What do you do if you have two degrees in music and three in electrical engineering? If you’re Diana Dabby MS ’91 PhD ’95, you use those skills to invent an online program that allows anyone to create endless variations of any music, from Beethoven to Lady Gaga.
Dabby’s program is CantoVario, a free, web-based tool with eight different techniques for composers, musicians, and music lovers to generate a different version of a recorded song. Those variations, Dabby says, “can be very close to the original piece, almost mutate beyond recognition, or achieve degrees of variability between those two extremes.” One of the eight techniques, which are based on the mathematics of chaos theory, was the subject of Dabby’s MIT doctoral thesis.
Dabby, an associate professor of electrical engineering and music at Olin College, emphasizes that “you don’t use CantoVario to write a piece.” Instead, starting with a compelling piece, “you can go on a journey with that piece to someplace new and perhaps even unimagined.” In fact, Dabby has used herself as a guinea pig, applying CantoVario to her own compositions and demonstrating both the originals and variations at invited concerts and lectures.
“CantoVario is very hard to describe in words; it’s something you need to listen to,” concludes Dabby, who is also affiliated with MIT’s Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems. “After every concert people invariably say, ‘Oh. This was nothing like I was expecting,’ because you have to hear it.”
Read Dabby’s technical paper, “Musical variations from a chaotic mapping”.