A New Artist Has Arrived

December 13, 2007 at 02:52 AM · Once every many, many years, a violinist comes along who so touches our hearts with his sublime expression and profound humanity that he becomes an icon. Fritz Kreisler certainly fit this description. What do you think of this guy in that regard?

the new artist

Replies (100)

December 13, 2007 at 02:55 AM · Art is dead and the world is about to end.

December 13, 2007 at 03:00 AM · i get the violin robot when i entered the url.


December 13, 2007 at 02:58 AM · hehe, good one Mr. Steiner! I fell for the link :-p

December 13, 2007 at 04:04 AM · Haha good one.

December 13, 2007 at 04:50 AM · I would like to hear IT play Paganini's Caprice #1, and any scale in fingered octaves and tenths, as well as a demonstration of the son file bowing.

December 13, 2007 at 05:02 AM · Maybe next year's model will have 32 fingers.

December 13, 2007 at 05:30 AM · I liked the Baroque mordent in the middle of the main theme from the Pomp and Circumstance # 1 - a visionary statement befitting a great artist- and the "subtle" adjustments in rhythm to the original tune.

December 13, 2007 at 09:07 AM · he he. admirable achievement in terms of robotic development and all. but u think, considering its a robot, that it's rhythm would be metronomic (if that word exists)!

and i agree, i would LOVE to see it play Paganini 1st caprice, considering that the robot's fingers can only play a semitone each, let alone the stretches in the first page!

December 13, 2007 at 11:56 AM · Does this bring to mind that experimental mime group, Mummenschanz?

December 13, 2007 at 12:56 PM · think of it as a compliment to the art of violin. imitation is a form of flattery.

December 13, 2007 at 12:59 PM · Nice bow arm....

December 13, 2007 at 02:59 PM · I think we need to remember here the advice we recently received to respect all violinists, not just your favorites. Think of good things to say. Even if it's only like how shiny he is. A century from now, the androids will be rightfully po'ed about how their ancestors were maligned. I hope to be known then as an early pioneer for android rights.

December 13, 2007 at 02:32 PM · Oh, I don't know. I found the playing cold, sort of mechanical. He/She/It certainly has the equipment, but it's like listening to a machine. Maybe the audiences today go for this sort of thing, but I like the old days, when you didn't have to worry about the soloist breaking down in the middle of a performance. Also, I think that both he/she/it AND his/her/its violin need a tune-up. Incidentally, what kind of CPM (Concertos Per Mile) does this thing get? Isn't there some modern composer somewhere who is willing to write a "Concerto for Violin CPU and Technical Assistance Department in C+++"?

December 13, 2007 at 02:50 PM · How is it doing Vibrato?

December 13, 2007 at 03:30 PM · Vibrato looks like a finger pressure thing; sounds like it, too.

December 13, 2007 at 06:01 PM · i kept expecting will smith (or another action-movie hero) to leap onto the stage and engage he/she/it in combat!

December 13, 2007 at 06:30 PM · This thing, at its' best, is boring. The violin's sound is awful and the music has no life. Music should be expression of life, i.e. flesh and blood. It reminds me of Suzuki players at their beginning best--all robots!!! Dr. Frantz

December 13, 2007 at 07:22 PM · I think YOU are the artist with that clever post, Mr. Steiner. :)

December 13, 2007 at 10:25 PM · lol

December 13, 2007 at 10:27 PM · It plays better than a lot of people on this site.

December 13, 2007 at 11:22 PM · Greetings,

have you guys forgotten we are here to help newbie violinists. He already send in a post saysing his teacher complained his playing was `too mechanical` yet what help have you offered him so far?



December 13, 2007 at 11:54 PM · that was SCARY!

I would definetly not want one of those.. i have seen the movies, they're here to take over the world!

well he killed the tone of the violin

anyway! that bow pressure was horrible.

December 14, 2007 at 12:12 AM · Pieter:

Just what are you hoping to accomplish by being so obnoxious lately?

December 14, 2007 at 12:50 AM · Glass houses... a tea pot calling the kettle black...

cast ye the first stone blah blah...

