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Movies Music Software

How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Music 261

mbone writes "Ever wonder how Jimi Hendrix would cover Lady Gaga? Whether you do or not [I'm guessing not], you may be about to find out. Writing for Wired, Eliot Van Buskirk describes North Carolina's Zenph Sound Innovations, which takes existing recordings of musicians (deceased, for now) and models their 'musical personalities' to create new recordings, apparently to critical acclaim (PDF). The company has raised $10.7 million in funding to pursue their business plan, and hopes to branch out into, among other things, software that would let musicians jam with virtual versions of famous musicians. This work unites music with the very similar trend going on in the movies — Tron 2.0, for example, will clone the young Jeff Bridges. If this goes on, will the major labels and studios actually need musicians and actors? In the future, it could be harder to make money playing guitar with all of the competition from dead or retired artists."
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How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Music

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  • by notgm ( 1069012 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:10PM (#31348190)

    tell Tchaikovsky the news.

    • Mozart in concert, live...ish.

      • by wealthychef ( 584778 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @03:14PM (#31348962)
        I'm a musician, but I think this is awesome. Maybe now we can get past our bizarre obsession with entertainers and start focusing on curing cancer, getting nuclear fusion working, etc.
        • by HungryHobo ( 1314109 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @03:27PM (#31349134)

          An interesting little question:

          Lets say you create an original and creative work.

          I make a program which parses it and uses it to create a new work.
          Is this a derivative work?
          what if I use as input all your creative work in aggregate and not just one piece?
          has the programmer done anything creating the tool making it's output his or does it all belong to the creator of the inputs?

          do you have any rights to the output of the mathematical function that is my program?

          Now a few years ago I would have just read the word "AI" and sort of mentally fitted a "magic creative box" labeled over it and accepted that the products of an AI could be .. well intelligent.
          Now I wonder more about the nature of creativity, design, strategy, etc....

          We like to assume that machines are nothing more than math engines but we also like to assume that we ourselves are not subject to the same rules.

          I remember trying to explain to someone who had recently learned about the halting problem that we ourselves are just as subject to its implications as any perl script.

          Ok I've gone into random musing here...

          • by localman ( 111171 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @05:36PM (#31350788) Homepage

            Yeah, there's some real questions in there. I am going to guess you've read Hofstadter's GEB, from the sounds of it. If you haven't, you really should.

            My opinion on the matter is that both the AI's author and the original composer are doing creative work. The degree to which "credit" would be assigned to either depends on a lot of factors. Near one extreme we have a record player, which does alter the original work ever so slightly. While we appreciate record player, we don't generally credit it for its contribution to the original work. What about an EQ setup, though? Or a dynamic sonic maximizer? Or a person who does a remix? Or the AI you describe... how different from the original is its output? Since musical notions were invented long before any musician we've heard of, should we consider modern musicians highly developed systems for taking musical input (their influences) and producing new derivative works? I would argue "yes", though a musician can seem strikingly original even with all the influences going in.

            I tend to think we are more than just math engines. On our lowest level that might be it, but the brain doesn't make sense if you just look at neurons. Math is an amazing modeling system, but it is not complete. Our brains (at the higher levels) are multi-paradigm -- we may use math when it works but will find other more approximate modeling systems when it doesn't. I would grant that a complex enough AI could do the same thing. But we're not there yet. Not even close.

            I guess random musings are contagious :)

        • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <jurily@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @03:30PM (#31349176)

          I think the whole celebrity-obsession thing is a direct result of society breaking up at a fundamental level. Just think about it: the way humanity evolved, you had at most 200 people in your village, everyone knew everyone, and you basically spent your life together, for better or worse. There was *always* someone in common you could talk about.

          Now, you're expected to move half a continent when you hit college, then move again when you find a job, rinse and repeat. What do you talk about with random strangers (now over 90% of all your social interactions)?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ffflala ( 793437 )

            I disagree; I think that celebrity-obsession is part of human nature. There are plenty of examples.

