Sónar+D 2017: AI and machine learning will make everyone a musician

Bjork performing at Sónar 2017 (Santiago Felipe/Sónar+D)

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.

As AIs that can carry out elements of the creative process continue to evolve, should artists be worried about the machines taking over? Probably not, says Douglas Eck, research scientist at Google’s Magenta.

“Musicians and artists are going to grab what works for them and I predict that the music that will be made will be misunderstood by many people,” Eck, told WIRED at Sónar+D, a showcase of music, creativity and technology held this week in Barcelona.

At the event, which is twinned with the Sónar dance music festival, Google held an AI demonstration where Eck showed a series of basic, yet impressive musical clips produced using machine learning model that was able to predict what note should come next.

The Magenta project has been running for just over a year and aims discover whether machine learning can create “compelling” creative works. “Our research is focused on sequence generation,” Eck says, “we’re always looking to build models that can listen to what musicians are doing. From that we can extend a piece of music that a musician’s created or maybe add a voice”.

Just as the drum machine was loathed and feared by many when it first hit the mainstream in the 1970s, AI’s role in the creation of art has sparked similar fears among critics. Eck, who admits that he was initially among the drum machine haters, explains that it took an entire generation of musicians to take the technology and figure out how to take it forward without putting good drummers out of work. He envisages a similar process of misunderstanding and eventual acceptance for AI-based music tools.

You can read the full article at Wired UK (originally published 18 June 2017).

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