Sep 26, 2016 I Brett Tingley

This Artificial Intelligence Is Writing Nightmarish Pop Songs

Earlier this year, an artificial intelligence system was able to predict what real-world noises sound like and generate digital recreations that can fool human ears. A few months later, Google’s Deep Mind project announced that their artificial intelligence networks could create human-like digital voices that were indistinguishable from real ones. Now, a research project led by Sony has added to the auditory surprises artificial intelligences are unleashing upon human ears.

Sony’s CSL Research Laboratory has revealed the first full-length pop songs to be written by an artificial intelligence system. According to Sony’s website for the musical intelligence project, the AI system known as “Flow Machines” is capable of studying the composition of existing songs, then using the knowledge it gains to compose its own pieces:

Our 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.

One of the compositions, “Daddy’s Car,” was apparently written in the style of the Beatles. Judge its success for yourself:

Another composition, “Mr. Shadow,” was written in the vein of the great twentieth century American songwriters and is the stuff of nightmares (or bad LSD):

The system still relies on a human operator to input some of the data the AI uses to create the compositions, as well as perform the final mixing and production of the songs. Still, the feat is impressive, given the thousands of choices of musical elements that are required to create a composition that is pleasing to human listeners.

As systems like this one improve, AI might soon be able to out-compose human songwriters.

Soon, we might inhabit a world where human-created art has to compete with AI-generated art. Given that AI algorithms are capable of collecting and analyzing amounts of data so vast as to be impossible for humans to imagine, AI just might soon be able to produce the perfect pop song. Time will soon tell how successful this system is; Sony plans to release an album of entirely AI-composed songs sometime in 2017.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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