            We've been obsessed with royalty for millenia. This spreads over many cultures. Prominent religious figures (saints), military figures, government officials and even the occasional author/artist/inventor are further examples. Even artistic celebrity isn't all THAT new: examples readily date back to the renaissance.

            Myths, religion, and history have, in the past, served the kind of water-cooler talk points of sh

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by EvilBudMan ( 588716 )

      No, no artificial stupidity is where the real change is at.

  • by iPhr0stByt3 ( 1278060 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:12PM (#31348206)
    It's too bad if artists can't turn their compositions into money; but at the same time, a true artist doesn't need compensation - he/she does it for the sake of art, no? What do you think?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pojut ( 1027544 )

      I certainly do it for the art (and because it's really fun)...all my music is free. No DRM and no charge [livingwithanerd.com]. I'll eventually get all my tracks up for free once I get my new music page finished, but for now that's what is available.

    • by Steauengeglase ( 512315 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:18PM (#31348298)

      I think it will be interesting when an estate tries to sue someone for producing something "in the style of" a particular dead artist. It'll totally be worth it if it gets rid of the Nickleback derivatives.

    • by jason.sweet ( 1272826 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:24PM (#31348378)

      a true artist doesn't need compensation

      Not until his mom kicks him out the basement and he has to pay for his own room and board.

      • A true artist (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Letme amend that then : A true artist doesn't need compensation AFTER HIS DEATH. Nobody actually does.
        • A true artist doesn't need compensation AFTER HIS DEATH. Nobody actually does.

          Maybe a true artist doesn't, but I certainly need compensation after death. It's called life insurance. I have plenty so if I get hit by a bus my wife and son get a paid off house and a chance at a good life without me providing for them.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jdgeorge ( 18767 )

            A true artist doesn't need compensation AFTER HIS DEATH. Nobody actually does.

            Maybe a true artist doesn't, but I certainly need compensation after death. It's called life insurance. I have plenty so if I get hit by a bus my wife and son get a paid off house and a chance at a good life without me providing for them.

            Mmmm... So you're making the point. YOU will not receive, nor do you need, compensation after your death.

            The issue of life insurance is a red herring. The point was that nobody needs to be paid for their creative work after they die. If someone wants to provide money to his family, friends, etc. after he dies, he buys into the peculiar form of savings plan/gambling that we call "life insurance", or some other form of savings vehicle.

            I infer (and admittedly I'm reading a fair amount into it) that another par

      • who broke up with his girlfriend?


    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      A true artist doesn't give a fuck what restrictions you think you get to put on his motivations. In other words, I think you're full of it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      A true artist DOES need compensation and deserves it. All of the time and money put into lessons and practice deserves retribution. Having the nerve to put yourself in front a crowd has a lot of value. No one asks a doctor to care for patients for free because a true doctor should do it for the love of it. All of these bands that play these "pay to play" venues are absolute suckers. They are actually paying for the club owners advertising costs. On the flip side, all of the artists that are multi-mill
  • Its like new artists will have to be creative and create new musical styles. IE, nothing changes.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Its like new artists will have to be creative and create new musical styles. IE, nothing changes.

      It just shows that that 'art' has left pop and rock music.

      Actually, there was never really any art in pop music. It was always formulaic. Whether it's Brittany Spears or the "country" stars it's all I,VI,V cookie cutter pop-rock - just add a steel guitar for the "country" "artists" and sing about losing your dog and wife as opposed to doing drugs in the "rock" songs.

      • Funny how these artificial music things always start with those most artless hacks of all, like Mozart and Beethoven. It's just easier when you start with the trashy stuff, ya?
    • Most of the greats admit that they aren't as good as the originals. They agree that they just took something amazing, and put their own spin on it.

      Then you get people like Kanye (let me finish) who think they are the most amazing person on the planet.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:12PM (#31348216)

    Hendrix covering Lady Gaga is what they play while you're waiting for Satan to bake up all those donuts you are about to get force fed. And it only goes downhill from there.

