Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 August 2019
This chapter investigates digital technologies that variously assist, enable or simulate musical praxis. The first section sets up an opposition between the idea of the digital tool that augments human agency, and the machinic automatism predicated on the idea that reality is fundamentally number (dataism) and ticks along without the need for human consciousness. This gives rise to the idea that mechanical automatism is also intrinsic to human agency, a strand of posthuman thought on which the rest of the chapter turns. Accordingly, the second section shows how posing algorithmic composition as an expression of the posthuman is problematic. The final section focuses on the synthetic voices of digital assistants from online service providers that generate empathy at the price of a surrogate ‘conscience’. Accommodating this within a humanistic model is possible, but a closing case study of Tod Machover’s futurist opera, Death and the Powers (2010), raises the prospect of what might be called a ‘dark ontology’ of the digital.