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Computer just composed a song. How long til its first symphony?

November 26, 2016 by norman lebrecht

11 comments.


‘Daddy’s Car’ was composed by artificial intelligence.

‘Flow Machines software learns music styles from a huge database of songs. Then, exploiting unique combinations of style transfer, optimization and interaction techniques, it can compose in any style.’

Be very afraid.


Comments (11)

  1. Adam Stern says:

    Well, A.I. has nothing on Cole Porter, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen…the harmony and “melody” meander blandly in search of a center, rather in the manner of Andrew Lloyd Webber. I’m not afraid…yet. (Now, were it to come up with a fugue to rival Bach’s, I’d be climbing the walls.)

  2. Holyfield Worthington says:

    This isn’t as remarkable an achievement as is being represented. I researched this for more info. The lyrics, obviously, were written by a person (there in no AI anywhere close to being capable of writing lyrics). The arrangement, performance, and mixing were all done by people. Apparently, what this software CAN do, is take a given set of lyrics and somewhat cobble together musical patterns from a database of highly-conventional, often-used sequences. Then, knowing what scales easily work over the simple harmonies, it can generate a melody that admittedly isn’t “dissonant” but lacks any notable character. Still.. whatever results the program spit out had to be highly tweaked by real people. This is the kind of thing that people in a “research center” will claim, with lots of lies of omission and deliberately misleading statements, to keep the funding flowing for pointless self-indulgent endeavors. Or Sony knows its nonsense but doesn’t care because its deemed good for their brand.

    1. Alvaro says:

      AI’s already write novels and poetry….so yes they are indeed more than able to do the job. Just not in this particular instance.

      A sizeable % of the news you read around the world are ALREADY produced by AI’s, specially financial news.

      1. Robert Holmén says:

        Yes, financial and sports news can be handled by machine, but that’s *reporting* of mostly numeric facts, rather than invention of interesting new ideas.

        I suspect if we stripped away every human contribution to this song we might have a melody line left.

    2. RODNEY GREENBERG says:

      I clicked on this expecting it to be dire. But it’s not quite. There are unexpected chord and key changes, effective instrumentation, good interplay between vocalist and chorus. At the end it drifts off like Sergeant Pepper. But yes, the whole thing lacks direction and is a celebration of blandness.

      Would like the programmers to come clean and describe more fully the “songwriting” process. What did the computer actually invent all by itself? We know it can’t write lyrics. (Asked to name the writers of a song that happened to be on the radio, Cole Porter —who wrote his own lyrics, as did Irving Berlin — cheekily answered: “Rodgers and Hammerstein …. if you can imagine it taking two men to write one song.”

      Having done its global scan for usable musical elements, what did the software produce before humans got involved? Did it actually paste the whole fabric together from start to finish all by itself? That would be something. You could even call it Composing. Hard to believe you wouldn’t need hours of digital tweaking and post-production by real people (known traditionally in the music business as “arrangers”) to finesse everything to this level.

  3. Alvaro says:

    SYMPHONY’s? Jaja this happened over 6 months ago, better late than never I guess.

    As for symphony’sand Fugues, those have existed by AI’s for a WHILE now, at least 3-5 years.

    But I guess when one lives in an alternative reality those things go overlooked…

    1. Adam Stern says:

      Perhaps it’s the realm of A.I. that constitutes an alternative reality…

  4. Robert Holmén says:

    My computer was already composing music in the 80s…

    https://youtu.be/fSJQsY3icd8

  5. Cyril Blair says:

    Still less torturous than Einaudi, somehow.

  6. Jorge Grundman says:

    The worst thing is that this song has anything to match with The Beatles. Neither the production neither the choir voices neither the arrangements. At least from the musicology point of view.

    The Fratellis make those things better
    https://youtu.be/o1oKBbReaOs

    Or with some german accent, Fools Garden make this
    https://youtu.be/U-SpbqDqkaY

    Or even with an Australian taste
    https://youtu.be/UWHV1nmhzTg

    Remember to have a computer making things does not necessarily makes you more intelligent. Programmer’s still need to learn some musicology

  7. Jim Beam says:

    Be skeptical. This is nothing new, computers have been “composing” for a while now. This example shows the results are still incoherent. There are some interesting harmonies but it sounds like various musical elements were put in a blender.

    Even if a computer can write 1000 songs at the press of a button, a human still has to comb through those songs to find anything that makes sense, at which point the exercise has lost its meaning.


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