If you aren’t a member of TED.com, you should be — “TED” stands for “Technology, Entertainment and Design” — and some of the most forward-thinking and brilliant minds appear there to share with you the truths of what they know.

John Q. Walker gives a fine lecture on how he has been able to recreate the great pianists — not performances, but the aesthetic and style of the performer — by digitally discerning finger pressure, pedal movement and their artistic, ethereal, intention.


Walker’s genius is sometimes confusing in the lecture snippet because he doesn’t actually make it clear that the piano is not playing a recording of a performance, it is playing a recreation of a performance and the difference is dynamic, alive and ingenious.

By using math, and astute hearing, and lots of computer power, Walker is able to “cross the uncanny valley” and lead us into the realm of the divine:  How a musician acts, thinks, and performs.

The greatest effect of Walker’s intention is in the future:  Imagine a “Digitized Computer Aesthetic” of Johann Sebastian Bach creating, and then performing, a whole new work inspired by a few chords from a Beatles tune.

Or, better yet, take a virtual John Lennon, and let his immortal inspiration for creating a melody create a whole new opera in the style of Mozart but unearthed wholly from the Lennon intuition.

We are already in the world of the dead movie star appearing again in new features — but tricking the ear to recreate the sinew and the soul of a musician to create and perform new works is much more difficult because our ears, as Walker effectively argues, are “high definition and impossible to fool.”

I am anxious for the day when I can boot up Beethoven, Irving Berlin, Kurt Cobain and Buddy Holly and have them write a song together — and then perform it for me live, and in person, right here in my living room.

6 Comments

  1. That’s a smart guy. Uncanny is right. He’s playing god right? He’s reincarnating talent that earned the right to be dead. Careful what you raise from the grave.

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  2. I appreciate that fine warning, Karvain, and you’re right about the dire risks in raising the dead in order to exploit their talent.
    Who owns John Lennon’s aesthetic? You can’t libel a dead person, but can you steal the way he invents music for your own private profit?
    Will we have to rethink Copyright law to include this new sort of resurrection of musical genius?

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