One time my husband and I took our daughter-in-law, a Chinese electrical engineer to an art show and she was frankly puzzled by the paintings. She asked, “why would you paint a landscape when you can have a much more accurate picture with a camera?” Neither the idea of preserving an artistic practice, nor any theories about the value of an individual’s vision rendered in paint on canvas cut any ice with her. To her scientific mind, only the product was important, and the more efficient the process, the better.

That experience came back to me as I read an article by Ryan Blitzstein about software created by David Cope to compose music. David Cope has taken serial music to the next level, in which a computer program generates whole works based on the algorithms supplied. While there is a human factor deciding what to put in and what creations to save or accept, is this different than the decisions of a photographer? While we accept that photography can be an art, it is a very different art form from painting. Has David Cope developed a totally new art form with his “Emmy” software. Do we accept his contention that the impact of the composition on the listener is more important than the creative process of the composer; that it is “just dots on the page” and “there is no soul in the music” itself.

Is it the container or the thing contained that makes, art? Is Cope correct that a composition contains nothing but arithmetical progressions of notes and what is made of them is in the mind of the listener.

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