The idea of 'generative' music is more involved than simply 'music generated by computers' or 'music generated by algorithm.'

The basic template for a piece of generative music is:
1. Set up a situation in which sound is produced without human interference.
2. Set it in motion.
3. Observe and record the results.

It's the ultimate process-oriented music; as much concerned with indeterminacy as it is with algorithm.

While the trend now is to use computers as instruments for generative work, it's been done in the past with out-of-phase tapes (by Steve Reich), burning prepared piano (by a few different Fluxus artists), the Aeolian Harp (by the ancient Greeks, arguably the first deliberate automatic music machine), etc.

Though I know this may read pretentious to a lot of skeptics, Brian Eno said:
"I feel that with generative music, some people say, "Oh, well, the music isn't made by a human, so it's passionless," but actually it is made by a human. A garden isn't made by a human, but it's planted by one, you know? I feel that generative music means composing at that sort of metalevel of stepping back further and saying, "I'll specify the universe within which this music occurs and the sort of rules with which it will unfold, and then I'll be just like any other spectator and watch it happen."

He's also described generative music as being like a set of wind chimes; constructed specifically by man but then abandoned to produce music on their own, without intervention.

A few composers who have made great works in this mode are:
John Cage
Gottfried Michael Koenig
Steve Reich
Max Matthews
Brian Eno
Terry Riley
Robert Rich

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