  • A Novelty At Best (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <`eldavojohn' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:13PM (#31348220) Journal
    I'm betting these models have parameters selected by the researchers. For instance, the Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff sample would probably be coded to parametize the delay between notes in order to capture the similar pacings he put in other recordings. The loudness parameterized to implement similar crescendos, sforzandos, decrescendos, etc. How would Rachmaninoff play a rallentando? No matter, just take all recordings of him playing it, statistically analyze the appropriate parameters and apply it to the synthesized notes in the piece. Those synthesized notes have come a long way in the same manner. They used to sound like pure wavelengths produced by an oscillator. Because they were. But analyze the beginning and end of piano notes struck at various force and held for various durations and you can synthesize it by analyzing the statistical aberations in the wavelengths.

    This will take you only so far, however, and for each artist parametized and 'reproduced' will require as much analysis and attention to detail on the researcher's part than had that researcher picked up their own instrument and created new music. The science will, effectively, become an art. Did it matter that Rachmaninoff's were freakishly large [wikipedia.org] (sometimes looking as long as the keys themselves)? Will you be able to build the physics of those hands into your model and simulation?

    In the future, it could be harder to make money playing guitar with all of the competition from dead or retired artists.

    Oh, how humorously short sighted a statement that is. And I don't mean that as a Luddite, I mean that as a fan of the evolution of music. How would early David Bowie's [ilike.com] growth to late David Bowie [ilike.com] be modeled and reproduced? You'll hear guitar in both those songs. Good luck on that parameterization producing anything but garbage!

    This will be a novelty and one I look forward to enjoying it as such. But nothing more. No more a replacement for music than grand pianos were replaced by early synthesizers. You might be able to convince me at some point it will suffice (like a live piano performance may employ an electric piano) but I dare say the parameters are far too many and far too complicated.

    • Not to mention other external forces.

      I mean, for Hendrix, or Richards...do they have the special drug 'modules' they plug into the formula to get it to sound just right? Will there be a switch for cigarette dangling loosely in the lips, or acid tucked into your headband...

      Otherwise, you just are NOT gonna capture the true essence of creativity and sound artists like this had...

    • by pikine ( 771084 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @03:10PM (#31348924) Journal
      Not to mention, currently all they do is to extract the timing of notes and the velocity of an existing performance from an old recording, and then play it using a player piano. Their technology doesn't play new pieces. From TFA:

      As things stand now, Zenph’s technology looks at actual old recordings to find out how a performer played a certain song, and is not capable of figuring out how a musician would play a new part.

      All they do is digital signal processing, not artificial intelligence.

    • Did it matter that Rachmaninoff's [hands] were freakishly large [wikipedia.org] (sometimes looking as long as the keys themselves)? Will you be able to build the physics of those hands into your model and simulation?

      Rachmaninov's hands have already been reverse engineered.
      All a performer with standard issue hands needs is an assistant and a few adapters [youtube.com].

  • Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:14PM (#31348232) Homepage

    This article reminded me of the "robotic" intergalactic megastar singer in Macross Plus. Still, I think humans will always have a place when it comes to music. Even music that is entirely electronic (such as my own) [livingwithanerd.com] still requires a human touch...in my case, each of my tracks is supposed to evoke certain imagry and emotional responses...something that a non-organic system simply can't replicate.

    Until we are able to emulate not only the way organics process sounds but the emotion those sounds bring about, humans will always have a place in the creation of music.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tekrat ( 242117 )

      Macross Plus stole that concept from Megazone 23, which in turn borrowed it from the original Macross.

      Megazone 23 was created out of thrown away plot ideas from the 1984 Macross Movie (Do You Remember Love?) -- one of the concepts was that Lynn Minmay would have been killed or captured, but to keep the populace under control, a computer-generated version of her would continue to perform on videoscreens.

      That became the Eve character in Megazone 23, who was nothing but a computer generated performance, part o

    • AI researcher and music buff Douglas Hofstadter (of "Godel, Escher, Bach" and "Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies") wrote a paper [unc.edu] about his experience with another researcher's music program, EMI. Hofstadter made the same argument that truly great music depends on human emotion, and that a music composer AI would only imitate superficial things like frequently-used note patterns. He came away troubled, though, because EMI was able to copy deeper patterns and produce fairly decent imitations of dead compo
  • by flabbergast ( 620919 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:14PM (#31348246)
    "Ever wonder how Jimi Hendrix would cover Lady Gaga?"

