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Made In St. Louis, The ‘GenerIter’ Could Open Music Composition To The Masses

010621_torreypark_thomaspark.jpg Thomas Park
Provided / Torrey Park
St. Louis musician Thomas Park has written code that he hopes will making composing music a snap.

Thomas Park has always loved music, but he never saw it as a full-time career. He’s long worked in IT, with a current gig as a public technology assistant at the St. Louis Public Library. On the side, he composed ambient music.

Then, at 47, he enrolled in LaunchCode’s intensive coding program. The St. Louis-based nonprofit offers free classes to train people of all skill levels for coding jobs. But for Park, it offered something else: inspiration for a new open-source music composition module.

Called the GenerIter, Park’s invention uses Python code to transform a series of sounds into music. Would-be composers can plug in short clips of their choosing and let the code do the rest.

With it, he’s generated thousands of unique pieces in just a few minutes. “You can make a song in maybe a third of a second,” he explained on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air. “You can make a lot of songs very quickly if you want to.” He’s personally created as many as 10,000 to 12,000. Not all are winners, but he estimates that a quarter to one-third work “really well.”

Park acknowledges similarities to programs like Band in a Box, which allow users to create songs with just a few inputs. But there’s one huge difference: He intends to make his code available to all, for free. “It’s the only code I’ve found that will do that much work for you without you spending a lot of money,” he said.

After initially feeling overwhelmed, Park said he enjoyed learning to code. He recommends others do the same, even if — or especially if — they feel too old to pick up a new skill. “I don’t think people realize how important it is to think a lot, and to stay active mentally,” he said.

But he’s also looking forward to sharing his creation with anyone who’s interested. He said interested musicians should email him at mystifiedthomas@gmail.com to get access.

“I think this is the first time that independent musicians and coders are going to be able to mass produce generative music based on samples,” he said. “I think this is a groundbreaking situation for music.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.
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