Juan Vassallo: Versificator: Algorithmic poetry and music composition

The piece “Versificator” for vocal ensemble is conceived as a metaphor for and a manner of bringing alive the original versificator, a fictional device created by George Orwell in the novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (1949) whose primary purpose is to act as an automated generator for both literature and music. The core of the piece consists of a set of modular text and music generators programmed in Max MSP: The produced text mimics the nature of English language by means of an algorithm capable of determining formal rules according to parameters defined a priori, such as rhyme, alliteration and number of syllables or words per verse; later, a set of computer-assisted compositional tools will generate musical discourse by analyzing the generated text and extracting phonetic information and translating it into musical elements, such as pitches and durations. The work aims to bring the discussion about machine agency in the creation of art, pondering on some relevant inquiries about artificial intelligence, computer-assisted generative tools for art, and ultimately on the question of human agency on the process, which -in the words of Benner (2010)- remains ‘something of a mystery’, and therefore, since the essence or the basis of agency is not well understood in humans, there are no a priori reason to deny agency to non-humans, such as machines or algorithms.


Juan Vassallo (BMus, MA) is an argentine composer, pianist and media artist. Currently he is pursuing his PhD in Artistic Research at the University of Bergen (Norway). His music has been premiered internationally and awarded on competitions in France, China and Argentina. Currently integrates “Azul 514”, an experimental musical project based on the interaction between digital sound synthesis, instrumental improvisation and real-time processing of sound.