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Math Trek

Mozart's Melody Machine

By
11:25am, August 23, 2001

Music publishing was a thriving trade during the latter part of the 18th century in Europe. Publishers vied with one another to print the works of the latest "hot" composer. Many of them looked for novel ways to entice new customers into their music shops.

One such ploy was to publish systems that would allow any amateur to compose music without having to know the techniques or rules of composition. The London music publisher Welcker, for example, issued a "Tabular System whereby the Art of Composing Minuets is made so easy that any person, without the least Knowledge of Musick, may compose ten thousand, all different, and in the most pleasing and correct Manner."

Many of these schemes involved using dice or other randomizers to select musical fragments from an array of choices. Composer Johann Philipp Kirnberger (1721–1783), a former pupil of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–

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