By David Kittredge
Artificial Intelligence, otherwise referred to as AI, is now trying its hand, or whatever computer part, at writing rock and roll tunes, with abysmal results.
First of all, if one is going to create a dance tune for humans shouldn’t being human or possessing the ability to dance be entwined into the musical palette?
Most rock and roll tunes are written in 4/4 meter, which invites the listener to want to move to the beat.
And what about soul? Soul in music is defined as lending itself to a variety of emotions, recognized by most humans, with influences of rhythm and blues. To create a song with lyrics and music that contain this notion of soul, shouldn’t the creator actually be imbued with one? Most “soulful” musicians started out singing in church in an effort of praise and worship, as the whole congregation dances and jives with the music.
Another element of the rock genre is an element called funk. I first heard of funk in 1971 upon hearing the song “Funky Nassau,” which incorporates the sights and sounds of the of the Bahamian capital city into the lyrics and music. Now, if AI was writing a song about funky Nassau, it probably would take a swing and miss, by misinterpreting the meaning of funk with regards to music instead writing of the smells emanating from a heat-soaked fish market, spewing forth descriptions of the funky fish odors.
So far, most AI or neural-network song-writing efforts include some human intervention, either in writing the lyrics like in the song “Daddy’s Car” or with the aid of human cleanup of any distended song parts. Another way in which AI tunes are compiled is to create a collage of lyrics and music of famous musicians or a compendium of say, the country music genre where hundreds of songs are downloaded into a computer, The neural network computer then cherry picks lyrics, words and stanzas to create a new song from the mish mash, as in the AI generated country song “You Can’t Take My Door.”
The following AI written “rock” songs can be found on YouTube.
“Bored With This Desire to Get Ripped” is a mash-up of Amazon customer reviews of an exercise program called P90X and the lyrics of Steven Morrissey of the English rock band “The Smiths.” This nugget of musical non-delight is a drab compilation of complaints from users of an exercise video who have decided that the rigorous physical program isn’t worth the time and the effort to achieve the ultimate goal of getting ripped
“You Can’t Take My Door” was created by the pouring in of many country songs into a computer, which were then homogenized to achieve the “perfect” country song. What was produced was an amalgamation of disjointed metaphors and images that are nonsensical. The song should have been better named, “You Can’t Take My Toilet Seat” if the point was to stir up human emotion.
If you want to hear the perfect country song, try David Allen Coe’s “You Never Even Called Me by My Name,” a hilarious offering in which is claimed to be the “perfect country song” because it was re-written at the behest of singer David Allen Coe, by Steve Goodman to include mentions of mama, trains, trucks, prison, and getting drunk. The ballad is filled with satire and irony, poking fun at the country music genre, with a tinge of self-deprecating humor, a caricature which a computer would not comprehend. Irony to a robot would probably mean a well pressed shirt and satire would probably be misconstrued with the phrase “sat here”, in an attempt at short sighted logic.
The neural network might be able to write odes to inanimate objects such as rocks, minerals or even a potato. Objects which are lacking vitality, spirit or consciousness, which would be a reflection of own existence, things which are relatable to a lifeless machine.
Considered one of the greatest bass guitar musicians of all times, James Jamerson, stated that he got his inspiration for creating his sound from watching a woman walking down the street. He incorporated the way she jiggled and swayed as she walked into the beat and rhythm of his music. No, not until a robot can do the “locomotion” or the “peppermint twist” should it be delving into the rock and roll genre.
David Kittredge is a regular contributor to the Eagle Times. You can send comments to him via the editor.