sentiments turned corny at the edges.”

I’m not here to argue over whether Sgt. Pepper is the greatest album ever, or even the greatest Beatles album ever. (For what it’s worth, I don’t — and, not that it matters, but I probably prefer The Beatles.) But I would like to suggest that evaluating something based on other people’s belief that it’s the Greatest Thing Ever is a really bad idea. There’s no such thing as the Greatest Thing Ever. Such talk does a disservice to new listeners. And, more importantly, it does a disservice to the Thing in question.

Here’s what I mean: Pretend I told you that some mystery album I was going to play you, which you’d never heard, was the greatest album ever made. Before you heard a single note, what would you be thinking? Your expectations would be pretty high, right? Would you maybe start imagining what the greatest album ever would sound like? Maybe you’d begin constructing in your mind a list of sonic criteria that would be necessary for a record to justify to such a lofty buildup. You’d think about your own favorite albums — the ones that have meant the most to you and have been touchstones for the most important and meaningful moments in your life. Then you’d think, “Okay, what I’m about ready to hear has to surpass all of those albums. After all, this is the greatest album ever made.” Now imagine that, if you’re not totally sold on the record after one spin, that you’re going to be badgered by people telling you that it really is the greatest album ever made and that you just don’t get it.

I don’t care how open-minded a person you are: There’s very little chance you’re going to love that album. The deck is stacked against you. It’s a problem all cultural totems have: Once we decide as a consensus what the greatest movie/book/album/sitcom is, it gets encased in amber, its merits frozen in time. The piece of work is no longer breathing and open to exploration and discovery — it’s now an unimpeachable art object. And who can love something described as an “unimpeachable art object”?…



A Laboratory for Feeling and Time: Pioneering Philosopher Susanne Langer on What Gives Music Its Power and How It Illuminates the Other Arts

The Gnomes: "He played until the room was entirely filled with gnomes."

“Music is ‘significant form,’ and its significance is that of a symbol, a highly articulated sensuous object… Feeling, life, motion and emotion constitute its import.”

“Music is at once the most wonderful, the most alive of all the arts… and the most sensual,” Susan Sontag wrote in one of the most beautiful meditations on the power of music. Aldous Huxley, in his immensely poetic reflection on why music moves us so, recounted “some exquisite soft harmony apprehended by another sense” as he listened to Beethoven in the dark. This sensorial splendor of music is what Helen Keller, deaf and blind, articulated in her exultation upon “hearing” Beethoven’s Ode to Joy with her hand.

I thought about all of this recently — or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I felt about it — as I listened, with my whole being, to a friend perform music that seemed to emanate from her whole being. I wondered what it is about music that we feel in our marrow, that invites us into some other dimension of time, magnetizing us to the present yet containing within itself all that ever was and ever will be — a place where the symbolic and the real, the abstract and the acutely alive, converge into something larger.

That peculiar property of music may have been what prompted Susanne Langer (December 20, 1895–July 17, 1985), one of the first professional women philosophers, to call music an “unconsummated symbol” in her trailblazing 1942 book Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art. Langer revisited the subject a quarter century later in her final work, Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling(public library), exploring what makes music different from all other forms of creative expression and how, paradoxically, understanding the source of its power illuminates the other arts.

Langer writes:

Music, like language, is an articulate form. Its parts not only fuse together to yield a greater entity, but in so doing they maintain some degree of separate existence, and the sensuous character of each element is affected by its function in the complex whole. This means that the greater entity we call a composition is not merely produced by mixture, like a new color made by mixing paints, but is articulated, i.e. its internal structure is given to our perception.

And yet music, Langer argues, is not quite a language, as it has frequently been called (although the two worked in tandem to help us evolve.) Unlike language, where words function as its primary forms of fixed meaning and association, music allows us to fill its forms with our own meaning. She considers this singular role of meaning in music:

Music has import, and this import is the pattern of sentience — the pattern of life itself, as it is felt and directly known.

Let us therefore call the significance of music its “vital import” instead of “meaning,” using “vital” not as a vague laudatory term, but as a qualifying adjective restricting the relevance of “import” to the dynamism of subjective experience.

With this lens, Langer offers a sublimely compact and insightful definition of what music is, how it differs from language, and what it does in and for us:

Music is “significant form,” and its significance is that of a symbol, a highly articulated sensuous object, which by virtue of its dynamic structure can express the forms of vital experience which language is peculiarly unfit to convey. Feeling, life, motion and emotion constitute its import…




by Buck Rogers, Staff Writer Waking Times

Terrorism is part of the new zeitgeist, and it serves a litany of political and social objectives for government, as does occult symbolism which is introduced to our culture by Hollywood and the beta kittens of the Illuminati-controlled music industry.

Symbolism and Sacrifice

In the case of the recent Manchester attack, the intriguing matter of Illuminati sybolism is overtly present, given the fact that the attack took place at an Ariana Grande concert, a performance artist who is unquestionably part of the Hollywood/Illuminati cult of mind control and social engineering.

This is the segment of pop culture which includes the network of over-sexualized young celebrity women trained to perform self-demeaning and occultish acts for enormous audiences. These are the ‘artists’ who receive the most support from the music industry, the greatest production budgets, the most airplay, the most press and the most gossip. These are the artists who are often seen adorned in Illuminati symbolism and often photographed with one eye covered in homage to the ubiquitous image of the all-seeing eye at the top of the pyramid.

The term ‘beta kitten’ refers to the ‘kitten programming’ applied to young females who’ve been selected to serve as mind controlled slaves by members of the occult elite, as outlined in MK Ultra and Project Monarch. Their role in pop culture today is to normalize occult symbolism and teach subservience to darkness. Watch this Lil’ Wayne video to see what a Beta Kitten is all about.