December 14, 2007 at 01:54 AM · I think it's possible that a machine could play the violin well.

For years, chessplayers thought that chess was too complicated and too artistic to be played well by machines. Now, computers are playing better chess than humans.

This robot may be just a start.

That said, computers haven't replaced humans in chess, just supplemented them. They're used for analysis, but the same amount of money and interest remains for human players.

December 14, 2007 at 02:29 AM · Pieter: I'm well aware that I'm an annoying, pretentious little twit, but I don't believe I've ever stooped so low as to publicly and blatantly disparage the playing of fellow v.commers...?

December 14, 2007 at 04:08 AM · AWESOME!

December 14, 2007 at 05:23 AM · Back to the chess computers. Early chess computers calculated everything and picked the best move with a limited amount of RAM. As computers became more powerful, the calclation speed picked up. Computers played better chess, but still nothing sextraordinary.

Chessplayers everywhere said that there was too much art in the game, which made it difficult to "brute force" calculate the best move. The human mind was able to "prune" away a lot of the limbs in a so-called "tree of analysis."

When very strong players began to give computers algorithms to "prune" analysis branches, that's when computers really started to give humans trouble at chess. The moves that they started to come up with were so funky that they were thought to be wildly creative. Odd that the "brute force" methods of earlier years had been replaced by algorithms that, coupled with brute force, created games on a truly amazing level.

Imagine now if they were able to teach robots to detect sound waves and achieve a "perfect" sounding point for any part of the bow. Next, imagine if they were able to find high-level musicians to input interpretations into the computers. Then imagine if they were able to create something that simulated any variety of vibrato imaginable - perhaps even a hand with 32 fingers. That would eliminate shifting, unless you wanted to create a glissando.

Would the result be mechanical and unlistenable? Or, as our chessplaying counterparts have found, would the level of play be jaw-droppingly amazing??!!

And, as our chessplaying counterparts have found, the human element - our moods, our fluctuations in energy - would they make the quality of music, especially live music, all the more interesting? Especially because since one has the computer to compare it to, it becomes that much more obvious to others. Could it make music all that much more wonderful?

Just a few theories...

December 14, 2007 at 05:36 AM · I'm sorry, but music is not music unless it is being played by a human being. You cannot separate the human element from music and be left with anything recognizable as the art.

December 14, 2007 at 05:46 AM · Only a mediocre musician would be threatened by a computer.

What they made is a curiosity, and will benefit other areas of science and manufacturing. It was simply a way to demonstrate some of the more advanced robotics. How this is the "death of art" is beyond me. Frankly, another C grade conservatory student strangling the life out of Sibelius concerto (because for some reason now, every kid who just finished Bruch gets put on Sibelius), or the new favourte, Ysaye Ballade, is far more dangerous to art than a technological marvel that no one takes seriously.

December 14, 2007 at 05:51 AM · Oops, Pieter, your bitterness is showing.

December 14, 2007 at 06:16 AM · Mara - But it is being played by a human being. Robots don't make themselves. But it could be done a lot better, it's just not worth what it would take.

One of my teachers said, and I don't know if I agree, but he said the expressive potential of an instrument is inversely proportional to how much "stuff" is between the player and the sound. So a violin has more expressive potential than a more mechanized instrument. Not sure I agree but something to ponder.

December 14, 2007 at 06:03 AM · A machine made by humans is not a human itself...

Pieter, I know what you mean about the Sibelius though. GEEZ.

Edit: I like that saying by your teacher, Jim, and I generally agree.

December 14, 2007 at 06:58 AM · "A machine made by humans is not a human itself..."

You could likewise say a violin is not a human voice. Doesn't matter really. But yes, what we've got there is a crude expression.

A million years in the future the distinction between human and machine will be long forgotten and it will probably be impossible to fathom the way we see it today. I have this theory that the human race only retains records and knowledge for about 10,000 years, except for the IRS.

December 14, 2007 at 06:56 AM · Laurie, exactly what part of what I wrote was incorrect?

A computer will probably never play the violin as well as a human, there are just too many variables, even physically, not even to mention emotionally. I think our art has enough problems with real humans, so I really wouldn't be worrying about any robots.

