OK…computer?

The Music Editor considers the future with the advent of AI-composed pop music

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

In observing the lightning-paced changes in technology over the past few years such as the rise of app-based conveniences and the emergence of self-driving cars, it is very clear that the future has crept up on us fast.

With traditional professions like engineering, medicine and even law being gradually swallowed up by the advent of computer-programming and exponentially increasing AI technology, the world of art has smugly tried to convince both the world and themselves that they are separate from this technological revolution, yet as we have recently seen, this is not the case.

Jangling with the harmonies and throwaway psychedelic lyrics of The Beatles, Sony CSL Research Laboratory have written the first ever AI composed pop-song, ‘Daddy’s Car’. Arranged by feeding over 13,000 lead sheets featuring melodies and chord diagrams that imitate the style of world famous artists into the AI Flow Machines software, ‘Daddy’s Car’ has caused a peculiar reaction to this incredibly futuristic and Kubrick-esque sensation.

Objectively, it’s a great track featuring floating John Lennon style vocals and pop-hooks aplenty as well as experimental reversed breaks and warbles, but it just feels a tad strange to know the backstory.

Now, the Flow Machines software isn’t technically playing or producing the tracks; that is done by French composer and arranger Benoît Carré who receives the sheet music from the AI before writing the lyrics and playing the physical instruments, but there is a peculiar sense of perfection that feels somehow unhuman.

Cynicism aside, having computers compose music for us may open up completely new and left-field options for experimentation

Here positives may emerge though. Cynicism aside, having computers compose music for us may open up completely new and left-field options for experimentation.

While the human brain may only be able to imagine and create art based on experience and memory, a computer has an infinitely expanding database that unlike humans, doesn’t forget information.

This allows for songs like ‘Daddy’s Car’ to sound almost exactly like a Beatles tune by being able to research the style of music, process it and create a variation similar yet distinct from the information it was built from.

Yet, that all sounds a bit false to me. I’m a soppy art lover who believes that the beauty of art is in its innate humanity and by having a computer create that is almost blasphemous.

Sure, technology is going to make our lives easier and faster and more convenient and for a lot of people, infinitely better, but maybe for things like music or literature or visual art, they should be left to human hands rather than robotic ones.

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