In November 2019, the musician Grimes said: “I feel like we’re at the end of art – human art.” This bold statement voiced on Sean Carrol’s Mindscape podcast caused widespread outrage across social media, mainly due to the fact that Grimes’s statement was made in relation to the possibility of artificial general intelligence (AGI) replacing human creativity in the near future. On 21 June, the world celebrated Fete de la Musique (World Music Day), which prompted us to dig deeper into Grimes’s statement, exploring existing inventions to uncover whether synthetic voices and advanced algorithms might someday trump the need for human musicians and composers.
In 2019, tech startup Auxuman released an AI-generated album, Auxuman Vol.1. The album consists of 10 tracks, all written and sung by five AI artists – Yona, Mony, Gemini, Hexe and Zoya – each with their own character and style. The songs are created through a combination of internet data, AI and generative tools, resulting in original compositions. According to Ash Koosha, the founder and CEO of Auxuman, the Auxuman lyric engine is trained on articles, poems and online conversations, which allows each song to express the “stories we have told, ideas we have generated and opinions we have shared”.
In 2012, Sony's Computer Science Lab (CSL) and Pierre and Marie Curie University, both in Paris, joined forces to augment artist creativity and music composition. The brainchild of this project, Flow Machines, is an AI-assisted music composing system that uses machine learning and signal-processing technology, allowing users to create tracks. Flow Machines can create music in the style of any artist from CSL’s extensive database ranging from pop to jazz, with some of it’s most popular releases being Daddy’s Car and The Ballad of Mr Shadow. Although AI played a massive role in the composition of these songs, human intervention was still needed, as French composer Benoît Carré had to select the song category, add lyrics and finally mix and produce The Ballad of Mr Shadow.
Founded in 2016, Aiva Technologies SARL is a Luxembourg-based tech company that focuses on composing emotionally engaging music for movies, commercials, games and TV shows through their AI composer, AIVA. This AI algorithm is able to create unique compositions by analysing the musical patterns of famous composers such as Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. Aiva Technologies CEO Pierre Barreau and his team have also trained AIVA on compositions by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak, enabling the algorithm to compose the ending of one of Dvorak’s unfinished symphonies, which was later played for the first time at Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
When Bob Dylan stated that “creativity has much to do with experience, observation and imagination, and if any one of those key elements is missing, it doesn’t work”, he was definitely referring to human musicians. With the multitude of AI-powered tools already available, Dylan’s statement might not hold much water in the near future, but rest assured that for the time being, AI has yet to evolve into a formidable rival for human musicians.