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AI Artist Spotlight: David Cope

David Cope is one of America’s most influential authors, composers, and scientists. What truly made him stand apart is his contribution to the advancement of artificially composed music. 

Many companies and researchers that work in music composition are still leveraging Cope’s theoretical and practical advancement in music production. Cope’s work has made him rise to AI artist notoriety among the ranks of text-to-art AI artists and other media innovators such as Wayne McGregor and Robbie Barrat.


Wayne David was born in 1941 in San Francisco, California. As a composer, his work has encompassed numerous styles, and includes unconventional composition methods and even experimental musical instrument utilisation. His original compositions have recently been written with the aid of artificial intelligence, based on input from his previous work. 

Cope has published numerous books. The most notable literary work is New Directions in Music, first published in 1971. In 2009, he received media attention around the release of a CD that contained music composed by Cope and Emily Howell, a computer program he developed in the 1990s.

David created Experiments in Music Intelligence and teaches students at the annual Workshop in Algorithmic Computer Music (WACM), which is held in Santa Cruz.

Notable AI Projects

Throughout his career, David has focused on finding an optimal solution for composing songs. He noticed that the secret was not in developing software based on rules, but in developing software based on data. 

Experiments in Music Intelligence

Experiments in Music Intelligence (EMI) is essentially grounded across three principles, the base of which are used to this day for artificial music composition.

  • First: Deconstruction, in which music compositions are analysed and spread into parts
  • Second: The signatures that identify commonalities and characterise styles of a genre or composer
  • Third: Compatibility, which recombines the pieces, patterns, and styles to create original works

After this, more than 11,000 songs were created through artificial means. Emily Howell features an interactive interface that can enable musical and linguistic communication. Through the process of encouraging or discouraging this program, Cope aims to essentially teach it to compose music.

He does not view EMI as a composer, but rather as a tool that composers might utilise in their work. According to Cope, these programs are nothing magical–just basic addition and simple math. 

“​​Of course, simply breaking a musical work into smaller parts and randomly combining them into new orders almost certainly produces gibberish,” Cope noted. “Effective recombination requires extensive musical analysis and very careful recombination to be effective at even an elemental level, no less the highly musical level of which I dreamed.”

The Future of Music

David Cope is an artist with a goal and vision that, combined with passion, allowed him to produce thousands of AI-generated songs that are appreciated and regularly researched by modern composers. 

“Since the early days of Experiments in Musical Intelligence, many audiences have heard its output in the styles of classical composers,” Cope said of his work. “The works have delighted, angered, provoked, and terrified those who have heard them. I do not believe that the composers and audiences of the future will have the same reactions. Ultimately, the computer is just a tool with which we extend our minds.”

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