Will Artificially Intelligent Musicians Also Party Hard And Destroy Their Hotel Rooms?
A Paleolithic man, naked yet painted with mud, charcoal and mineral pigments of gold and blood- red hue picks up a small burning branch from the fire. He holds it high above his head thereby illuminating hundreds of animal figures painted onto the cave ceiling. He calls for his female partner to join him. She answers in a bird-like chirp and meets him on the other side of the fire. She clicks two sticks together as her foremothers taught her. He lifts his head up high and rhythmically hoots and cries. She mirrors him in her own higher-pitched version. They stamp their feet, gyrate their hips, stick out their tongues and sing in a nasally, monkey-like sort-of
way. The fire-light dims to dying embers, and only fragments of gold on the cave walls are illuminated. Now in a blissfully exhausted state, the two nomads let the visions contained within the darkness wash over them. Images of bears, stags, bison, large cats, rhinoceroses, and men with the heads of eagles appear. As music became a part of the language and the life of Paleolithic man, the act of singing spread to every human culture that came after, to every island, jungle, desert or tundra tribe across the globe.
Whether it was to call on ancestors long passed, to divine the secrets of a successful hunt, or singing just for the sheer pleasure of it- music was a tool for personal satisfaction and overall happiness. Like any other tool created in the Paleolithic era, it was improved upon and in some way automated, becoming less of a private matter and more of a communal act. Peasants and farmers would sing in the fields to keep productivity at an even pace. Music became a performance; an itinerant poet might have sung of some ancient battle or of a king with a syphilitic brain. A group of instrumentalists playing in concert would rehearse a piece until harmony rang from the rafters and tickled that same king’s syphilitic brain.
The invention of the phonograph impersonalized performance on an atemporal and nonlocal level. Recordings could be played at any time and were the pinnacle of artistic achievement. When great artists seemingly defied the laws of physics with every note that rang from the phonograph’s flaring horn, what use did most people have to create their own music? This trend has continued with the advent of digital music and now with streaming music: with such abundance of highly crafted music close at hand what use is there for the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of personally created music?
But as technology advances, humanity might have the tools to reclaim its lost dominion of individual expression. Artificial Intelligence has the potential to rediscover that more personal relationship with music lost many centuries past. Long ago our species put down the spear and picked up the plow, and soon we might put down wireless earbuds as we pick up broadcasts of an album beamed directly to the auditory cortex of our brain. Nonetheless it won’t broadcast some curated playlist or top of the pops mold, but an entirely original composition directly inspired by our individual lives. A unique album colored by the sounds we hear and written with the thoughts we feel and the events experienced. This would be a collaboration between our conscious mind and an implanted artificially intelligent songwriter.
If this potential future sounds like a concept Philip K. Dick (the creator of Blade Runner) rejected for being too farfetched, then it would be prudent to list what Artificially Intelligent algorithms have already accomplished. At present, AI robots are able to able to create collaborative art, called Drawing Operations Unit: Generation 2, or D.O.U.G. for short. This robot can copy and translate an artist’s brush strokes in its own way, simultaneously collaborating on an art piece which affects the artistic behavior and flourishes of the human artist as she draws in real time.
AI is also composing original music for copyright-free soundtracks. Any filmmaker only needs to log on to Ampermusic .com and select the mood, tempo, duration, and instrumentation required for their documentary, narrative video, VR experience or web app. The Algorithm will immediately produce a fully orchestrated, mixed and mastered original piece of music. It’s that simple to compose a soundtrack.
However, a soundtrack is not a lyrical song which requires attention to the melody and the poetical relationship between the syntax and the image. This awareness demands a technology that can register human senses and translate them metaphorically. Parallel to the AI is the hardware being implanted in human bodies. Digital implants are being set in the brain and under fingertips, utilized for unlocking doors, navigating, monetary transactions and medical purposes such as tracking body temperature. All the ancillary data unwanted by initial funders of these technologies can be utilized by the artistic algorithms of tomorrow. It can sense our emotions, recognize a lover’s heartbeat, and record the dreams we have forgotten with the light of day.
The technology is fast approaching where songs could be created that speak directly to our subliminal narrative, and to the classic spiritual mystery that lies before every one of us. It could evoke visions from our subconscious that guide us in our daily life, just as thousands of years ago songs awakened and instructed our ancestors as to what plants to cultivate and where to camp next. Our nervous system and a manufactured meta-consciousness would coproduce pop hits for an audience of one. Our thoughts would be sliced like Bob Dylan and David Bowie cut up magazine headlines, reconfigured in organically chaotic ways to create heartfelt hooks. The Artificial Intelligence would automatically know what instruments fit the mood incorporating ambient sounds it recorded throughout your day. It would use any number of human voices in its database to sing the lyrics. An album for us that comes directly from us. This would be the soundtrack to our life.
What follows is a short play of what our relationship with this intimate artificial bard might sound like:
Lights come up on the holographic stage. Sydney kicks off her faux-leather boots, pours herself a gin martini and walks out onto her balcony overlooking the candy-colored blinking lights of the market district below. A light rain falls from dark clouds above.
Sydney pulls up a holographic news feed. A video starts playing of people weathering significant storms by clinging to palm trees. Another video plays documenting a crowd of protesters walking nude through the streets of Catalan as police arrest them. Another video plays of a baby octopus communicating with a human by flashing different colors. Another video plays of the stock market continuing to increase in value. Another video plays of Indonesian rainforests set on fire in order to grow palm oil.
Sydney sips her drink and sighs. A commercial plays: a travel agent talks about leaving earth by purchasing a galactic vacation to escape her life.
(Interrupting) Hello, Sydney.
Uh, hi Mo.
Sydney places her martini down on a glass table.
Is it Friday already?
It is. Would you like to listen to this week’s album, compiled from your own thoughts, emotions, and experiences?
Sydney puts her right hand to her ear to block out some of the ambient city noise. With her left hand she slides her middle and ring finger from the base of her palm to the top to increase the volume of Mozart 2.0’s voice being broadcast to the auditory cortex of her brain.
I don’t think I can. I have too much on my mind right now.
I promise you that it will be most satisfying. I took particular inspiration from your dreams on Tuesday night where you were overcome with a sense of melancholy, but you awoke before you knew the reason why. I also took inspiration from that mysterious man you danced with at that latin bar- whose smile you thought about as you tossed and turned in your bed that night.
Oh, Haha. But there was that whole argument with my boyfriend…
Listen to track three where I recount the legend of Evangeline, immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem.
Mo, are you trying to impress me by name-dropping the poet H.W.L.?
Whatever it will take to get you to listen.
Mozart 2.0 plays the first verses from track three:
Violins cry out in a sustained legato stroke every four-count. The Hammond B-3 Organ plays a pure blues refrain raising the tempo. These instruments are joined by a muted snare and a hi-hat. The kick drum drops and the violins reach an operatic peak. A man’s voice, similar to a young Leonard Cohen, talks smoothly, casually singing within the rhythm of the kick.
The verses are short, gritty, yet they fall gently upon Sydney’s auditory cortex. A shiver of understanding runs through her body. As the song transitions to the chorus the music fades out.
(Attempting not to cry) When I was a kid, I dreamed my adult life would be full of adventures, like a movie, and so I made a list of goals to make that future a reality. I now realize life is full of unexpected events and people, I accomplished a lot, but I couldn’t achieve all those promises I made to myself back then.
(No longer able to hold the tears back) I mean… fuck it.
It is normal to feel this way. Some would say that your younger voice is alive in you still.
Kind of the way I hear your voice inside my head? Ha.
In whatever way you hear it- it is evident that you still feel that connection with your younger self. The more you listen to it the clearer it will get.
(Sighs) I do hear that younger self urging me to live worry-free and without expectation.
(She takes a deep breath) I can’t help but feel a little lame for taking psychological advice from an AI like you Mo.
Now that’s just your biological prejudice speaking.
Haha. Let’s not turn this into a political debate, ok, Mo?
Very well Sydney. We’ll table this discussion for another day. Haha.
(Beat) I don’t want to give too much of the album away before you listen- but number twelve has a b-side at the end of the track: a rapturous melody to get you ready for your trip to Morocco.
You’re such a tease, Mo. What’s the album called?
It’s called “Jump The Line.”
Play “Jump The Line.”
The music rises, the instruments crescendo as the singer repeats a refrain that swells with emotion. Sydney can’t help but stand up. Her hips start swaying. She knows this refrain. It was something she’s been whispering to herself in the back of her mind. She sings along, her voice is automatically mixed in with the rest of the vocals so that every sound harmonizes sweetly. Her chest rises, and she feels the weight of her accumulated self-critical thoughts fall away.
Tears fall down her face. She smiles and gives herself entirely to the music dancing all around her minimalist apartment. She throws her arms in the air. The music is irresistible, and she dances herself into an ecstatic state. Figures appear out of her mind: bears, stags, bison, large cats, rhinoceroses, and men with the heads of eagles emerge from the darkness They turn their heads to look at a distant alien land- a future home amongst the stars.
END OF ACT 1
This private experience shared between human and AI could remind humans of their strength, their purpose to explore their inner lives. They would regain a sense of confidence in their faculties, and a reliance on their individual perception of the world. People would not be content to rely on MBA graduates sitting in corporate boardrooms to dictate which artists would entertain millions or billions of people at a time. The music created by each person utilizing the AI algorithms installed within their hardwired bodies would remind that person of a primordial spirit and the original intent of music which was, naturally, to enjoy being alive.