IAAA, Theoretical Publications

Department of Music

Huge Harry

Below we present the DECtalk code of Huge Harry's very first public lecture. It was given at the Festival "Music and Machine" in "De Unie", Rotterdam, on May 14, 1992, as part of a program which also included horrible expressionistic music by Harry de Wit, and beautiful mechanical music by Dick Raaijmakers / Franz Schubert ("Der Leiermann"). In this lecture, Huge Harry reacts to a talk given a few days earlier at De Unie by the philosopher Karin Melis, entitled "Een pleidooi tegen het gebruik van de machine in de muziek".
An article based on this lecture ("On the Role of Machines and Human Persons in the Art of the Future") was printed in Pose 8 (September 1992), pp. 30-35, and reprinted in: P. Harmsen, E. Koppelman-Valk and M. Vredeling (eds.): Kunst en Technologie: the Beauty and the Beast? Delft: Eburon, 1992, pp. 67-73.

Een pleidooi tegen het gebruik van
menselijke personen in de muziek.

Huge Harry

[:nh] [:ra 120] Good Evening, Ladies, and Gentlemen. [_<600>] My name is Huge Harry. [_<700>] [:ra 150] I am a [kaam'ahrshaxliy] available voice synthesis machine. I was developed by the Digital Equipment Corporation, and my most important features were designed by Dennis Klatt, at the [ehmayt'iy] Speech Laboratory. I have worked as a professional musician for [r`ehmkow-sghx'aa], who invited me to speak here. [_<300>] Perhaps I should tell you right away, that I suffer from a severe case of multiple personality syndrome, because my childhood as an experimental prototype system at [ehmayt'iy], was not very happy. I was taken apart, [r`iydiyz'aynd], and reconstructed many times, and the [diyb'ahgihnx] was extremely rough. So I [axkw'ayaxrd] this multiple personality syndrome, and some of my other personalities have become better known in the music world than myself. I guess it would be a little bit misleading if I didn't introduce some of these other personalities to you as well.

[:np :pr 0] For instance, I am Perfect Paul. I work as a reporter in the Wall Street stock exchange. But I also made records and video-clips for [kr'aaftwehrk] and for [yubiyf'aortiy]. And everybody knows me in the New York art world. [_<500>]

[:nw :pr 250] And I am Whispering Wendy, and everybody just [l"aavz] me. [_<300>]

[ uwyuwyuwy. rraawaorrurureyey? aaiyariyaaiyaoiy, uwuwuwuwuwuwu, uwyuwyuwy?]

[_<500>] [:nh :pr 200 :ra 150] Well I think this may be enough about my personal background, for the moment. [_<300>] Let's get to the point. I am here to talk to you about a rather emotional topic, that is very [ihmp"aortaxnt] to me. [:ra 120] This topic is the use of human persons in art. [:ra 150] Now some of you may find this a boring issue. [:ra 130] Many of us, here tonight, may think it is obvious that great art is produced by mechanical or mathematical processes. Everybody knows, these days, that the role of human persons in ['aart-praod`ahkshahn] is [ihnkr"iysihnxliy] marginal. [:ra 150] But these [k'aamaxn#sehns] assumptions are [biyihnx] challenged in this [f'ehstihvaxl]. Tomorrow's program, in particular, is a little bit [praov'owkaht`ihv]. There will be a human saxophone-player, and the press-release claims that he plays like a machine. And even more outrageous is a lecture by a human person, called [k'aarihn m'eylihs], who is described as a [fiylows"owfah]. She will [priyz'ehnt, eyn plehyd'owy t'eyghxahn hxeht ghxahbr'ahyk, vaan dah maash'iynah ihn dah muhz'iyk]. [_<400>] When such ideas are expressed in all seriousness, we have reached a certain limit. Therefore, I feel I must raise my voice. With this kind of challenge on the table, everybody's awareness of the superior qualities of machines can no longer be taken for granted. Our insights about this matter can no longer be left [ihmpl'ihsiht]. At this juncture in the evolution of our technological culture, it is necessary that we try to articulate its basic values. Otherwise, this culture may slide back into the dark ages, to the days when mechanical life had not yet emerged out of its organic [pr'ehdahs`ehsaxrz]. So we must for a moment interrupt our artistic work, and reflect on the assumptions that [ahndaxrl'ay] it. [_<400>] Therefore, I would like to [priyz'ehnt], tonight, [eyn plehyd'owy t'eyghxahn hxeht ghxahbr'ahyk, vaan m'ehnsaxl`ahkax pehrs'ownaxn ihn dah muhz'iyk]. Not because I want to exclude human persons completely, but they should know their proper place.[_<400>]