December 14, 2007 at 11:55 AM · When IBM's Deep Blue beat the world champion at the time, Garry Kasparov, many chessplayers were worried it would affect things negatively. It hasn't. IT's mostly been positive.

Jim may be right that a violinplaying computer may not be worth the trouble. But if Sony just made one, who's to say that it won't make a better one. Was it worth it to create a computer that could play chess well? It was indeed very very expensive to do so.

The comments everyone is making sound a lot like the comments chessplayers made to early chess programs.

It might, or might not happen. I'm inclined to say that it probably will.

And if playing Sibelius with a perfect sounding point, with perfect intonation, a dynamic range greater than humanly possible, and an interpretation input by a great violinist doesn't sound interesting, I'd be surprised.

At a minimum, it will expand our expectation and understanding of what is within our musical palette.

Furthermore, if Sony is doing this type of work, it is a way of bringing the violin into the mainstream. This could be worth millions for all of us!!! (Bwahahaha!!!! - insert computer generated sinister laugh track)

December 14, 2007 at 12:32 PM · Terry, I mean it's literally not worth it. You couldn't get your money back out of it. In contrast, I'd guess Deep Blue probably paid off fifty thousand times over by the way it worked in synergy with the image IBM wanted to create and maintain. There's no robotics company that needs that kind of public relations. And, to achieve equivalent shock and awe with a robot, it would take one that would drive over to your house and have a conversation...and then play violin. We could make a good fiddling robot but it might cost as much as sending a man to Mars :D

Can you imagine a presidential speech that includes "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of creating a good fiddling robot"?

December 14, 2007 at 03:57 PM · Sony is trying to get in the robot game. In Japan, the elderly are buying robots to keep them company, especially those that don't have children. These robots are designed to provide comfort and perform household duties for these elderly people. Robots are not a futuristic thing for readers of science fiction, they are here. And not just to assemble the doors on your Honda Accord.

December 14, 2007 at 03:53 PM · Terry, To keep them company? Do you mean to run errands for them like fetch something cleaning up or really keeping company like having a conversation? That would be something not that it's any different from playing violin as an artist. The ultimate question would be, "Can you create an algorithm for our emotions?" Chess playing however complex it could get is in the rational side of the brain, I would think, not a creative activity. Or is it?


December 14, 2007 at 04:14 PM · The idea is to create robots that do everything possible to keep someone company. Not only do these robots have conversations with others, but they are designed to perceive when their owner is sad and needs comfort, and to be smart, to get better at it over time.

Chess is a very creative activity because of the "pruning" that goes on ahead of time of the myriad of possibilities that can be executed on a chessboard. Everyone has their own personal way of "pruning".

The next wave of complexity for computers is to figure out how to play go. (Go has a much bigger board than chess)

December 14, 2007 at 04:41 PM · I guess we are running into what is creativity or how we create. Is it a process that can be expressed externally or is it something that happens under surface in a sublime territory? I am not a chess player don't quite know what you mean by pruning. It may not be creativity in its purest sense. Why would a bigger board of go make much difference other than a bigger computer or a few extra lines of algorithm? Is it so much bigger than chess that you have to find a totally different approach?

It gives me creeps to think some people are working to take care of our most fundamental need to love and be loved, by a robot. It seems a built in contradiction, or a social alienation. Isn't that what bullies do? They force others to feel what they need them to feel? That's a dysfunctional relationship.


December 14, 2007 at 05:36 PM · I'm not a programmer and I can see where you're coming from in terms of these robotic companions. But it is happening. And if they really learn to play the violin it might be pretty good.

December 14, 2007 at 06:01 PM · I wonder if it's possible to take a famous violinist - say, David Oistrakh - and digitize everthing he has ever recorded.

Then you somehow write a computer program that will include every note, vibrato, nuance, passage, phrase, shift, pair of notes, bowing, etc.

Then you create a computerized performance out of these elements, and program a concerto or sonata or other piece he never recorded (like the Bartok or the Elgar or the Nielsen).

But, it seems to me, that the person required to do this has to be part violinist, part musicologist, part computer programmer, and entirely obsessive compulsive.


