Future, Meet DJ-Bot 3000!

What AI Evolution Means for Machine Music

Written by Lilian Min • Photography by Kevin Winter, WireImage • December 7, 2016

From Daft Punk to Björk to Grimes, today’s most creative and challenging music producers are part of a legacy of sound experimentation made possible by technology. Up to now, humans have been the ones guiding the present and future of music creation—but that could change.

Already, computers have the ability to create music on their own. And recent computer-generated music applications are getting more sophisticated all the time. Iamus, a music-composing computer in Spain’s Technology Park, runs on AI driven by an evolutionary algorithm that learns and gradually becomes more complex over time. Iamus has written works performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. Meanwhile, Google’s Magenta Project has used a computer modeled after the human brain to create a original compositions.

It’s only a matter of time before art AIs like Iamus are a normalized part of the industry. Quick history lesson: The first instance of computer-generated music was recently posted online, programmed in 1951 by British computer scientists Alan Turing and Christopher Strachey. Following that, early electronic music pioneers like Wendy Carlos, Robert Moog and Isao Tomita stretched the sound boundaries of synthesizers. Now, nearly all recorded music is processed and distributed through computers, even if the recordings include analog instruments.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of digital sound experiments that turn all kinds of human input—Wikipedia edits, developer code-testing, and even climate change—into music. The Flow Machines project aggregates whole musical styles to create songs. (For example, this is its best example of a Beatles-like pop song: “Daddy’s Car.”) Elsewhere, Patatap and Typatone combine user input via a keyboard with a pre-programmed sound kit. (This is what Typatone music sounds like.) So while computerized music still largely relies on the human touch, it’s easy to imagine how your next favorite DJ might just be born in an AI lab. Deal with it.

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