(edited by) Alex McLean, Roger T. Dean – The Oxford Handbook of Algorithmic Music


Oxford University Press, ISBN-13: 978-0190226992, English, 712 pages, 2018, UK

Even arguably stemming from concepts like “generative” and “automatic” what is exactly meant by “Algorithmic Music” ? The two editors of this sumptuous anthology give a specific definition: it is “a rich field of activity… extend[ing] musical thinking through formalised abstractions.” So they situate their selection in the vast machine-led composition looking for both: reaching the post-human, and bringing music back to the human realm. The numerous essays address different aspects. The practice is an essential aspect, so practitioners and those who analyse their practice are present in different chapters, traversing the book. There’s also a valuable effort in providing new terminologies and definitions to help to define, for instance, the difference between purely generative music from that which is interactive generative. The historical part is also quite prominent with a genealogy of the above-mentioned formalised abstractions, from composers’ ideas to early dedicated computers (the “Geniac”, for example) and an attention to develop contextualised timelines. Finally the performative part is equally a founding one. McLean, particularly, started doing live coding performances in the early 2000s, presenting papers of its evolution, and developing over time an international community which expanded the practice and made it accessible to non-experts. These different perspectives are composed into an updated picture of this music field, which from being considered avant-garde till a few years ago, is now at part of the 21st Century software culture.