Music Created by Artificial Intelligence Is Better Than You Think
A.I. doesn’t have to be a threat to human musicians. It might actually improve their melodies.
“And of course there was nothing more repellent than the synthesizer,” said Morrissey, front man for the Smiths, in a 1983 interview, reflecting the arguments of the day that raged around whether the new electronic instruments of the 1970s qualified as “proper” music. In 1982, a branch of the U.K.’s Musician’s Union even tried to ban the use of synths, on the grounds that they were taking work away from musicians who played stringed instruments.
Those kinds of arguments may have a parallel today, in 2019, with the emergence of music created with artificial intelligence. Some of the questions (Is this “real” music? Can it compete with human-made melodies? If so, will it put those humans out of a job?) are eerily similar.
Can an A.I. create original music? Absolutely. Can it create original music better than a human can? Well, it depends which human you’re comparing the A.I.’s music to, for a start.
Human-created music already spans everything from the sublime to the unlistenable. While an A.I. may not be able to out-Adele Adele (or Aretha Franklin, or Joni Mitchell) with a timeless song and performance, it can compose a compelling melody for a YouTube video, mobile game, or elevator journey faster, cheaper, and almost as well as a human equivalent. In these scenarios, it’s often the “faster” and “cheaper” parts that matter most to whoever’s paying.
The quality of A.I. music is improving in leaps and bounds as the technology becomes more sophisticated. In January 2017, Australian A.I.-music startup Popgun could listen to a human playing piano and respond with a melody that could come next; by July 2018, it could compose and play piano, bass, and drums together as a backing track for a human’s vocals.