Abstract

This article focuses on learning the hierarchical structure of what we call a “temporal scenario” (for instance, a chord progression) to perform automatic improvisation consistently over several different time scales. We first present a way to represent hierarchical structures with a phrase structure grammar. Such a grammar enables us to analyze a scenario at several levels of organization, creating a “multilevel scenario.” We then develop a method to automatically induce this grammar from a corpus, based on sequence selection with mutual information. We applied this method to a corpus of transcribed improvisations based on the chord sequence, also with chord substitutions, from George Gershwin's “I Got Rhythm.” From these we obtained multilevel scenarios similar to the analyses performed by professional musicians. We then present a novel heuristic approach, exploiting the multilevel structure of a scenario to guide the improvisation with anticipatory behavior in an improvisation paradigm driven by a factor oracle. This method ensures consistency of the improvisation with regard to the global form, and it opens up possibilities when playing on chords that do not exist in memory. This system was evaluated by professional improvisers during listening sessions and received excellent feedback.

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