Manufacturing the Arts – Toren Darby


Play this song. Play it.

No one seems to think this topic is interesting. No one picked it before I could and no one seemed to care when I mentioned it, but this is an incredible topic.

Right now, fine arts have little value. We have far more artists than we really need and there is no more demand. Unless you are a big name artist no one will search you out and certainly no one will buy anything. This is especially true of music. Why buy it when you can Grooveshark or Torrent?

This will take the little value art has and drop it to an absolute zero.

Artists of any kind create new works by mixing together what they have seen or heard before and twisting it as they feel right. We mistake this for creativity. We are only regurgitating what is already inside our heads. There is no magic spark that writes a song or a novel or play. There is only the amalgamation of many ideas, combined through an amazingly complex process that is our thought.

Once we figure out the process and compile the ideas, there’s nothing left, and then things start getting really weird.

A song is made of chords, rhythms, melody, ornamentation and probably some odd bits I forgot to mention.  With only a very basic understanding of what sounds good you can make a simple song. Trust me I know. With people this comes from intuition and research into theory. With a computer it comes from a complex system of templates, variables and percentages.

Tell a computer that a certain genre usually has accents on certain beats, favors certain instruments, favors certain chord structures, is usually a certain tempo, etc. Give a percentage variable for variation from the template (so every song isn’t the same) give it the tools to work with and then tweak. It can now write music as fast as the computer can process the instructions. Leave it on overnight and you can have a thousand songs waiting for you in the morning. Of course this will be hard to do, but it’s not that far in the future. If any company really gets behind it music can be mass produced for nothing.

Music will come first since it’s a mix of fairly simple patterns. Visual artwork ranging from paintings to graphic art to 3D models will be second. They are usually considerably more complicated because the creative element is much more complex. Being able to imagine a picture of a house in a field would, made without reference, would be incredibly difficult to program into a computer. Simple vector arts and other math and pattern based artworks would be much, much easier, but probably less impressive. Anything to do with speech is infinitely harder.  I’m not even going to go into how much harder that is.

Music is the real threat to this technology, because it’s so close to being done, it’s already been done.

The song you are listening to was written by a machine.

Here’s a nice article if you’re interested.

One Comment:

  1. I think there are some music forms that would be much harder for computers to write, especially jazz, but your point is excellent. Isn’t a dot matrix printer a computers attempt at pointillism? I would point out that these programs that computers run are still being written by humans so you could just argue that the computer is just a different kind of instrument for making music or art.

    Do you think that this topic was not picked because it a typical college prep subject?

    Mr. C

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