It has finally happened: Artificial intelligence can now not only create fully coherent songs, but also extended plays (EPs) and long plays/albums (LPs). An AI-focused startup called WaveAI created the app Alysia, where the AI created a 3 song EP. Surely Alysia is not the first experiment of replacing composers with artificial intelligence, and it surely won’t be the last.
There have been many experiments in the past, such as the University of Oregon experiment in 1990s where the audience was played a group of Bach pieces. Amongst the pieces they played, they also sprinkled in AI-generated piece in between. The audience actually could not distinguish between the real Bach pieces and the AI generated one. If you studied a little bit of tonal Harmony and Counterpoint you will understand that writing a piece in the style of Bach is very much based on certain rules that could be formalized. And anything that can be formalized can be imported as an algorithm to AI, which then it can certainly generate whichever content it wants.
Artistically speaking, this is one of the biggest arguments that we need to be mixing different genres and styles together when we’re making music today. Here’s why: If we want to be purists in this day and age, there’s not really a point for doing so, because a computer can recreate a style that’s being asked for. For instance. artificial intelligence can create a rock piece or or a techno piece or if you want a trap hip-hop beat, or a piece in the style of Bach… It can create all of these for you, because any single style today can be put into templates and formulas. However, there is not an algorithm for for synthesizing different musical cultures and styles together. For me personally, AI is a huge blow to music purists and I think when AI is getting so smart in this day in age we need to be focusing on mixing different styles and cultures if we want to keep the human element inside music.
There’s also the other side of this, where some musicians have adopted AI to see what could come out of it. A great example is Brian Eno, who used AI on his recent album Reflection. Mexican composer Ivan Paz created algorithms, which led to his album Visions of Space (such an appropriate title!).
Taryn Southern, who is a “YouTube sensation”, has constructed an album which is entirely composed and produced by artificial intelligence. She uses an open source AI platform called Amper, where one can choose genre, instrumentation, key and speed of the song. The artist can also choose changes in melody, rhythm, instrumentation and many other parameters. She does not have a music background, and she is just a singer; which brings the question – what if AI becomes a crutch rather than a helpful tool to composers? If the first option will become the reality, our future will be dominated by cookie cutter shaped songs and the destruction of certain genres. I don’t want to be dystopian, but we have to think about every possible outcome when thinking about such a big paradigm shift in our lives.
To sum up, we’re living at a time when we’re way past analog-digital dichotomy and we’re in a phase of deciding of not only how much of our music is made my humans, and how much is made my artificial intelligence; but also how much of our music will be based on a single style, and how much of our music will expand and create something new.
As I was writing this, a newscast reported that Christie’s sold a painting done by AI. It was done by three French students who used an algorithm to combine the styles of four different painters. Originally they expected the painting to be sold for somewhere around 7,000 – 10,000 dollars. The painting was sold in an auction for half a million dollars.
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Alper Tuzcu is a Berklee College of Music and Denison University alumni, and a Boston based guitarist, songwriter and producer. His new album ‘Aurora’ was be released on October 19, 2018 and his debut eclectic album ‘Between 12 Waters’ featuring 8 different vocalists is available on Spotify. In addition to being a musician, he regularly teaches workshops and masterclasses internationally. You can follow him on Instagram or Twitter, and for more information you can visit his website www.alpertuzcu.com