ArsTechnica reviews The Method
brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Tue May 8 06:09:48 CDT 2007
>From ars techica:
Who are you? New music composition site gives you your own theme song
By Joel Hruska | Published: May 08, 2007 - 01:33AM CT
Pete Townshend has been a driving force behind the evolution of rock music for decades—but his latest project is aimed at taking that expertise and using it to create a unique software program, dubbed Method, capable of "painting" a person's musical portrait based on several types of input from each specific person. In theory, any person will be able to create a musical theme based on a voice recording, an image, and a clapped rhythm. If you're wondering exactly how providing these elements equates to a musical theme, you're not alone, but information on how the Lifehouse Method works is currently limited. What we do know is that the rhythms and sounds selected or created by the user are not directly utilized to create music. Instead, Method analyzes each input, and uses this analysis to create the musical selection.
Every hero needs a theme song? Forget that. Every geek needs a theme song!
The project's web site has additional information on how Method works, as well as some clarifications on pricing. Apparently each person's first three "portrait" sessions are free, as is access to the web site, until July 31. After that date, site access will require a subscription, though there's no mention of how much this will cost. There are some sample segments available for listening, as well.
The site recommends that you have a microphone as well as your own custom images, but stock sounds and photos will be available as well. Townshend has said that he hopes the project encourages more people to experiment with musical composition, as well as to share the music they create. Individual compositions will also be periodically evaluated by a team of composers, with the possibility that they may be chosen for professional expansion by said team.
As something of a musician myself, I've been curious about the Lifehouse Method since I heard about the project and have since sat for two of my three available portraits. For the first portrait, I gave the program a relatively staccato voice sample, a staccato rhythm, a photo with several areas of bright color, and the Windows XP startup theme. For my second sitting, I went with a much smoother, more-connected voice sample, a slow half-note rhythm, one subdued photo of a cloudy sky, and an audio sample of a river running. The goal was to create two varied sets of inputs that'd hopefully allow some insight into how Method constructs its music. If you're curious about the musical output, the results of my first two portraits are available here and here.
I'm not a composer or well-versed in musical composition theory—but I'm not overly impressed with either piece. While both have a definite melodic structure and a sustained theme that continues through the whole of the piece, I'd classify both as sounding mechanical and automatically produced—which, of course, they are. The second piece does sound more connected than the first and has a stronger underlying theme (in my opinion), but based on my first two sessions, I can only make the most tenuous prediction about what a third session might sound like. Based on what I've seen thus far, it's entirely possible that the piano sections of both melodies were actually performed by Nora, the amazing piano-playing cat.
If Pete Townshend is serious about using the Lifehouse Method to introduce more people to musical composition, he'll need to open the process at some point to tweaking and adjustment. Handing a program a few bits of input and then having some output handed back might be an interesting demonstration when you understand how the process works, but for those of us on the outside, it's more puzzling than anything else.
-Brian in Atlanta
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