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Pietro Grossi -Musicautomatica (Die-Schachtel)


TRIBE Member
I thought fellow technosnobs would find this interesting...
particularly the fact that he was doing this kind of stuff in the 60s and the concept that authorship is redundant, as one mans final product is anothers raw material.
Article belowPIETRO GROSSI

Progetto 2-3
Year of composition: 1961
Grossi’s interest in electronic music started in the early Sixties at the Studio of Musical Phonology of RAI in Milan. In that period he was “obsessed” with combinatorial calculation, and worked on a specific process in order to produce “endless” music.
This is the origin of Progetto 2-3, six sonic bands whose interval relations were obtained by dividing into equal parts the intervals of extreme frequencies.
These were arbitrarily assigned to the first band, and then calculated through a specific computer algorithm. The modality and succession order of intermediate frequencies, like pauses between bands, were controlled through combinatorial calculation procedures: combination, permutation, position etc.
Grossi created only the first 30 minutes of music, but could have gone on forever. During the day he recorded the original sounds in the studio, and during the night, at a friend’s home, he cut the recorded tape with scissors in order to prepare the right duration. He subsequently carried the reels back to the studio again and completed the music. These were “naked” sounds, shaped as sinusoidal waves with a constant intensity.
Progetto 2-3 was firstly performed in Ferrara on the 29th of April 1962. It is therefore his first electronic music composition. Afterwards Grossi did everything he could in order to be able to replicate and further develop this first experience.
“(This) was the first time I came up with the idea of designing this kind of system. In the beginning I developed a specific process that allowed me to compose electronic music, but after a close inspection, I realised that the numeric situation was producing narrower and narrower bands, making it impossible to further develop the process. However, the idea was there.”

Year of composition: 1968

Opera aperta (“Open work”)
The “Opera Aperta” concept refers to the computer capability to produce endless variations of any given composition. Everybody could modify, add, de-structure or re-build the original soundwork in a completely non-personal way.
“My first work, realised at RAI in Milan, was based on a virtually endless musical process: it was composed by sound masses whose variations were regulated from time to time through combinatorial calculations. I liked the idea of endless sound generation, and I realised that the computer was perfect to help me: a sort of informatic perpetual movement.”
As a consequence, every work could be considered endless, because it could be used as source material for further explorations, either by the author or others; the idea of dropping any kind of intellectual property is based on this concept too.
“When somebody sent me a tape, he or she was sending me one of their works, but at the same time it could have been used as a basis to produce more and different ones.”
Works like Collage are based on this concept too, and Grossi strongly questioned the idea that a piece of composed music is to be considered “closed”, untouchable. From the same assumption comes the idea of “musical anonymity”: every composition was presented under the name of the Studio instead of the actual author.
“I thought it was useless to sign the works, keeping in mind that each of them could be considered either a finished piece or source material, available for any further development. I then took the decision of naming them with alpha-numeric codes.”
This approach dramatically addressed the question of authorship and personality in relation to any type of artistic production. The work does exist as such, but it is also one of the countless “materials” that can be transformed and modified. Everything becomes temporary, and could change at any moment.The idea becomes non-personal, open to every solution, with the possibility that everybody could use it. On this important concept Grossi developed his Homeart, making available his graphic software on the Internet, with the clear invitation to “Make of them what you want”, “Produce another hundred thousands works with this program.”

Automatic music: programming
Pietro Grossi was used to programming without planning, using a casual process or, to be more precise, a semi-casual process, considering that he was working within certain limitations. The Automatic Composition concept started here, and thanks to it he was able to produce a software designed to put the operator in the position of partial or total control over the creative process, up to the point of giving total control to the computer itself.
His software are designed to obtain a specific range of frequencies for a certain period of time, and then constantly and regularly changing that range at given intervals. This casual process is capable of producing modulations in such a way that would be impossible for a human being. The end result is again an unfinished, “open” work, which could be further modified by the countless directions randomly chosen by the computer.
Grossi also realised that the computer was faster at preparing sound data than playing them: it was even possible to design a programme that could change the data and their execution without any audible interruption. He consequently designed the Kronos program, able to “read the future”. This program was able to tell in one second and a half what the computer will do in a year’s time over the original calculation.
“Given an automatic program and certain initial parameters, what will be the result after a determined time? If, for example, one wants to create a sonic space for five/ten days, with this software one could hear the entire evolution after only one hour. Of course everything is different when one changes the initial condition.”
Grossi also developed software that could select a hundredth of a second of music from any piece, or many hundredths of seconds, and then automatically mount them together. Once these data were stored in the memory – meaning that one knew their position in it – they could have been used in a number of different ways. It would even have been possible to change their frequency and duration, or select the part of interest from the database and further develop it.
Grossi always programmed in first person. He designed his own music software, and that gave
him the freedom of creating his own instructions and parameters. From 1969 he used perforated sheets, while from 1970 onwards the introduction of keyboards and 360/67 computers dramatically changed his programming methods. In that same year Grossi went to the Biennale of Venice where he presented the first software created in Pisa to use the computer as a music composer/performer. The limitations were extreme, nevertheless the possibilities enormous.

Year of composition: 1985
The regular research on the musical text and the infinite possibilities of computing started in 1969, when Grossi asked for hospitality at the CNUCE Institute in Pisa. Here he designed one of the first interactive computer music systems, the DCMP, based on IBM 360 architecture. The sound output was obtained reading one byte of information from a given range, thus obtaining a monotonic sequence with a square-wave timbre, but with no control over the dynamics.
The DCMP was followed by the PLAY 1800 System, capable of controlling both amplitude and timbre, and then by the audio terminal TAU 2, built from 1970 to 1975. The TAU2 was a polyphonic and polytimbrical instrument, capable of producing music in real time under the control of an IBM mainframe computer which could be operated by many users at the same time.
Thanks to this system, Grossi was able to develop programs for the management of musical texts,
and a musical digital database with more than 1000 traditional pieces stored in it.
This software allowed him to operate on each hundredth of a second of any piece of music, changing its parameters, playing it in its entirety or fractioning it, even “electronically interpreting” it. They were executions managed through a control piece, called
the “modulating model”.
The high calculation speed feature of the mainframe and the real-time control over musical parameters offered by the programming language were used to create a number of automatic music software. These were almost invariably based on semi-casual parameters, through which Grossi created a group of musical compositions like the Sound Life and the Unicum series and the earlier Polifonia, Monodia and Unending Music. In these works Grossi produced ever-changing musical material, with no interest in the timbre, fully absorbed by the automatic music production process and fascinated by the massive computing possibilities offered by the application of information technology to musical composition.
With this particular approach he produced pieces inspired by graphical elements like Sound Life II, based on Peano’s Curve, or inspired by specific architectural sites, like the Sound Life 2, with its free references to Milan Central (railway) Station.
During this musical period it is worth mentioning his experiences with “telematic music”, most probably the first in the world. His first “Telematic Concert” dates back to 1970 when, using a phone line connection between Rimini and Pisa, he was able to elaborate and play from a distance entire musical pieces or fragments, as well as casual sound structures.
“The first – at least in Italy – experience of telematic musical transmission was realised by us in 1970. We presented our first composing software – as usual based on the square wave – at the Venice Biennale, and after one month we did the first experiment between Rimini and Pisa. The early computer keyboards were just appearing then.”
In 1974 Grossi made a telematic connection between Pisa and Paris, where he had been invited by Xenakis to present his music: “One of the most memorable experiences.” he recalled.
Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room