    I think I speak for everyone when I say no, no I haven't.

    • "Ever wonder how Jimi Hendrix would cover Lady Gaga?"

      Until it made the news yesterday that Lady Gaga is celibate. I was more concerned about how I would cover her.
      Oh, they were talking about musical style? Never mind.

      For the uninitiated. Cover is a term for mating in the world of animal breeders.

    • by raddan ( 519638 ) *
      I think it's a pretty cool idea, though. Have you ever heard Johnny Cash's version of Soundgarden's Rusty Cage [youtube.com]? I mean, he was almost dead at that point!
    • Actually, Hendrix covering 'Bad Romance' could be cool. I'd rather hear Lady Gaga do a lounge singer version of 'Sympathy for the Devil' though.

      And no, I'm no kidding.
  • by wideBlueSkies ( 618979 ) * on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:17PM (#31348296) Journal

    As cool as this tech is.. Imagine hearing how Hendrix would approach covering the likes of Zeppelin, Rush, or hell even Stanley Jordan?

    But what seems like a bad deal to me is the concept of extending copyright to 'style'. Does this mean that eventually any talented kid who manages to figure out (AKA, reverse engineer) Clapton's or Lifeson's style and sound perfectly, would be in violation of a copyright?

    So much for paying homage to your inspirations....

    • That's a good point. I personally would like to see how Jimi Hendrix would cover Steve Vai or Stevie Ray Vaughan ;)
    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Imagine the James Gang doing Funk 44 (I think that was the tune, from "Rides Again"). It was a classical piece that unfortunately was written (iinm and iirc) in the 1930s. It was on the LP when the LP was new, but excised from the CD because of copyright litigation.

      Excessive copyright is killing creativity.

  • Not really new (Score:2, Informative)

    by obliv!on ( 1160633 )
    David Cope's [wikipedia.org] Experiments in Musical Intelligence and related works (SARA, other works, and his own company called Recombinant inc [recombinantinc.com] ) have been doing this for many years.
  • If this goes on, will the major labels and studios actually need musicians and actors? In the future, it could be harder to make money playing guitar with all of the competition from dead or retired artists."

    What makes you think musicians and actors aren't already competing with dead or retired artists? Do you think labels and studios wouldn't jump at the chance to cut them out?

  • In the future, it could be harder to make money playing guitar with all of the competition from dead or retired artists.

    With all the copyright nonsense going on how is this any different than in the present?

  • by LighterShadeOfBlack ( 1011407 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:23PM (#31348368) Homepage

    If this goes on, will the major labels and studios actually need musicians and actors? In the future, it could be harder to make money playing guitar with all of the competition from dead or retired artists.

    That's ridiculous! The studios would never let that happen. I mean after all, the MPAA and RIAA have spent the last few years fighting hard to ensure every artist keeps their God-given right to get make as much money as possible for their work. After all, it's all about the artists, right? The very suggestion that the recording/movie studios would dispense with artists at the drop of a hat if they could keep every single penny for themselves is laughable!

    • Personally I'm excited about this just so that some day the MPAA will put out an ad saying "When you steal music, you steal from the creator of the music you love." And then the camera pans to a shelf of forlorn-looking Dells.

      Won't someone think of the AIs?!

  • by BigBlueOx ( 1201587 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:27PM (#31348412)
    I, for one, have been waiting YEARS for the technology to evolve to the point where we would no longer need movie actors.

    Imagine. No more yammering George Clooney. Just an CGI George Clooney! And no one will be able to tell the difference!! Plus we can take all those plastic Hollywood big-boob bimbos and get them out of movies and into the wrestling ring where they belong. Happy days. Happy days.
  • It's real intelligence; the intelligence of the engineers who designed the computer, and the programmers who write the apps.