December 14, 2007 at 05:52 PM · Maybe next year's model will feature the Bruch g-minor Concerto, and the one coming out in 2009 will feature the Sibelius Violin Concerto. But since IT likes to keep the bow on the string, IT is more suited for the violin works of Spohr rather than Paganini. Imagine how Spohr's Concerto No. 9 in d minor will sound by this new artist. Perhaps a competing car manufacturer will make another robot that will compete with this newcomer who can do the ricochet, staccato volante, and spiccato/sautille bowings.

December 14, 2007 at 06:09 PM · I can see it now...

The 2008 Violin-Robot, complete with rechargeable battery, self-rosining bow, and repertoire.

And you have your choice of models:

- The Heifetz model (perfect in every way, including a small air conditioner with a blowing fan, so that every performance leaves you cold).

- The Rieu model (complete with dance floor and waltz repertoire).

- The Ricci model (564 notes per second).

- The Bell model (with a special loudspeaker so that you can take it to the movies).

Just a thought. (Actually, a little less than a thought)


December 14, 2007 at 06:53 PM · It's true, anyone who things a robot is a true "threat" to real musicians just doesn't get it. The part that is truly scary is that SO MANY PEOPLE just don't get it. And it isn't the conservatory student struggling with the Sibelius who doesn't get it; that person has some kind of devotion to music. It's the people who see music as serving no more of a function than providing a good ring tone for their cell phones that I worry about. The person in the next practice room over who is struggling needs maybe a better teacher, more practice, etc., or maybe even a change of major.

But a musician's deep personal struggle for excellence and elite ability doesn't actually entitle that person to an audience, to recognition, to money, to a scholarship, to the best teacher in town...it only guarantees you ONE THING: it makes it so you can play really, really well.

So what are you going to do with that?

December 15, 2007 at 12:50 AM · Exactly, Laurie. i don't see how it can be happening. Most of the satisfaction we get from getting connected with another humans comes from that other people didn't have to respond but chose to.

This may be an outdated notion since I read it in my former life in stone age. There was an article that claimed creativity cannot be replicated since it is not a logical progression but rather some kind of fusion where things come together to create something and that process does not register consciousness. The only possibility would be an imitation of creation that's uncanny enough to fool some of us some of the time.


December 14, 2007 at 08:45 PM · This is why I keep teaching. We can not duplicate the human expression except with humans.

I had a class of 3rd year players listen to it, and they were appauled at the tone and lack of feeling.

December 14, 2007 at 09:15 PM · That was a really, really, great post, Laurie.

December 14, 2007 at 10:03 PM · Laurie-

Three Books come to mind with what you have posted on 'your' sight: "The Fountain Head" & "The Virtue of Selfishness" &, "The Romanticist's Manifesto"!

December 14, 2007 at 11:29 PM · Sander, that's a slightly interesting problem. My approach would be to first come up with some general music interpretation rules as an experiment and a warm-up. I can actually vaguely see a market for that. There are probably a lot of papers on it. Next I'd come up with specific rules for a particular player, maybe Heifetz rather than Oistrakh because his playing is more obvious. You could make a good argument that the result is how he could have played it on some particular night. But using the sum total of everything he recorded and applying it directly somehow though, I'm not sure how you'd do that. It makes my head hurt thinking about it though. Maybe some kind of learning program that can recognize nuances - deviations from a norm or something. Maybe it could teach itself the norm too, from listening to everybody :) Since digitizing is such a trivial thing, that might be built in and you could let it actually listen.... Would be slower, but fun.

December 14, 2007 at 11:31 PM · Jim: Yes, I actually think it's doable, too.


December 14, 2007 at 11:57 PM · I agree with Jim and Sander. This can be done, and I'm sure this is where things are headed. The challenge for the musician is, as Jim said, to come up with the rules for solid technique, music interpretaion, and maybe nuances for particular player styles (Heifetz vs. Oistrakh). Then the IT guy needs some musician help to quantify the rules to create a norm that measures deviations from some 'ideal'. (This is where I get a headache: How do you make ones and zeros of what is good tone or phrasing?) Then the challenge for the IT guy is to make the algorithm run so fast that even the best processors of the day produce a single note before 20some human lifetimes are over.

