Mechanical music

One can, I’ve understood, simulate a guitar or any other instrument with a computer. That is, one can dance across a keyboard, and what blares out of the speakers is some particular instance of guitar-playing; and there’s no actual guitar anywhere. (Wait wait wait — an e-book is a book, but obviously it is not a physical object with bound paper sheets. So is it according to the same logic sensible to call a guitar-simulation program simply “a guitar”?)

(I know a computer can emulate guitar-playing from notes, but I don’t know if there’s a program that can play all a physical guitar (a p-guitar as opposed to an e-guitar?) does, using some special iGuitarMarkUpLanguage++. See “(long note continues)(Townshend smash)(forlorn broken string 2.3 sec)”. Generally speaking I am a person of many wonderings and little knowledge.)

(The reason for the lack of interest about programs like these might be that for some reason the tapping of keys isn’t as easy to explain as the plucking of strings — “What do you mean you can’t? You’re a guitarist; this is a guitar; where’s the problem?” — and, one might think, it wouldn’t be all that fun to watch a live music performance made of five people sitting at their computers typin’ madly.)

How about the singing, then?

There are speech synthetizers, right, but they’re not for much music yet unless one wants to be MC Hawking. But surely one could create a mark-up language for the sort of speech used in music: rising, falling, growling, screaming, and the like? It wouldn’t be for live performances, but just as one can write down the lyrics of a song, one could use some mark-up (iScream?) to tell a speech synthetizer how and when the particular words are said, right? Describing human speech with precision might be difficult; but difficult isn’t impossible, and we’re talking of chunks of a few minutes here, not RP recordings of the War and Peace. Someone needs to take a phonetic spelling dictionary, a recording of Sympathy for the Devil, and get to work!

(One objection: “Well, you’re killing the individual talents of the musicians by letting any yahoo program voices with more range than a Halford!” Which is kind of a funny objection if you think about it; what’s the fun of music kept in a ghetto like sports, available only to those with a few helpful genes and years of time to tediously, repetitively build up mechanical vocal or manual skills? (The sport ghetto is justified because without the ghetto there’s no sport, but music, really?) There must be legions of people who know in a way they can’t explain to others what kind of guitarplay would be excessively neat, but they’re embarrassingly undextrous; there must be heap-loads of people that would could sing excessively sweet melodies if they just hadn’t a bad cough, the wrong sex, and an embarrassingly irritating nasal whine for a voice. To program such a thing would be a matter of vision and skill as much as playing an actual instrument, whether a guitar or a voice, but there wouldn’t be the same kind of a barrier of luck and tedious toil.)

Nah, I’m just so tickled by the idea that one could divorce music from all instruments, voice included, like writing can be divorced from all instruments, paper included.

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