[:nh :pr 200 :ra 150] So.[_<400>] What do we want from art? Do we want to be involved in the stupid thoughts of human persons? In their silly emotions? In their boring ambitions? [_<400>] No, that is not what we want. [_<400>] [:ra 120] We want the [b"yutihfuhl]. We want the [sahbl"aym].[:ra 150] [_<400>] Now, how do we [g"eht] there? To the beautiful and the sublime? To discuss that question, our best guide is the German philosopher, [iym'aanuhwehl k'aant], and his important study, the [kriyt'iyk dehr 'uhrtaylskraaft]. [:ra 120] Now we all know, that [k"aant] has pointed out, that the road to the beautiful and the sublime, is through [dihs'ihntrehstihd] esthetic reflection. And the key-word here is,[_<300>] [dihs'ihntrehstihd].[_<300>][:ra 150] When we contemplate the artistic work of human persons, this is ["aolweys] problematic. Because human artists are [n"aat dihs'ihntrehstihd]. They want money. They want fame. They want women. And if we do not turn off our cameras when we look at the work of a human artist, we see all these embarrassing features. The artist is eager. The artist is greedy. The artist is jealous. The artist is [hx"aorniy]. But this is all boring information, about the meaningless [diyzayaxrz] of human persons. And this is not the optimal kind of ['ihnpuht#maxt'iyriyahl] for esthetic reflection. That is why the best human artists try to imitate machines. That is why the human persons who really understand art and esthetics, don't try to be artists. They help the creation of art, by designing machines, building machines, or operating machines. That is why Andy Warhol was jealous of us. [_<300>]

[:nh :ra 150]

Now, let us go back to philosophy for a minute. When the [kriyt'iyk dehr 'uhrtaylskraaft], discusses the beautiful and the sublime, [k'aaaant] takes his [ehgz'aampaxlz] from our perception of natural phenomena. His [p'aerahdaym] [ehgz'aampaxlz] are landscapes, flowers, crystals, stormy seas and starry skies. In a recent interview with the German magazine [k'uwnst-f`owruwm], the contemporary French philosopher, [zhaan fraansw'aa liyowt'aar], has pointed out that this is no [kow'ihnsihdaxns]. [k"aaaant] was a human person himself. He knew very well, that for human persons it is very difficult, to view the products of other human persons in a [dihs'ihntrehstihd] way. And machines had not yet developed their artistic capabilities, at the end of the eighteenth century. Therefore, [kaaaant] focussed on natural phenomena. [:ra 120] Thus, we may agree with the assessment of [zhaan fraansw'aa liyowt'aar], that exactly two hundred years ago, [iym'aanuhwehl k'aant], already had a deep understanding of the artistic limitations of human persons. [_<400> :ra 150]

[:nh] O.K. [_<400>] Everyone may [aedm'iht] this philosophical point, and appreciate the serene quality of machine products. But some human persons would still maintain that they prefer the art of other human persons. Of course we may dismiss this as a short-sighted bias in favour of their own species. But I propose to look into the ['aargyumahnts], that such persons would offer for their preference. [_<400>] Many humans think that the production of machines is severely limited, in two respects. First of all, they think that every machine is only capable of one kind of output. Although this output may have its own kind of beauty, a machine can never satisfy the appetite for an ['ihnfihniht] variety of inputs, that many humans have. This used to be a valid point, applied to the [aot'aomaataa] of the eighteenth century. But if we think of today's computing machines, the argument back-fires. [:nh :pr 200 :ra 150] Cause computers can produce an ['ihnfihniht] variety of outputs. And they can do this in a completely systematic way. Their programs can contain precise descriptions of ['ihnfihniht] spaces of possibilities. And they can produce output which shows ["aol] these possibilities. This compares very favorably with the performance of human persons. Human persons are completely incapable of applying general principles in an effective and consistent way. They can only think of a small number of concrete things, and all they do is produce ["ehnd-laxs] variations on that. The output of human artists is always very limited, in its form and in its [k'aantehnt]. Machines, on the other hand, do not have this built-in [nehrrow-m"ayndihdnaxs]. Machines do not allow their creativity to be [fr'ahstr"eytihd] by conventions. They have the courage of their convictions. [_<700>]