December 15, 2007 at 12:09 AM · A bit of an analogy - programs that can identify an author from word choice and syntax have been around a long time. It's conceiveable to reverse that and come up with a synthesized version of a particular author's realization of some story.

And of course, sheet music is a "story" to be realized by a particular "author" (performer). But improvising robots...that's where the action is. lol.

December 15, 2007 at 12:27 AM · don't make fun of this guy, he actually sounds better than most of the violinists in my school orchestra (I'm being serious)

December 15, 2007 at 01:11 AM · I'm somewhat impressed. It doesn't appear to be faked. I guess the vibrato could be something like the fingertips traveling back and forth on a worm screw and you wouldn't be able to see it in the video. It's kind of funny to see that "Toyota" sign on the stage, same as at the Tchaikovsky competition.

December 15, 2007 at 08:33 AM · He sounds like a cell phone.

I hate cell phones.

Hooray for the human ingredient that makes music a unique expression!

December 15, 2007 at 09:01 AM · Greetings,

I knew you`d spent time in a cell!



December 15, 2007 at 09:26 AM · I have on good information she barely got out. Good thing she appreciated her alphabets.

December 15, 2007 at 09:37 AM · Whaa? No one's supposed to know about that!

December 15, 2007 at 09:44 AM · Agreed! Now--a--b--c--

December 15, 2007 at 09:54 AM · Viktoria,

"This is where I get a headache: How do you make ones and zeros of what is good tone or phrasing?)"

You can probably quantify all the elements as a function of time. Amplitude with respect to time, tiny tempo variations, position and duration of tiny silences and so on. Tone quality variation rules could start with high-speed, short sample period FFT.

If it was done by machine, you might consider pattern-matching algorithms to find things a particular player does. Typically used in voice recognition and weapon systems (weapon uses cameras to compare terrain below to a pre-programmed map and makes flight adjustments). In fact he might discover some things humans would never notice; commonly used patterns or something. Oops, I called him "he." Oops, I did it twice...

December 15, 2007 at 09:58 AM · He might discover why humans choose such wretched ringtones.

December 15, 2007 at 10:02 AM · I'm just impressed that Jim made two whole sentences.. Now back to basics.


December 15, 2007 at 11:55 AM · I was hoping it would start playing something by Earl & Scruggs and start stomping it's foot. That would have slayed me! :-D.

December 15, 2007 at 05:01 PM · Speaking technically, what's most obviously wrong is the bow change. It makes one wonder what exactly we (or, at least, you) human players do to make a good bow change.

Apart from all that, a marvel of technical achievement that, for me, had nothing to do with music.

December 15, 2007 at 06:17 PM · You're all jealous 'cause my Heifitz XM plays a better spiccato than all of your old school Kogan T2200 units. :)

December 15, 2007 at 08:05 PM · Yes, but that's only because the Heifetz XM has been retrofitted with the SpiccatoPerfect 1.2 and the Del Jesu ViolinTone upgrade.

December 16, 2007 at 03:25 AM · a simple prune would have sufficed...

December 16, 2007 at 03:37 AM · It has a nicer sounding vibrato than I do. :(

December 16, 2007 at 04:40 AM · That's because this is too easy. If they want me to buy a Toyota, I'm going to have to see him figure skate.

December 16, 2007 at 04:54 AM · Well, I agree with Mara that (for now) it's not music if it's not being played by humans. But I still loved the robot and we are, after all, just "meat computers".

Oh, and Pieter, you should take inspiration from the robot's lack of a mouth...

December 16, 2007 at 06:31 AM · he`s probably got a chip on his shoulder though...

December 16, 2007 at 07:37 AM · I haven't looked so I get the picture....

I'm sure that because I didn't program that machine that it doesn't have the mathematical ratios necessary for each phrase to sound like a sea gull taking off, that it's (Oh Gheesh what should I say......)

That it's heart won't resonate with the welcome volcano of emotions, that it's not been properly chosen as having had the necessary past lifetime experience to access the truth in the music and that it just simply, just simply won't make it in the concert world!

