For those old-timers who feel that today’s music is nothing but electronic noise made by computers, now they just might have a point. Singer-songwriter and YouTube star Taryn Southern has employed artificial intelligence software Amper to compose the entirety of the music for her new album titled “I AM AI.”
The first single from her upcoming album is called “Break Free” and for what it’s worth, Amper can compose a serviceable pop tune.
Amper and Southern’s new music is the next logical step for the so-called concept of “generative music” as popularized by ambient musician Brian Eno. It takes in manually input musical moods such as “somber,” “cinematic” or “epic,” and generates an appropriate example based on the input in seconds. In this case, Amper generated the chord structures, rhythm, instrumentation and mood for “Break Free” and Southern embellished the track with her own lyrics and vocal melody.
The strength of the song itself is helped by these lyrics in question. When the song’s context is understood it can easily be interpreted as being sung by a machine who composed this admittedly pretty melody, that yearns to be taken seriously as a composer (and as a human) with lyrics like “I wish I could feel beyond what isn’t real,” and “I’m learning how to break free.”
In the video released with the track, quick cuts are made between an artificial-looking Southern and one showing her more human side. Though effective, the overall sentiment can be a little heavy-handed; one may call to mind the Jonathan Coulton song “Still Alive” as sung by evil A.I. GLaDOS in the computer game, “Portal.”
And speaking of Eno, while the song is quickly gaining genuine and well-earned critical attention, the composition is not unlike Eno’s and David Byrne’s collaborative 2008 effort, “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.” Eno, the self-described “non-musician,” generated random chord sequences of music and snippets that were then put to lyrics by Byrne.
While that album was referred to as “electronic gospel,” judging from at least the first single, Southern’s album may come to be termed something similar to “artificial pop” in its truest sense. Nothing much may come of it, though at the very least it’s a somewhat successful foray by Southern into a brave new world.