Will Artificial Intelligence augment or disrupt the role of the composer?

Original article was published by Majella Clarke on Artificial Intelligence on Medium


Music and AI

Will Artificial Intelligence augment or disrupt the role of the composer?

PART 1: Resuscitating J.S. Bach

The music industry gets disrupted often. Industry 3.0 was the domination of automation, computers and electronics with composers like Stockhausen and Xennakis, as well as many others, experimenting with electronic sound within the context of music. But who will shape the creation of music in Industry 4.0? Will it be the large Googles, Apples and digital platforms that provide the tools for anyone to create music using artificial intelligence by broadening and augmenting the role of the composer? Or will society reject the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in creating music and hold to the cultural and national place of composers that has reigned for hundreds of years ?

As a musician, trained in classical music performance, analysis and composition, I find a strong emotional and internally conflicting response to calling creators of music using artificial intelligence “composers”. Apparently, I am not alone either. David Cope, the American scientist, composer and former Professor of Music, knows all too well as the developer of Experiments in Music Intelligence (EMI) software and Emily Howell project. Cope has experienced two extremes. On one hand, there has been a lot of interest in AI generated music composition over the past two decades with praise from the scientific community. But the music industry had a different viewpoint. To quote Cope:

“A number of big-name classical performers expressed interest, but their agents wouldn’t let them touch it with a ten-foot pole, citing industry controversy over the work. They thought it would blemish the name of the performer”.

There are many digital tools that could potentially disrupt the role of the composer. Over the past year, I have tried different AI Music programs and have felt fairly skeptical that AI might be replacing the art of composition anytime soon. I had fun with the Bachbot — which played samples of Bach, one original, the other generated by AI — and Impro AI -Musico generates endless streams of repetitive music and beats with a game-like user experience. There are many more applications and machine learning projects that explore how to create a musical experience using AI, and until recently, I felt pretty safe to say, machines would not be replacing the creativity of humans any time soon.

That was until OpenAI released its prototype MuseNet in May 2019.

In this blog, I will explore the capabilities of OpenAI’s MuseNet with a focus on the style of J.S.Bach. Using a series of music demonstration experiments, I’ll reflect on the extent that AI technology is likely to drive composers and creators of music, and to adopt AI applications in their music making.