CPU Bach (1993)
Have you ever wanted your own music composer, one that only lived to create new tunes for you? Well, Sid Meier did, too. And possessing skills that mere mortals lack, he set out to create one.
CPU Bach is not a game by any means, nor is it just a software toy.
It is one of the most sophisticated pieces of pure artificial intelligence ever created, both technically and conceptually. What CPU Bach does is to compose pieces of Bach-style music, based on the parameters that you set. The music can be as detailed as the Brandenburg Concertos, or simple, clean, and sparse, depending on how many virtual instruments you choose to use. It's almost like having the ghost of Bach sitting in your living room, furtively cranking out all of the music he was unable to finish in his lifetime.
Design: Sid Meier|
There are many reasons why Sid's brainchild didn't get the accolades that it deserved. The first is philosophical: No matter how much we enjoy being seduced by the rapid march of technology, we still feel uncomfortable when machines encroach on our preconceived notions of what constitutes art. Having a computer program crafting quality pieces of music is as upsetting to most people as a computer defeating Garry Kasparov in a chess match (though the latter admittedly had a bit more press).
|"Civilization had been so successful, it had created this big wave of pressure of "what's Sid going to do next?""|
Philosophical concerns aside, the main reason that CPU Bach never penetrated into the mainstream is that it was only available on the 3DO, a promising platform in 1993, but now clearly defunct. Why the 3DO? Sid, a passionate music lover and occasional composer, was uncomfortable with the PC sound standard, which by this time had defaulted to the lowest common denominator Sound Blaster. Sid wasn't willing to put in the time on the project with the probability that most people would hear the music in 8-bit mono. The Macintosh entertainment market was still miniscule (remember, this was in the pre-Myst era), and the Amiga was already beginning its death throes, so that left only the 3DO (which MicroProse looked to as a new potential source of revenue in any case).
With Sid now at Firaxis, it's unlikely that MicroProse (or anyone else) will ever do a PC version of CPU Bach with 3D sound, or even 16-bit stereo, which is a real shame, because this is potentially one of the great programs to hook the mainstream into computers: Just imagine what would happen if Sid did a CPU Duke Ellington....
Next: Sid Meier's Colonization
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