Pop songs — you either hate them or love them, but most people feel some sort of way about their evolution over the years. Many have argued that music has become generic over time; with creative genius hard to come by, tunes are blandly catchy as if spit out by a machine.
Well, now we have pop music literally spit out by a machine. Since songs, good and bad, are highly formulaic, it makes sense that a computer could replicate them given the right algorithm. Now, at long last, we have robots to rival robotic pop stars of the world.
The world’s first song composed by an AI comes to us from Sony CSL Research Labs, where a system called Flow Machines was input with a wide database of sheet music of songs in various styles. The finished compositions were produced, mixed, and put to words by French musician Benoit Carre.
Daddy’s Car, below, was written the AI in the style of the Beatles. If you take a listen you’ll realize how well the machine nailed the iconic British foursome’s sound.
Another song, Mr. Shadow, was composed by the AI in the more general style of “American songwriters.” Take a listen here:
Stumped as to how a computer could create these kinds of works?
Here’s a quick rundown of how it works.
- Step 1: The database, called LSDB, is set up with 13,000 leadsheets in styles including jazz, pop, Broadway and other music styles.
- Step 2: A human musician selects a style using a system called FlowComposer; new leadsheets are generated by the AI based on this selection.
- Step 3: The human uses the system Rechord to match audio chunks to the generated composition.
- Step 4: The human musician completes production and mixing.
Clearly, this AI still needs a lot of human prompting before the song is complete, so you can rest assured that no robotic Taylor Swift is writing songs unchecked. Still, this is a pretty amazing step in machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies. Who knows — maybe this is exactly what the music industry needs to become innovative again.