Can machines make music? I would say no, or at least not for humans.
Yutaka Makino’s first solo CD “Black” from his label Strukto arrived at STEIM a couple of weeks ago. It’s ultra minimalistic design and packaging initially confused our office on what to make of it.
The album consists of 30 short tracks, some only 11 seconds long. The style is quite a departure from his previous compositions which explored rich textures through granular synthesis or extensive research into sound spacialization. All recorded in mono with limited frequency range and timbre, there is a particular machine like quality to all the tracks, which is a result of a secret process that Makino uses. However, a clear aesthetic is present that distinguishes his music from just sounds of data transmission.
Makino’s work always deals with the manifestation of sound in a given situation or environment, whether a concert hall, gallery or in this case through a CD. It makes sense to that he limited himself to such crude sound material for composition, assuming that the listener will probably experience this album through headphones or cheap computer speakers.
The whole CD only lasts for 23 minutes, but the division between each track is clear, rejecting any attempt to try to interpret the whole CD as one composition.
Today, machines do make music, but based upon intentions, parameters and algorithms that humans give. It’s questionable whether they would be able to arrive to their own aesthetic judgments in a true sense, and even if they did it probably wouldn’t be music for us but for other machines’ pleasure.
With a background in science, Makino has studied under luminaries like Nic Collins, Edwin van der Heide, Casey Reas, Joel Ryan and Curtis Roads. He is currently a PhD candidate at UC Santa Barbara. STEIM has supported him numerous times through it’s artist in residency program. We hope to see him come by soon again.