Olaf Hochherz

Hiller and Isaacson's Misleading Representations of their Experiments

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This presentation discusses the early practice of Hiller and Isaacson on the Illiac Suite. Their documentation of the project in their book “Experimental Music” ([1959] 1979) describes the project as a successful experiment. In the discussion of their practice they seem to not recognize the difference between simulations and experiments. The difference between simulation and experimentation is that unlike experiments simulations do not interact directly with the material reality. Hans-Jörg Rheinberger proposed that for experiments to be epistemically productive the experiments have to be thought as a practice of technology formation rather than an application of technologies.(2015) Simulations for themselves are limited by the operation of the technology enacting them. Because Hiller and Isaacson did not recognize this difference they do not see that their simulations of practices of composition are not able to contribute to the question in how far music can be formalized. When they summarize insights gained from the simulations they reiterate the claims and values associated with the formalizations of music they implemented. The problem is that such an argument is circular. But the documentation of their practice contains many more details of their practice and how they relate it to music making. They discuss three points central to the reality of music making: (1) the efficiency of the used algorithms, (2) importance to present the work to an audience and (3) the ideas they developed after they got their first results. It is only in the context of those interaction of the simulation with the reality of music making that the practice of simulation can be considered epistemically productive. It is not the result of the simulation itself, but the result in interaction with the practice of music making, consumption, and reinterpretation of their own practice, in which simulations become epistemically productive.

Hiller, Lejaren A., and Leonard M. Isaacson. (1959) 1979. Experimental Music: Composition with an Electronic Computer. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Rheinberger, Hans-Jörg. 2015. “Preparations, Models, and Simulations.” History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 36 (3): 321–34.

{persons: [Lejaren Hiller, Leonard Isaacson, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger]}


meta: true

event: Simulation

author: Olaf Hochherz