Preview of “Chicken Bits and Bits and Bobs”

The upcoming concert will see many new works, most of which have been composed by or co-composed with “musically intelligent” computers. One of these works is “Chicken Bits and Bits and Bobs”, which I composed from output generated by an early version of our folk-rnn system. After training the system, we had it generate 72,376 new transcriptions. More than half of these can be auditioned at The Endless Traditional Music Session.

In preparation for a presentation about our music transcription modeling work in December, I looked through this 21 MB text file for examples of where the system fails miserably. That’s when I came across the following output. It looks like a very promising example of failure:

T: Chicken
M: 9/8
L: 1/8
K: Amix
|: {cd}A2 e {a}c2 e {g}B2 {G}d | {gdd}B2 {g}d {g}c2 e {gdd}B2 A | {gef}e2 g {d}e2 {g}c {g}AGa | {a}gB{A}B {g}BG{d}B {e}B2 :|
|: d | {d}c2 c {g}e2 d cBA | {g}A2 e {g}e2 {f}c e2 {B}c | {g}cBc e2 A {a}dBd | ded {c}dcB {g}c2 c :|
|: d{g}e{a}d e2 g fdc | {g}Bd{d}d d2 A {e}d2 c | {g}ded {g}c2 d {e}e2 d | {g}c{d}c{e}c {g}cde {g}c2 d |
~e3 {g}ddc {g}BdB | {g}cde {g}edc {g}Bd{g}A | {g}B{d}A{d}A {g}e3 {g}edc | {a}dBc {g}d2 d {g}e2 :|
g | {g}f{g}d{G}e {g}fed {g}BG{A}G| {g}Bd{a}d {g}ea{g}a ged | {a}B {c}A2 {g}gdB {g}ed{d}c | {g}Bdd {g}dBG {eB}BAG |
|: {g}cBA {g}Aga {g}e2 d | {G}de{f}e {g}dBG eA{B}d | {g}fe{G}f g{g}e{g}f ga{a}g | {g}fGA ABc {g}B2 d :|
|: A{g}f{g}f {g}d{g}e{f}e {g}e2 d | {g}Bc{A}d {g}edc {g}B{d}d{e}B | {g}A{d}A{e}A {f}gfe {d}e2 g | {g}ed{G}B {g}B{c}B{G}A {G}B2 d :|
|: ddd gdB {g}gdB | d{d}d{e}d {g}ecA {g}efe | {g}cGe {g}ed{A}d gd f | {g}eG{G}G {G}AAB g (3GGG :|
|: {e}ABe {g}edB {g}edB | {g}AB{B}c {e}dBG ~B2 e | {g}B{d}B{e}B {gf}g2 d {a}dBG | {g}A{A}B{G}A {g}ABd {g}e2 d |
{g}ce{g}e {G}ef{g}e d2 d | {g}edB {d}AB{G}A {G}c2 A | {g}B{c}B{e}B {g}BG{G}B {g}dBf | {g}cBA {g}AGA ||
:    A{d}A{e}A {G}B2 G | {g}Ade {g}ege | {g}c{d}c{e}c {g}BGB | {g}Bd{G}d {g}edB |

The system has titled the work itself (of its 72,376 transcriptions, the word “Chicken” appears in 88). The transcription is atypically long, and (over)uses many grace notes. It’s form is odd. There are many miscounted measures. Here’s what it looks like in staff notation.


“Chicken” actually appears in the 35,000 tunes of the Endless Traditional Music Session. Have a listen to the synthesis of this miserable output:

The first thing I noticed when I heard that is myself saying, “Well I’ll be, if that doesn’t sound like chickens to me!” That got me to thinking, and that got me to composing. Can I make sense of what the system has generated?

My composition, “Chicken Bits and Bits and Bobs”, is in two parts (the score is here). The “Chicken Bits” part is essentially an arrangement of what the system has generated. That is where I try to make sense of it, staying as true as I can to the system’s “voice”. The second part, “Bits and Bobs”, involves playing around with those generated materials in different ways, but bringing much more of my own voice to interpret them.

Here is a synthesised excerpt from the first part of “Chicken Bits and Bits and Bobs”. (It is MIDI, rendered by Sibelius, so has limited musical quality; but it gives a good idea.)

The second part is much more of a surprise. You’ll have to wait and hear!

The kind of co-creation exemplified by “Chicken Bits and Bits and Bobs” is a rather one-way process of composition. The system generated material, and I then curated from it. I didn’t return to ask questions, like, How would you continue from here? I felt I had enough material to get started, and just continued on from there in what felt like a natural way. I started by composing parts of the “Bits and Bobs” bit, however. Then I returned to score the “Chicken Bits”. It had to all come together by a certain time, however. This pressure helped me make decisions that I would have spent days to make.

In the end, so far, I am pleased with the work. There will certainly be tweaks to make after I learn about the physical limitations of real instruments and instrumentalists! But I am sure I haven’t said all I want to say about chickens. I will continue my explorations of this most rich subject.


2 thoughts on “Preview of “Chicken Bits and Bits and Bobs”

  1. Pingback: Preview of “March to the Mainframe” | High Noon GMT

  2. Pingback: Preview of “The Humours of Time Pigeon” | High Noon GMT

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