Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mechanical Music

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Robots can be useful. Absolutely. Creating them to do menial or dangerous tasks is a valuable advancement for our world. But I can’t get excited about robots being developed to create original music.

Computer scientists in Paris and the US are working on this now. They believe they will soon have an algorithm that can create original compositions in the style of legendary figures like Beethoven, or soul singers like Ray Charles. But here’s the kicker, music, great music, hits you in the guts with an emotional punch. Robots can’t replicate that. They can only imitate and extrapolate on what we, as humans, have already produced.

Take this quote from an article in The Atlantic: “I would submit that you can certainly make a computer swing,” says Brooklyn-based musician and technologist Eric Singer. “You can kind of jitter that swing a bit to make it sound more human.”

But I don’t want music to sound human. I love that it is human. Maybe, you could argue that a commercial application for generic mall music, or when you’re on hold to your bank, is valid. But still, I would prefer if we left creativity to people and didn’t homogenise it. Music is one of the most magical and inspirational creative gifts we have. Every song has a story. Robot music has no mystery. No intimacy. No sensuality. You can’t love it.

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