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Will AI replace musicians?

Published: 08th August, 2021 at 11:00
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Could music composed by artificial intelligence – such as the Tokyo Olympics 'official beat' – put human musicians out of the job?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is now giving us the next generation of electronic music, this time by using machine learning to understand sounds, patterns and styles of music and lyrics, and then generating new versions.


This was the approach used to create ‘The official Tokyo 2020 beat’, which saw an Intel AI use thousands of pieces of music reflecting themes of sports, Japanese culture, daily life and nature, to compose hundreds of options, before the final version was chosen by the Japanese public.

AI music is becoming a new industry, with start-ups inventing faster and easier music composition software, such as JukeDeck, a UK-based AI music start-up recently acquired by TikTok, which automatically interprets video and sets music to it.

Many recording artists are experimenting with AI for lyric generation, following the example David Bowie set in the 1990s with the song Hallo Spaceboy.

Others are using AI to make new neural synthesiser sounds, such as Grimes on the track So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth – Art Mix. And then there are those using AI to help create entire albums, like Taryn Southern with I AM AI.

With AI advances showing no signs of slowing down, it won’t be long before a computer can be used to make new versions of every musical genre that are indistinguishable from human-composed pieces.

AI can even innovate, creating new concepts and exploring new sounds that have never existed before. But like our languages, music is all about communication. Today AI has all the skills, but nothing to say. Only when we use it to help us express ourselves can its true value be felt.

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Dr Peter Bentley is a computer scientist and author who is based at University College London. He is the author of books including 10 Short Lessons in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Digital Biology: How nature is transforming our technology and our lives.


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