Grande was in Manchester for the UK performance of her ‘Dangerous Woman’ tour when an alleged suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of young Grande fans as they exited the show, killing 22 people on May 22nd. Grande herself was not harmed.

She is very much a part of the entertainment industry’s arsenal of cultural programming weapons. While she may very well be talented and beautiful, her career is the product of her handlers. In 2014, it received a boost from the major players in the music industry, at which time she began being photographed with one eye covered.

She is seen here covering one eye with a cookie.

And a few more examples:






The one eye photo is a very common sign of allegiance to the powers for whom these pop stars work for.

Several of Grande’s music videos also demonstrate her connection and service to the Illuminati and to their predictive programming and occult symbolism. In her popular video, ‘One Last Time,’ an apocalyptic scene unfolds as the entire planet is bombed with giant meteors.


In Grande’s video, ‘Let Me Love You,’ Ariana gives herself up to Lil’ Wayne, who is a top male performer for the Illuminati. Watch for yourself:

There are other numerous Beta Kittens in pop culture today, including Miley Cyrus…


Lady Gaga…


Katy Perry…


Taylor Swift…




The list goes on and on…




Final Thoughts

The symbolic imagery of the Illuminati is everywhere in today’s culture. Targeted especially at the youth, it traumatizes and numbs their psyches with the symbols of domination, slavery, fear, and death.

Having become so desensitized to these symbols for so many years, however, their intensity must be increased in order for them to keep having shock value, and now actual terrorism is connected, becoming a form of ritual sacrifice under the banner of occult symbols.

Actress Roseanne Barr explains the MK Ultra mind control program, which rules Hollywood:

About the Author

Buck Rogers is the earth-bound incarnation of that familiar part of our timeless cosmic selves, the rebel within. He is a surfer of ideals and meditates often on the promise of happiness in a world battered by the angry seas of human thoughtlessness. He is a staff writer for

This article (Ariana Grande and the Illuminati Beta Kittens of Pop Culture) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Buck Rogers and It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.


In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs

“The garden of life is strewn with such dormant seeds and so much of art blossoms from their unwilled and unwillable awakenings.”

And now for something a bit out of the ordinary: When editor Andrew Blauner invited me to contribute to an anthology of essays by some of his favorite writers about their favorite Beatles songs, I did something I rarely do — I accepted, because a particular Beatles song happens to be a significant animating force in my family story.

The anthology is now out as In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs (public library), featuring contributions from wonderful writers like Pico Iyer (“Yesterday”), Rosanne Cash (“No Reply”), Rick Moody (“The End”), Rebecca Mead (“Eleanor Rigby”), Roz Chast (“She Loves You”), Jane Smiley (“I Want to Hold Your Hand”), and Adam Gopnik (“Strawberry Fields Forever” / “Penny Field”).

Here my essay, as it appears in the book.

by Maria Popova

My parents fell in love on a train. It was the middle of the Cold War and they were both traveling from their native Bulgaria to Saint Petersburg in Russia, where they were to attend different universities — my father, an introvert of formidable intelligence, was studying computer science; my mother, a poetry-writing (bordering-on-bossy) extrovert , library science.

An otherwise rational man, my father describes the train encounter as love at first sight. Upon arrival, he began courting my mother with such subtlety that it took her two years to realize she was being courted.

One spring morning, having finally begun to feel like a couple, they were walking across the lawn between the two dorms and decided it was time for them to have a whistle-call. At the time, Bulgarian couples customarily had whistle-calls — distinctive tunes they came up with, usually borrowed from the melody of a favorite song, by which they could find each other in a crowd or summon one another from across the street.

Partway between the primitive and the poetic, between the mating calls of mammals and the sonnets by which Romeo and Juliet beckoned one another, these signals were part of a couple’s shared language, a private code to be performed in public. Both sets of my grandparents had one. My mother’s parents, elementary schoolteachers in rural Bulgaria who tended to an orchard and the occasional farm animal, used a melody of unclear origin but aurally evocative of a Bulgarian folk song; my father’s parents, both civil engineers and city intellectuals, used a fragment from a Schumann waltz.

That spring morning, knowing that my mother was a Beatles fan, my father suggested “Yellow Submarine.” There was no deliberation, no getting mired in the paradox of choice — just an instinctive offering fetched from some mysterious mental library.

Eventually, my parents got pregnant, got married, had this child. They continued to summon each other, and eventually me, by whistling “Yellow Submarine.” Although I didn’t know at the time that it was originally written as a children’s song, it came to color my childhood. I had always wondered why, of all possible songs saturating their youth, my parents had chosen “Yellow Submarine” — a song released long before they met. My father wasn’t much of a Beatles fan himself, and yet that spring morning, he was able to open the cabinet of his semi-conscious memory, fetch a melody he had heard almost twenty years earlier, and effortlessly whistle it to his beloved. The familial whistle-call became a given in my childhood, like math homework and Beef Stroganoff Sundays, so it wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that it occurred to me to inquire about how “Yellow Submarine” wove itself into the family fabric. The story of how that seemingly random song had implanted itself in my father’s mind is the archetypal story of how popular music, and perhaps all popular art, is metabolized in the body of culture. Once it has entered the crucible of consciousness, a song becomes subject to a peculiar alchemy — the particularities of the listener’s life at that particular moment transmute its objective meaning, if there ever was one at all, into a subjective impression. That impression is what we encode into memory, what we retrieve to whistle twenty years later. The artist’s original intent is melded with the listener’s personal context into an amorphous mass of inexpressible yet unforgettable unity — a dormant seed whose blossoming depends on the myriad factors fertilizing the surrounding soil. That the seed was planted at all may remain unheralded until the moment of its blossoming…