Artificial Intelligence Creativity Machine Learns to Play Beethoven in the Style of The Beatles’ “Penny Lane”

It is the end of term this week and my film pro­duc­tion stu­dents asked me to name my favorite part of film­mak­ing. I told them it’s direct­ing, as it’s some­thing I so rarely get to do (com­pared to writ­ing) yet so involv­ing that an entire day goes by in a flash. Regard­less, I always pop out the oth­er side know­ing I was at my absolute cre­ative best. I was in the “zone” or as Mihaly Csik­szent­mi­ha­lyi called it in 1990, “the flow state.” And in a won­der­ful bit of syn­chronic­i­ty, not a lit­tle while lat­er, I have been charged with pre­sent­ing to you this exam­ple of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence (AI) cre­ativ­i­ty. It sim­i­lar­ly uses this under­stand­ing of the flow state to cre­ate.

In the above video, the Flow Machine devel­oped by François Pachet at Sony CSL-Paris has been fed Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, and then asked to orches­trate “cov­er ver­sions” fol­low­ing the rules set down by a genre–say bossa nova or elec­tron­ic chill music–or a song itself, in this case being the Bea­t­les’ “Pen­ny Lane.”

Pre­vi­ous attempts to cre­ate ran­dom com­put­er music have result­ed in exact­ly that–random notes, drawn from a selec­tion deter­mined by a pro­gram­mer. But that isn’t how cre­ativ­i­ty works. When we cre­ate, we under­stand our para­me­ters already, sub­con­scious­ly, and not only that, we know what we and oth­ers have done before, what “push­es the enve­lope” com­pared to using a com­plete­ly wrong ele­ment, and what makes our own cre­ativ­i­ty unique. (If we dis­cov­er it and empha­size the lat­ter over and over, it’s called style.)

The Flow Machine project aims to under­stand style and treat it as a com­pu­ta­tion­al object through which oth­er infor­ma­tion can pass. That’s what we’re see­ing in the above video. For a more thor­ough expla­na­tion of Flow Machine, watch this video.

Sup­pos­ed­ly, this will help us poor human beings in the end, as it might (it’s nev­er explained how) help us get into our own flow state more read­i­ly.

But real­ly, that’s not what I’m think­ing about. I’m more imag­in­ing a night club some­time in the future where Bea­t­les androids play not just their hits, but the hits of oth­ers as if John, Paul, George and Ringo wrote them instead. (Yes, I know that has already been done. By humans.) And your local used record shop will have a lot of LPs full of clas­si­cal ver­sions of Bea­t­les hits.

It’s an inter­est­ing video, but I wouldn’t pack up your gui­tars yet folks!

via Tech Crunch

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Cre­ativ­i­ty, Not Mon­ey, is the Key to Hap­pi­ness: Dis­cov­er Psy­chol­o­gist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly’s The­o­ry of “Flow”

Slavoj Žižek: What Ful­fils You Cre­ative­ly Isn’t What Makes You Hap­py

Slavoj Žižek Exam­ines the Per­verse Ide­ol­o­gy of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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