Here is where to study, I'm sure: To get the necessary knowledge which I already have but am not going to give out in order to prevent impostering...

right here!


December 16, 2007 at 08:26 AM · Howard, of course it can be music and not played by humans. If Beethoven programmed a synthesizer would the result be music?

December 16, 2007 at 08:37 AM · Howard, and you from lack of a brain.

Jim/Mara etc...

A lot of music has been created almost totally digitally. Of course not too many people here are into hiphop, but there's quite a lot of good music in that genre that was not really "played" by anyone at all. It was definately conceived of by a human, but not really performed.

I don't think a distinction between what is music and what is not, based on whom or what is performing it, is really important. It should be judged on its merits, regardless of the physical specifics. We have more than a surplus of uninspired, bad performances by humans, so let's not get uppity about a literal, mechanical performance. Machines have been used in music making for a long time, and to me, that robot is no different than a midi player. If you've ever been into music put out by U2, The Verve, or thousands of other groups and artists, you'll understand that there's a lot of quality music (often times an extremely simple 2 or 3 note riff) that has been heavily manipulated by computers. This is just one of the first instances of a computer using an actual instrument (and not speakers) to play the instrument. It really isn't that different from a synthasizer, and I seriously doubt it is Toyota's intent to replace musicians with robots.

December 16, 2007 at 09:24 PM · Recording certainly changed music playing and has its own way of music making. Although it records human playing, it differs greatly from live performances. We accept it and enjoy it. How about synthesizers replacing Broadway musicians? They say it could even be better. The robot is different from a synthesizer only in that the robot simulates mechanical motion of playing not sound itself. I am sure its playing will improve with technology but it will not be a creative process as we understand it. The question that comes to my mind, Are artists always engaged in a creative process when performing or do they let habits carry them through?


December 16, 2007 at 08:20 PM · Oh, sorry, let me be clear-

So, what I meant (and what I said in elided form) was that I want a human in the loop, preferably on stage, during a performance, or it's not, in my humble opinion, music. Rap artists are still performing music, even if they have electronic backup. A cd is still a performance too, but without feedback from me, so it's less musical in that regard. The "music" of a robot playing the violin, programmed by engineers who are justifiably proud of their accomplishment but not interested in the performance of music per se, is not music at all, though there are folks like Pieter who might be fooled by it.

December 16, 2007 at 08:59 PM · I understand what Howerd is saying, so I ask the other(s), "Where does the musician end and the machine begins"?

December 16, 2007 at 09:10 PM · No one's fooled by anything, I'm just not threatened by a robot playing the violin. Like I've said many times, they'll never replace humans and certainly not on the great stages of the world. I said early on that the benefits of this are not musicial, but rather scientific.

I applaud this technology because of what it means for robotics in general. Imagine what this new dexterity can mean for robots deployed to disarm bombs, perform repairs and maintenance on machinery that is dangerous for humans etc.

I wouldn't expect you to understand that Howard, but I'm sure everyone else does.

December 16, 2007 at 09:10 PM · I applaud such advances in robotics too for the very reasons stated above (surgery, bomb disarming, etc.) But since THAT'S why they're developing this technology, why waste all the time and money on a giant party novelty like a violin-playing robot?

Oh, and Pieter, none of us feel "threatened" by this odd invention. Mildly disturbed, annoyed, bewildered and befuddled, but threatened? Come now, you can't think we're all THAT lousy of players.

December 16, 2007 at 09:40 PM · "Mildly disturbed, annoyed, bewildered and befuddled"

Why? I just don't get why a stupid robot playing a violin is so offensive. It's called marketing. The field of robotics is becoming quite a market, making it fair game for large manufacturers like Toyota.

