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AI may replace some forms of music composition, but it will enhance others

By | Published on Tuesday 29 November 2016

Music 4.5

While ‘machine learning’ is possibly a better term than ‘artificial intelligence’ to describe the kinds of AI technologies that are impacting on music as we speak, it’s certainly true that such tech is set to make an even bigger impact in the coming years, both commercially and creatively, according to Goldsmith College’s Mick Grierson, who is among the people set to speak at the latest Music 4.5 event in London tomorrow.

CMU Insights always provides a ‘story so far’ overview for Music 4.5 events, and this month for the first time this will include a special CMU Trends article, available to premium CMU subscribers online and Music 4.5 attendees at the event. Grierson spoke to CMU as part of that review, confirming that “there are huge numbers of applications for the sound and music industries” as machine learning technologies continue to evolve.

“Various forms of machine learning have been used to combat copyright infringement for years”, he notes, referring to sound recognition software like YouTube’s Content ID. And recent developments mean technologies of this type “can solve problems that were previously thought of as impossible, such as separating individual tracks from a mix”.

Though AI technologies are also impacting on the creative side of music too. Says Grierson: “I definitely think that machine learning will provide more people with greater power with respect to creating music. And this will mean that some forms of music composition could be replaced, though, to be honest, this has been the case for years, and you can easily argue that the role of the composer, in many areas of music, is not as important as you might think, and perhaps never was – take manufactured pop, for example”.

But Grierson reckons that these new technologies will generally become tools for human creators, rather than replacing them. “Machines only do what people tell them”, he says. “Nothing more. Without people to control and drive the process, you end up with nothing”.

“And this is where the real benefit will be”, he says. “Machine learning is going to revolutionise what is possible for composers. Once contemporary machine learning is embedded in tools such as non-linear editors and music production systems, music makers are going to suddenly realise that the palette of musical possibility just became so much more awesome”.

“The ability to create new sounds – sounds that no one has heard before – will be much more accessible with machine learning”, he concludes. “This is what we’ve been working on at Goldsmiths, and I think the future is bright for machine learning and the arts”.

Tickets for the Music 4.5 event ‘The New Creative Tech’ are available here. Use the code ‘CMU’ to get a 20% discount.