“AI” does not stand for “automatically interesting”

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Photo by Duncan Kidd on Unsplash

For the last year I’ve been building generative music systems — little programs that produce music that doesn’t end or repeat. This software-based generative music is a form of “computer music,” which is a broader term that refers to a variety of ways computers, software, and algorithms can be used to make music. Computer music takes many forms, including programmers who code live performances of music in front of an audience, recordings of original compositions generated by deep-learning algorithms, and “collaborative” albums between human artists and AI.

Computer-first vs Music-first

When creating a work of computer music, there’s a temptation for the artist to emphasize the role of the computer, the algorithm, or the software, and treat the music as secondary. …


Say you write a song, and show your friend how to play it. Your friend records himself performing it and makes $10,000 by selling the recording. Are you owed anything?

Say you build a music box which plays an original piece of music. You give this music box to your friend. Your friend records the music and makes $10,000 by selling the recording. Are you owed anything?

Say you build another music box which plays ten original pieces of music. You give this new music box to your friend. Your friend records the music and makes $10,000 by selling the recordings. …


Screenshot from Mubert’s web player
Screenshot from Mubert’s web player
Mubert’s web player

Generative music at scale

Mubert is a generative music streaming app available in the browser and on mobile devices. It features a collection of music streams organized by genre and the activities they’re intended to complement, like “sleep” and “work.” Each one of Mubert’s streams is “an infinite ‘live’ track that is constantly changing,” and as the company mentions, “You can’t rewind generative music as it is created in real time.”

That might sound strange if you’re not familiar with “generative music.” This term refers to music that changes continuously and neither ends nor repeats. …


A technical explanation of Generative.fm

Generative.fm is a personal project of mine which hosts a growing collection of ambient generative music systems. Generative music neither ends nor repeats, and is created by a system. That might sound strange, but there’s a chance you have a generative music system hanging on your porch.

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Photo of wind chimes by Aiden Fang on Unsplash

I’ve been building Generative.fm for over a year now. I’ve learned a lot and written tons of code — the project currently spans five repositories on Github and 35 npm packages. The technologies and methods used have stabilized over the last few months, so I’d like to document, in detail, exactly how Generative.fm …


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Digitally disintegrating music

I just published a website called Corruption Loops, which you can visit at corruptionloops.alexbainter.com. This site generates a unique, short piece of music and plays it repeatedly. As it plays, the audio data is slowly corrupted, and you can listen to the music transform into noise. Here’s how it works.

Inspiration

Corruption Loops is inspired by The Disintegration Loops, a series of albums from composer William Basinski. These albums were created by recording short loops of music on old magnetic tape played over and over. The tape loops were so old they physically deteriorated as they played, and this process was recorded by Basinski. …


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Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Advantages of infinitely long artworks when “content is king”

My life is made up of many obsessions. Be it an artist, YouTube channel, TV show, music, or even an animal, when I find something that interests me, I can’t stop myself from consuming as much of or about it as possible, as quickly as I can. I focus my consumption on my obsessions to the exclusion of anything else, and this can last weeks or years. If I run out of content before my obsession is over, I start reconsuming material.

Right now, I’m obsessed with Gary Vaynerchuk. Vaynerchuk is a polarizing entrepreneur who, in addition to running his companies, has hired a team of content creators to constantly follow him and record his every move. “Team GaryVee” then edits the audio and video recordings into digestible clips and compilations perfectly tailored to the platforms they’re posted to, like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and SoundCloud. …


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Different ways to use Math.random() and its equivalents

Utilizing randomness in software isn’t something I’ve had to do for professional work, but it’s the basis of most of my creative software projects. Most notably, I make generative music hosted on Generative.fm. This involves a great deal of randomization, such as scheduling events at random times or making random selections of notes to play. Even my personal site has a background which slowly changes to a random color every few seconds.

When I first started creative coding projects, it wasn’t obvious to me how I could randomize my programs. I knew about Math.random(), but I wasn’t sure how to apply it to all my use cases. …


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Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

Why algorithms can’t replace artists (so quit freaking out)

In March of this year, music industry giant Warner Music Group signed a 20 album deal with Endel, a startup which uses its own custom software to generate music.

While some people reacted with interest, there was a noticeable tone of unease in many of the responses. I even saw expressions of sadness, anger, or disgust. Articles were written with titles like “The End is Nigh: An algorithm just signed with a major record label.”

Some expressed fears of music-generation software replacing human artists, a thought which was prevalent enough to elicit a response from…


Fulfilling the genre’s forgotten criterion

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Photo by Igor Kasalovic on Unsplash

Ambient music is described on Wikipedia as “a genre of music that emphasizes tone and atmosphere over traditional musical structure or rhythm.” The music was both popularized and named by Brian Eno beginning in the 1970’s with albums like Discreet Music and Ambient 1: Music for Airports.

Discreet Music — Brian Eno, 1975

Eno included an essay titled “Ambient Music” in the back of his book A Year With Swollen Appendicies in which he describes the event which inspired him to record Discreet Music.


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Photo by James Owen on Unsplash

Why the world is finally ready for endless music systems

I’ve been having a lot of fun making generative music in the browser during the last year. With the Web Audio API supported in all of the browsers that actually matter, I believe we’re currently at the cusp of unprecedented potential for generative music systems.

Brian Eno was releasing generative music systems as early as 1996 on floppy disks. With the advent of the iPhone, he and Peter Chilvers began releasing many more generative music systems for smartphones and tablets. At the same time, increases in internet speeds led to the emergence of digital downloads and streaming services. Today, music services like Spotify are so ubiquitous that computers and smartphones have become the primary devices used to consume music. …

About

Alex Bainter

A web developer creating audio/visual experiences both digital and not. Currently making generative music at Generative.fm.

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