The launch of Pandora radio in January 2000 was a high-water mark for computers deciding what music you want to hear. It's since spawned a number of similar concepts, notably Songza, which partners its users with songs that match their mood. But researchers at the University of Málaga in Spain are merging music and technology on an entirely different level. Instead of servicing its users by connecting them to music that already exists, these researchers are creating software that will allow computers to create their own music.
Iamus, named after the figure of Greek mythology who could talk to birds, is a software program that can write classical music scores with “just the touch of a button.” The pianist and software designer for the project, Gustavo Diaz-Jerez, has worked on teaching the computer the basics of human composition. For example, the computer realizes that a pianist only has five fingers and therefore cannot play a 10-note chord with one hand.
The project is slightly different from other work in artificial intelligence, with the research team mapping out the program as not to outdo composers, but be able to compete on the same level. Constantly adding source material to the software, Iamus can develop, learn, and create more complex structures, just as a composer becomes more practiced with age.