Toyota is trying to establish another arm of its brand. I think everyone with even a quarter of a brain realizes that this is a novelty with no immediate usefulness, but what investment banks, well heeled private investors and the technology market at large gets from this is that Toyota's engineers are highly capable and are looking to the future of robotics. Image and branding is absolutely everything. They have to compete with Motorla and other very powerful companies which are into electronics, cars, and all other kinds of technology. It's one thing to make a press release showing a robot that can perform some highly specialized procedure like going underwater and repairing some little gadget a few hundred feet below surface level, and it's another to do something that everyone in the world can understand and appreciate. That's how you create a buzz, and that's what they want. They don't only want computer geeks and industry insiders to take notice, this was obviously something for the public at large to enjoy.

If you actually find this offensive, then I really think you need to lighten up. See it for what it is.

December 16, 2007 at 09:44 PM · Ihnsouk, Royce, Howard:

I think the creative process of music is generally in the practice room to start. There one determines what one wants to do structurally with the piece, what parts of the music to emphasize and in what way. One practices etudes and scales and passages so that one can technically implement one's artistic ideas.

The performance is different than the practicing room in that ones nerves, the interaction with the audience, the setting changes.

A performance by a robot would be closer to a recording session. Once one has the performance programmed into the robot, it will play the piece the same way regardless if it is in a practice room, or on a stage with 3000 people.

In chess games between computers, people have been astonished to find not only an extremely high level of play, but moves that are so wildly "out there" that chess grandmasters could swear that a creative element was at work.

In chess, the real battle between computers is how good the algorithms and analysis tree pruning techniques are developed by the programmers. If it gets that far with violin-playing robots, the real difference will be how good the interpretation of the musician that is input into the robot is.

Pieter: I think that's exactly where Toyota is trying to go.


If they (Toyota, Sony, Mitsubishi, Daewoo, etc) want to, a robot can likely be developed that will outplay most, if not all, of us.

Going back to the chess analogy, chessplaying computers did not eliminate interest in chess. People acknowledge that computers outplay almost all, if not all, humans at chess. But what computers lack is a personality. What makes chess between people interesting is the sporting aspect of it.

One could take rockets and race them to the moon. They go higher than people. But there is still interest in who can pole vault higher in the Olympic games. And that is because they are performed by people.

December 16, 2007 at 10:00 PM · Oh, Pieter. *You* telling someone to "lighten up" is just priceless.

December 16, 2007 at 10:06 PM · Uhh sorry Mara but you have amassed quite a collection of gems yourself.

December 16, 2007 at 10:03 PM · You two are so cute :-x

December 16, 2007 at 10:22 PM · Now, Data on Star Trek Next Generation - there was a violinist. Or is it there will be a violinist. I'm not sure since it took place in the future.

I will probably never be able to beat my chess computer software but I still enjoy an occasional game. Yet somehow I don't think I would enjoy playing second fiddle to a Data in a string quartet. Too old to change and too old for it to happen in my life time anyway. Then, again, you never know.

December 16, 2007 at 10:34 PM · Terry Hsu and Gary Kroll- DATA is sentiant though, is a soul/having a soul. Can something not 'a soul/has a soul' produce music with soul?

(To ease any confusion, some persons believe that a person "is" a/the soul, and other's that believe persons 'have' a soul. I include both personal beliefs).

Terry, so far, as I gather, the machine can only do what "it" 'is' programed to do. So it's just another vehicle to convey what a "human" programs it to express the 'human' programer. When does the machine cease being a humanbeings mode of artistic expression and it is expressing "its own self" via art through music?

December 16, 2007 at 10:29 PM · Royce,

I don't see how. When I said "you never know" I was being factious.

December 16, 2007 at 11:26 PM · Howard, if he just needs somebody on stage with him, and more input from musicians and less from engineers, that could be easily arranged ;) Anyway, anyone who wants to discover more can google robots together with Computer Music Journal for starters.

Terry, an interesting thing about the chess program is he beats his teachers. How he could consistently do that is obvious. I could imagine the same thing happening in a computer music performance, for basically the same reasons. I think it might all boil down to possibilities - does the human player really have unlimited possibilities, does the computer player really have limited possibilities. In performance. Creativity in humans may be a big illusion (just as the chess program demonstrates an illusion of creativity). We definitely have our own limitations and programming.

December 16, 2007 at 10:43 PM · Gary- Thanks for clearing that up. I could have gone into the episode, "A Measure of A Man". I get to wrapped up into things and take things a bit too literal as well. Sorry about that.

