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Counterpoint by Convolution

Tim Cooijmans
Aaron Courville
Proceedings of ISMIR 2017


Machine learning models of music typically break down the task of composition into a chronological process, composing a piece of music in a single pass from beginning to end. On the contrary, human composers write music in a nonlinear fashion, scribbling motifs here and there, often revisiting choices previously made. We explore the use of blocked Gibbs sampling as an analogue to the human approach, and introduce COCONET, a convolutional neural network in the NADE family of generative models (Uria et al., 2016). Despite ostensibly sampling from the same distribution as the NADE ancestral sampling procedure, we find that a blocked Gibbs approach significantly improves sample quality. We provide evidence that this is due to some conditional distributions being poorly modeled. Moreover, we show that even the cheap approximate blocked Gibbs procedure from Yao et al. (2014) yields better samples than ancestral sampling. We demonstrate the versatility of our method on unconditioned polyphonic music generation.

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