– Great song, who’s that? – AI.
“Music that listens to you” (AI music) ‚ “We’re developing musical artificial intelligence to build tools for creative people” (Jukedeck). „AI music composer – create the prefect soundtrack for your VR game” (Amper). These are different start-ups’ slogans, but have one mission in common – to revolutionize music business as possibly no technology did before as we’re entering the age when artificial intelligence and art collide. Who will be the beneficiary of this revolt, what are the drawbacks and is this right direction? As questions are piling up, I suggest taking a little step back first.
Music, “among man’s first cultural expressions” (Assis, 39), has a long history of evolution that was being constantly challenged by innovative technologies. Starting with phonograph, first audio recording device, introduced in 1877 by Thomas Edison (Assis, 40), through invention of standardized compact discs, ending up with streaming platforms that revolutionized music industry of our times, such inventions were always welcomed with ambiguous feelings.
What I found more interesting though is the fact that first notions of analytical and automated solutions in music can be traced back to ancient times, when Pythagoras believed that “music and mathematics were not separate studies” (Papadopoulos and Wiggins, 1) or 19th century when English mathematician Ada Lovelace suggested creation of “Analytical Machine which could be programmed to solve even the most complex problems, like writing music” (Gutierrez).
As Libby Plummer from WIRED claims, “music has always been at the cutting edge of technology so it’s no surprise that artificial intelligence and machine learning are pushing its boundaries”, shall we discuss about AI-based music compositions as revolution or perhaps a natural consequence in its evolution? As much as I would love to decide which side to support, current AI technologies in its complexity don’t make it easy.
There are different ways of how artificial intelligence can affect the music production or reception; it all depends on primary aims of technology and different actor perspectives. Amper, on of the field’s leading start-ups pitches themselves “as a fast, affordable and royalty-free way to create the music for more “functional” projects (like commercials a or short online videos)” (Amper) and as their CEO claims: “One of our core beliefs as a company is that the future of music is going to be created in the collaboration between humans and AI. We want that collaborative experience to propel the creative process forward” (Ha).
Thanks to their technology first fully AI-composed album was released by Taryn Southern, with leading song ‘Break Free’ in which, “contrary to the other songs that have been released by AI composers, the chord structures and instrumentation are entirely the work of Amper’s AI” (Galeon). For Taryn, the only work required to compose the song were the manual inputs regarding rhythm and song’s style. As an experienced musician with working with AI, Taryn emphasized that especially for starting musicians, AI can be a very helpful way to decrease costs of studio production and let them experiment more.
Jukedeck, another AI technology company, similarly to Amper, with allows users “just select the mood, style, tempo and length, and Jukedeck returns a unique song to match their short film, YouTube series or 6-second Vine” (Constine). No talent required, all with just one click of a button and, as start-up’s creators argue, “A couple of years ago, AI wasn’t at the stage where it could write a piece of music good enough for anyone. Now it’s good enough for some use cases” (Dredge), emphasizing another perspective AI composed music – saviour for parties in need of music for background of their core business. As some specialists in the business argue, AI shift in music can be compares to Instagram democratisation of photography – in both areas everybody can try to become professional now (Plummer). Question remains, should music composing be for everybody?
It is worth pointing out that not every AI music start-up aims at using the technology to produce new music. Before mentioned AI Music explains that their on-going work will focus on “shaping-changing existing songs to match the context they are being listened to in” (Dredge), what includes tempo adjustments and remixing. Despite of all the beautiful promises of AI music inventors, some hesitance still remains – as ‘consumers’ we always crave to be served the best possible products, in this case – original, creative music pieces. But can computers actually be intrinsically creative to provide us what we want?
