Contributing writer for The Artifice.
Junior Contributor I
Artificial Intelligence: The Future of Music?
Ever since Schubert abandoned his 8th Symphony in 1822, six years before his death, after writing the first two movements, composers, musicologists, and general lovers of classical music, have wondered why the symphony was left unfinished – was Schubert ill? Was he distracted with other compositions? But mostly we have wondered about what the final two movements would have sounded like.
In 2019, Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, answered this conundrum by completing the famous "Unfinished" Symphony by feeding thousands of Schubert’s works into the software that would hopefully produce material in the style of Schubert – as he would have thought it himself. This process was guided by the film composer Lucas Cantor, but still the result was heavily criticised.
AI has since been used in music to generate pop songs, many of which are indistinguishable from human-made hits we hear on the radio. Is the use of AI in musical composition just like any other technological innovation in that it aids the composer in their process, automating tedious tasks, and so on? Or are we facing a real fear of being stuck in a ‘loop’ of the same musical tastes, without the extra push of human creativity and invention, since AI runs on analysing pre-existing examples?
The author could further discuss the differences and similarities between AI software recognising patterns, and how humans often compose from well-studied patterns also.