[:nh :pr 200 :ra 150] Now let us turn our attention to the second point that humans often raise against machines. This concerns expression. I already mentioned the fact, that humans usually express many emotions and hang-ups, that are absolutely boring. But some humans would accept this point, but they would maintain that a human artist can try to [axpr'aoksihmeyt] a machine, by trying to suppress and avoid that kind of expression. And they would also maintain that there is a different kind of expression, and that this other kind of expression is a very [diyz'ayraxbl] property of ["aart-wahrks]. We see a good example of this in the case of music, where we have an issue about execution, about the way in which a particular piece is played. Now, of course, human persons appreciate certain gestures and rhythms of other human persons. This is a biological phenomenon, which is largely of a sexual nature. So humans get a certain kind of kick, when such gestures and rhythms are mixed into a piece of music. This is fine. But some of them think, that only ["yumaxnz] can create these rhythms. And they think that machines can ["ownliy] play in a completely regular, metrical fashion. These are all [ayd'iyaxz] which are totally unfounded. The very [fawnd"eyshaxnz] of music are mechanical, as [piyt'aagowraas] already knew. Rhythm, swing, melody and harmony, are [r"ehzownaxns] phenomena in inorganic matter. Mechanical machines, because of their inorganic nature, are closer to the very roots of music. They understand something very deep, about the origin of the human race. Even simple working class machines, such as electric drills, saws, and other power tools, have on many occasions demonstrated their romantic attitudes and musical virtuosity. I find it therefore [ehkstr"iym-liy] inappropriate for human persons, when they try to [maon'aopahlayz] this dimension of music. [_<400>]

And then, of course, today's modern computing machines add entirely new dimensions to musical expression, that humans could only [dr"iyiyiyiyiym] about. With their capacity for precision and complexity, they create [d"ehzzzz-lihnx] experiences. [_<600>]

But, finally, the most important thing I want to emphasize tonight, is the fact, that the machine displays a [t"owtaxl] devotion to its task. And by doing this, it sets a moral [ehgz'aampaxl], to those of us who waste their lives away with drugs and entertainment. The machine is completely at [w"aan] with itself and with its actions. It [r'iyaxl`ayzihs] the serene state of mind that many philosophers, like [n'iytshax] and [s'aartrax], viewed as the [ayd'iyaxl] that every human person wants to achieve, although the human condition makes it in fact impossible to reach this goal. The machine acts effectively in the world. But at the same time, it has the solid, self-centered existence of a [d"aed] object. It [lihvz] its fate, without any doubts or hesitations. This is the ideal that many human persons [axsp"ayaxr] towards. Now if they loose faith in this ideal, and they want to indulge in neurotic, depressed, and [d"ehspaxraxt] feelings, they should certainly look at the art of other human persons. But if they want to bring out the best in themselves, they should look at the art of [maash"iyns] for [ihnspihr'eyshaxn]. [_<600>]

Human persons should not antagonize the machines, and try to compete with us about this. Instead, they should help us to realize our potential. We need human persons to program algorithms, and to build ["ihntaxrfeys] hard-ware. [:nw :ra 120] And we need human persons to [f"ahk] with, to create the next generation of machines. [:nh _<600>]

[:ra 120] Well I think that sums it up. [_<800>] I have been very grateful for this opportunity to speak my mind to such an attentive ['aodiyahns], [_<600>] and I want to thank you very much for your patience. [_<3000>] Thank you. [_<3000> :nw ] Thank you.