Should musicians, whose job relies on the unpredictable and mysterious workings of human imagination, heed the warnings about artificial intelligence driving humans into unemployment?

SwissCognitive LogoApparently, the answer to that question is bit complicated. Artificial intelligence is gradually transforming into a general-purpose technology that permeates virtually every aspect of human life and society. Just like electricity (another general-purpose technology) which had an impact on music and musical instruments, AI algorithms will inevitably change the way we create and perform music. While this does not mean an end to the era of human musicians, it is fair to say that some dramatic changes are lying ahead.

How does artificial intelligence apply to music?

At the heart of recent artificial intelligence breakthroughs are machine learning algorithms, programs that find patterns in large sets of data. Machine learning made it possible to automate both cognitive and physical processes that difficult or impossible to define through rule-based programming . This includes tasks such as image classification, speech recognition and translation.

When given musical data, machine learning algorithms can find the patterns that define each style and genre of music. But there’s more to it than classification and copyright protection. As researchers have shown, machine learning algorithms are capable of creating their own unique musical scores.

An example is Google’s Magenta, a project that is looking for ways to advance the state of machine-generated art. Using Google’s TensorFlow platform, the Magenta team has already managed to create algorithms that generate melodies as well as new instrument sounds. Magenta is also exploring the broader intersection of AI and arts, and is delving into other fields such as generating paintings and drawings.

Flow Machines, a project directed by Sony’s Computer Science Laboratories, has also made inroads in creating musical works with artificial intelligence. The research team trained its machine learning algorithm with 13,000 melodies from different music genres, and then let it work its magic and create its own piece of art. The result was Daddy’s Car, a song that mimics the style of The Beatles. While the lyrics were created by a human, the music was totally made by the algorithm. […]