December 17, 2007 at 01:00 AM · Well, don't misunderstand guys- I like the idea of intelligent and dexterous robots, and I was a great fan of Data on STNG. And when we finally really have intelligent robots, I'm sure we will welcome them along with their music as honorary humans, kind of like we do with dogs, or with Pieter.

As for being afraid of Toyota's robot, or befuddled, or any of that, I am not. I was merely commenting that the robot's performance was not music. Let me say again that some day in the not so distant future, we will understand every process and every circuit in the human brain. I think, although the jury is admittedly still out on this, that we'll be able to replicate some or most of that in silicon somehow, so I'm not offended by the stupid robot.

December 17, 2007 at 01:27 AM · HAH normally I'd consider getting offended but seeing who it's comming from, it would be silly to.

December 17, 2007 at 02:04 AM · Vanessa Mae needs to fire her wardrobe person.

December 17, 2007 at 03:21 AM · I hope no one took my prior post seriously.

I think that technology is wonderful when you explore it's possibilities in a creative way. I don't think that using technology to mimic what evolution or God has created inimitable is wonderful at all.

I think there's something behind it that tries to advertise giving someone everything a human being can do for you without having to deal with the human itself. Something akin to an *ahem* sex doll. Those people who put their ambition there evidently think it's wonderful and all to have things so machinized and sterile (and try to impress others with it) but I don't find that all so wonderful. I think it's definitely their loss. Dealing with a human being can be the most torturous process on the one side but on the other it's a most miraculous beautiful experience.

On the other hand, perhaps George Bush would have been better occupied making little robots to work out his messiah complex.

December 17, 2007 at 02:18 AM · "Terry, so far, as I gather, the machine can only do what "it" 'is' programed to do. So it's just another vehicle to convey what a "human" programs it to express the 'human' programer. When does the machine cease being a humanbeings mode of artistic expression and it is expressing "its own self" via art through music? "


I think it would be possible to program a robot/computer to scan a pdf of the score of a piece of music, determine if it was in sonata form or something else, input the appropriate set of subroutines (Beethoven, Mozart, Shostokovich, Phillip Glass, or whatever is the closest approximation), analyze it, run a few algorithms, and execute it in the matter of a minute or less.

The question is whether or not it is "interpreting" the music on it's own or executing the interpretation of the programmer. There is no straightforward answer to that question.

December 17, 2007 at 02:19 AM · Terry, I don't see why not. If they keep going with that particular robot or the idea, I'm sure they could take it pretty far, however I don't think that's their intention, since there's no money in it.

December 17, 2007 at 02:40 AM · Pieter,

No one has a crystal ball on the future. But there is tons and tons of money already being spent on the development of robots. To develop one to play the violin may not take all that much additional effort once it is already learning how to give massages, prepare meals, engage in conversation, receive auditory feedback and respond to it.

As you mentioned, a violin-playing robot could be a fantastic marketing opportunity for some company. There is going to be a fierce battle amongst the big players with big money to be the one to win. Whoever wins will be able to set the standard for how robots will be developed in the future, ala microsoft, beta vs. vhs, playstation vs. xbox, etc etc etc.

Since these robots are increasingly being developed to be companions, I think they are trying to make them appear as "sensitive" as possible. What better way than for them to play the crap out of the violin??

The winner may, or may not, be the best, or the first. It will almost certainly be the one that finds a way into the hearts and minds of purchasers.

December 17, 2007 at 02:57 AM · Terry, I agree, but a robot playing violin will have to be incredibly sophisticated. The tens of thousands of joints and small motions required by the suppleness and dexterity of a great fiddle player suggests that this might be a ways off, but not impossible.

I don't think there's really that much of a market for it, given that the people who could afford it anyways would rather have a human do it.

December 17, 2007 at 03:09 AM · If I had written something for the violin, I would rather have a human being play it that had an organic emotional response to the music. No matter how "badly" they played, I would rather have this to allow the music to be the solace that it can be – I would rather have this than a robot that played "perfectly."

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning
Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases



Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins


Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine