artificial intelligence in music

We always knew artificial intelligence would come for us one day. Today might be that day for musicians because here comes artificial intelligence in music.

Two London-based professors Oded Ben-Tal, senior lecturer in music at Kingston University, and Bob Sturm, lecturer in digital media at Queen Mary, University of London, have been working together to create a system that can compose its own traditional Celtic folk music (aka the hottest music genre in the UK right now… I assume). The result is an open source project called “folk-rnn.”

“One way in which A.I. people think about music is as a sequence of notes, and that’s a mistake,” Ben-Tal told Inverse. “Music is a social activity, music is a cultural activity, and I think that’s part of the thing of what interests us.”

Which sounds nice. But it also proves they understand music in a way that will help facilitate the robot takeover.

The pair claim that they created the system not as a replacement for musicians, but instead as an aid to help musicians in their creative process. Which is exactly what they want us to think.

The system so far has “listened to” around 23,000 Celtic folk songs and produced about 3000 of them from what it has “learned.” According to musician Daren Banarsë about one in five of them were “surprisingly good.”

So maybe A.I. will be stealing only 20% of musicians’ jobs.

Nevertheless, the A.I. has proven to be less than fully embraced by composers. In an attempt to assuage concerns about the technology, the robot instructed its creators… oops, I mean the creators without input from the robot at all, decided to organize a show called “Partnerships.” The show was meant to display the capabilities of the A.I. system to work and inspire the human musicians who participated.

Maybe I’m fearmongering. Maybe the A.I. is really just a cool piece of tech that really isn’t going to take over composers jobs and leave us listening to robot music. And based on the audience response, while positive, the compositions that were closer to the original source generated from the A.I. were not as well received.

Maybe the tech isn’t quite ready to take over. But maybe it’s already happening. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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