CNN.com - The future notes of music
LONDON, England (CNN) -- A group of musicians working at universities in England are getting excited about the latest computer acoustic software, whereby a computer reacts to what a musician plays.
The software is programmed in such a way that, when used alongside a live musician, it produces an improvised sound, in a similar way to how chess computer programs play "live" against human players.
Professor Peter Wiegold, Head of Music Research at Brunel University, says several universities throughout the country are using this sort of software.
At Brunel, English cellist Matthew Barley has taken up a research post to develop a repertoire of duets between a solo cello and a computer using software developed by Ircam, the Paris-based Institute of Research and Co-ordination of Acoustics and Music.
Wiegold says that the musical software works in a similar way to the loop machines solo guitarists use to accompany themselves, but instead of just playing back the sound, it is more like a live, dynamic accompaniment.
He says it is an exciting development for music because the software can create a sound that a human may not have thought off.
It can also alter pitch, so that the cello sounds more like a double bass, or duplicate the sounds to give the impression that there are 30 cellos supporting him.
"It's very exciting because until recently, pre-programmed music was very one-dimensional," he says.
"Now, because computers are so fast, the computer will respond instantly and will throw something back at you that you may not have thought of, or that you may not have ever heard before. They can change texture, pitch, all sorts of things that until recently, were not possible."
He does not believe computers will ever replace musicians, but instead enhance what they do by combining art with science.
"You can never recreate what a human does. What you can do is bring a computer into the equation and see what happens."
He says the aim at the end of the Barley project is to program a computer so well that it will sound like a live musician.
The project will culminate in an album and a live performance of cello and computer in London next year.
He compares it to the computer-generated music created by DJs on the clubbing scene, but with a classical twist.