Most of human beings would like to automatically reject the thought that creativity can become the domain of computer. We like to think of it as one of the most unique characteristics of mankind, however there are multiple researches in the field that try to challenge this convention and see if computers really can replace human factor in art. In order to do this, creativity as such has to be defined, and this may be the most difficult task, and although Margaret A. Boden doesn’t find a clear answer, she points out that “computational ideas can help us to understand how human creativity is possible” (17). Flipping this perspective to see AI as creativity booster instead of replacement, backs up Freya Murray from Google Arts & Culture Lab, as she claims “Some will collaborate with machine learning, others will use it as a tool and for others it will be their creative process and that’s the case throughout the history of art” (Plummer).
Lopez de Mantras claims that there is no reason why we shouldn’t accept computers as creative, he points out that “it is a moral but not a scientific issue” (9) that comes from general social rejection or AI interfering in presumably human domains. In one of Boden’s further researches, she confirms that “some H-creative (historically-creative) ideas have already been generated by AI-programs and transformational AI-originality is only just beginning” (355).
It may be hard to accept, but apparently AI technologies proved themselves to either act as a creative toolkit for musicians or simply can produce music on their own which is potentially indistinguishable from human-produced compositions. This is however a very new field of exploration and only with time we will be able to understand how the future of music is being transformed, both for musicians and listeners. New, revolutionary technologies always cause uncertainty and ambiguous feelings among general public, but as Mark Mulligan, music industry consultant agues: “AI may never be able to make music good enough to move us in the way human music does. Why not? Because making music that moves people – to jump up and dance, to cry, to smile – requires triggering emotions and it takes an understanding of emotions to trigger them” (Dredge). What do our emotion tell us now, should we be worried or excited? I commit to stay simply curious.
Assis, Paulo. ‘A Brief Overview of the Evolution of Musical Technology: Promises and Risks for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions’. Diversity of cultural expressions in the digital era. Teseopress.com, 2005.
Papadopoulos, George, and Wiggins, Geraint. AI Methods for Algorithmic Composition: A Survey, a Critical View and Future Prospects. University of Edinburgh, 1999.
Gutierrez, Daniel. ‘Artifical Musician Builds New Melodies without music theory’. Inside Big Data, 2017, https://insidebigdata.com/2017/07/08/artificial-musician-builds-new-melodies-without-music-theory/
Ha, Anthony. ‘Amper raises $4M to use AI to write music’. TechCrunch, 2016, https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/02/amper-funding/
Galeon, Dom. ‘The World’s First Album Composed and Produced by an AI Has Been Unveiled’. Futurism, 2017, https://futurism.com/the-worlds-first-album-composed-and-produced-by-an-ai-has-been-unveiled/
Constine, Josh. ‘Need Music For A Video? Jukedeck’s AI Composer Makes Cheap, Custom Soundtracks’. TechCrunch, 2015, https://techcrunch.com/2015/12/07/jukedeck/
Dredge, Stuart. ‘AI and music: will we be slaves to the algorithm?’ The Guardian, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/aug/06/artificial-intelligence-and-will-we-be-slaves-to-the-algorithm
Plummer, Libby. ‘AI and machine learning will make everyone a musician.’ Wired, 2017, https://www.wired.co.uk/article/how-ai-and-machine-learning-are-shaping-the-future-of-music
Boden, Margaret A. The creative mind. Myths and mechanisms. Routlegde, 2004.
Lopez de Mantras, Ramon. ‘Making Music with AI: Some examples’. Rob Milne: A tribute to a Pioneering AI Scientist, Entrepreneur and Mountaineer. IOS Press, 2006.
Boden, Margaret A. ‘Creativity and artificial intelligence’. Artificial Intelligence – Special issue: artificial intelligence 40 years later, vol. 103, Aug. 1998, pp. 347 – 356. Elsevier Science Publishers Ltd., doi: 10.1016/S0004-3702(98)00055-1.
AI Music. 2018. https://www.aimusic.co.uk/.
Jukedeck. 2018. https://www.jukedeck.com/.
Amper Music. 2018. https://www.ampermusic.com/.