Computerized Accompanists

As an accompanist myself, I play for middle school kids through professional musicians.  Part of me has always been watching the technology that provides an accompaniment via a digital file (usually a hard drive or CD).  The major program, Music Minus One, will play the accompaniment, but it doesn’t bend with the soloist.  The soloist must keep up with the accompaniment.  Although it has its place, this is exactly the opposite of how it is actually done.

Music Plus One, created by Christopher Raphael, associate professor at the Indiana University School of Informatics, is supposed to provide this last piece.  Using all kinds of programming, Raphael has created software that bends with the soloist.  That is, when the soloist slows down slightly, the accompaniment does; when they speed up, so does the accompaniment.  The accompaniment even learns the phrasing used by the soloist.  What I think is really interesting is that this program is not reactive, it is predictive.  It doesn’t wait to hear the notes and then play, but predicts when the soloist will play the notes and, usually, plays with them.

There is still room for live accompanists — there is nothing like the communication that happens between soloist and accompanist.  However, there are many situations in which accompanists are not available.  This may be the answer for them.

[from Active for Life]


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