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Will AI Change the Artistic Value of Music?

What does it mean to have a song created by a robot?

Artificial intelligence is becoming a useful tool in every field from healthcare to finance, product development to entertainment. In the art world, AI seeks to accelerate and assist in the creative process for many artists of various mediums. For musicians, in particular, AI innovations now help translate music and identify genres, progressions, and specific chords. AI’s machine learning programs are also beginning to create their own music.

As AI algorithms advance, they could become cognizant enough to create more complex music autonomously. Yet, ethical and philosophical questions abound surrounding AI-made creativity.

What happens to music’s value when there’s no longer human effort actively present in its creation? In other words, is music socially valuable if it’s not created by humans or will it lack those unique qualities that have made music such a special art form?

AI for Art’s Sake?

Already, Amper.ai’s team has created software that can compose music. Listeners can request the software to provide them with music that is based on anything from mood to instrumentation or even length and tempo. An original piece is composed with these specifications and performed and mixed by AI programming.

The software doesn’t write melodies quite yet, but it does produce impressive background music, also called mood music. Often, these background songs are downloadable tracks ready to sell to stock music studios, reality TV shows, web series and more. Because they are created and curated by programmed machines, these pieces of art are often very polished and efficient given the demand for which they’re created. But as a product, these tracks are not rare or unique. For example, Monet’s famous painting “Water Lilies” is one of a kind. A reprint is not as pricey because it does not offer all the creative subtleties or the originality evident when viewing the actual paint strokes, texture, and color of the first piece. A copy, in essence, only mirrors the artworks’ most tangible qualities.

Yet, as AI becomes ubiquitous, it may become steadily adopted by most musicians as it makes music-making more efficient and more accessible for them.

AI as an Art Movement

A recent article from Quartz mentions that AI will be the art movement of the 21st century. It points to the fact that every art movement was defined by a specific aesthetic enabled with a tool or innovation of the time which helped artists create. For example, the Stone Age allowed people to make art with flint chips. Today we have a myriad of technological innovations that help us make art from 3D-bioprinting to mixed reality.

AI is the next tool offering to add to music’s creative impact. It can help artists who are experimental or even avant-garde in their creations while not completely replacing the artist themselves. Although AI can compute systematic music patterns and identify sounds, it can’t yet make creative transitions or foresee subtle patterns at random periods like the mind of a human artist can. In improvisational jazz, musicians feed off of each other in real-time, assessing the creativity and inspiration behind the production process. During a session, musicians often interpret and play off cues from each other. They take rhythm transitions, tempos, key changes, or flourishes. The written style of music is only one aspect of how musicians gain inspiration during creation and production. Even though it seems natural and free-flowing, this creative feedback demands trained capabilities, intelligence and strategic timing that AI can not yet mirror in artistic collaboration. But the purpose of AI will be to help artists generate new and unique ideas by offering them access to melodic structures and harmonies that they might ordinarily not draw inspiration from, like a modern day equivalent to Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies.

AI to Orchestrate Music’s Artistic Value

According to the 2016 Experts Survey on AI, automation will replicate 27.5 percent of the songs on that reach Top 40 by 2026. In 20 years, it’s predicted that 50 percent of all top forty songs will be automated creations. Since AI has to be programmed by its creators, it can’t always connect patterns with emerging social values and movements, and therefore lacks contextual innovation in its own abilities. But creatives will take advantage as it eases the production process. When music production allows artists to direct the machine like a maestro, then artists may be genuinely empowered.

While AI can change the importance and emotional value of music production, it is the artists who will harness AI for their own creativity, growing the value of music in its vast array of genres. Music can assist in expanding music production’s creative value, AI will only help artists reinforce the emotional, thought-provoking features within their musical work; ones that only a human mind can provide for now. 

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