  • John Brunner predicted this in Stand on Zanzibar (1968) -- consumers use do-it-yourself kits to paint like Jackson Pollock, compose like John Cage, etc:

    ...my old hobby of vicarious music... I don't have the talent to go through a Cage score on my own jets, and I do love the feeling of actually creating the sounds with my fingers.

  • > If this goes on, will the major labels and studios actually need musicians
    > and actors?

    More interesting question: If this goes on, will musicians and actors actually need major labels and studios?

  • When 10's of thousands of screaming fans pile into a local stadium to watch a computer shred in the style of Jimi Hendrix... then I'll be concerned.

    Until then, music is starting to return to it's roots... it's a PERFORMING art and is meant to be an experience not just background noise.

    Sure people will always listen to music, but eventually musicians will become rich by putting on stage shows and recordings will merely help them develop a following. It's already trending this way with the rise in popularity

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by natehoy ( 1608657 )

      Yes, except some artists who "perform" onstage are lip-syncing and faking it to previously-recorded tracks, to ensure that their performances are flawless. I expect there are plenty of others who actually do it and just haven't been caught at it. Yet.

      In some cases, as for example the opening to the Beijing Olympics, the performer on stage wasn't even the same person who actually recorded the original song.

      It neither started nor stopped with Milli Vanilli (sp?).

      So thousands of screaming fans are piling int

  • Could this be used to identify plagiarism?
  • Copyright law is set up to assume that *someone* created the painting/movie/music/book/poem/sculpture... If an AI creates the music completely, can it be copyrighted? Can we claim that the person that pushed the button or clicked the mouse created something if all the decisions are programmed via AI?

    Once a person has created something, then they can assign the copyright to a corporation. BUT if there isn't a human author, how can this assignment be done legally?

    I can imagine that various acts and trusts

    • by srussia ( 884021 )
      All good questions. When matters become this intractable it's time to cut the Gordian Knot. Abolish copyright.
    • It's a good question if AI's can hold copyrights. But since corporations are ruled to be people in many ways in the USA (like the recent case about corporate free speech), and corporations could own hardware on which AIs are running, and are paying for the energy to run those computers, then they probably could claim ownership of it, the same way as corporations claim ownership of what human wage slaves produce. And just like humans get alienated from their work in the process, eventually, we'll see AIs ali

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by obliv!on ( 1160633 )
      I don't think that's a correct interpretation of copyright law.

      "In the case of works made for hire, the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author." from LOC copyright circular [copyright.gov]

      So if work for hire allows for corporations to create and author copyright materials then why wouldn't a corporation be able to author the copyright of the output of this sort of program?
  • How do you think they managed to release the last five 2Pac albums? (Soon to be six!)
    • With a pentagram and wise old sages. I'm telling you, somewhere there is a Zombie Tupac, resurrected with ancient necromagic, chained in a dungeon spitting out hard lyrics.

  • which takes existing recordings of musicians (deceased, for now)

    Well of course they are deceased for now. Once they hear wtf is going on they will come back to kill us all!

  • This is about classical music. So basically they're just tuning a piano to be played exactly the same way that a dead performer played it. Classical music isn't exactly known for its originality, and there was actually a recent hoax where an amateur was passing off his own recording as new ones by famous artists.

    That's a far cry from being able to somehow mimic Hendrex's style and then have a computer come up with a compelling new song for him to play. And it's another far cry to get voice synthesis that no

  • It has always been the goal of technology to eliminate the need for human labor. Music and films are an example of an area that should soon be devoid of direct human involvement.
    The problem is that this is also happening across the entire economy and it is hidden from public view. Less and less people are needed in almost every form of business. This is part of the unemployment crisis that is currently troubling the US. In turn that cr

  • "If this goes on, will the major labels and studios actually need musicians and actors? In the future, it could be harder to make money playing guitar with all of the competition from dead or retired artists." Yes. They'll need someone up on stage for the concerts, and for people to pay attention to ~ heroes, celebrities, role models, fashion models, etc. You can't fantasize about a simulation. Closer to home, the local bar will still want someone to make noise for their Friday Rock/Punk/Jazz Show, and

Artificial intelligence has the same relation to intelligence as artificial flowers have to flowers. -- David Parnas