Andrew York about musical dystopia

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Erik Zurcher
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Andrew York about musical dystopia

Post by Erik Zurcher » Fri Jun 14, 2019 9:06 am

Andrew York on Facebook:
Yeesh. Musical dystopia is here. I just received an email from a company that offers a software AI assistant for composers, which will write a piece for you in less than a minute. You've got to be kidding me. Then you can take credit for the ideas and say you composed them. I've noticed that there are people who believe owning iMovie makes them a film maker, or using Garage Band makes them a musician. I can see it coming - a crop of people will now use software to substitute for their own lack of training and creativity and will proclaim themselves composers.

Composing is an art form, in which the composer struggles to access and express deep and personal emotions and ideas. If a composer can't come up with his or her own ideas, ideas that emerge from their own emotions, experience, knowledge and life experience, and have to resort to software to create ideas for them, then there is no artistry involved, no personal meaning, no humanity and no point.

That being said, I wrote software in the mid 80's that composed very good music. But it did so because I used my intelligence and knowledge of music to carefully create algorithms that realized my compositional intentions. But as a counter example, the math and computer genius Stephen Wofram (who is a mathematical god) wrote some software that creates music, and despite his deep intelligence, there seems to be a lack of understand of the myriad qualities that give depth and meaning to music. Consequently the music created by his software sounds unconvincing and odd, like an unsatisfying intellectual exercise. The point being that technical, intellectual and mathematical brilliance is not nearly enough to comprehend and quantify the mystery of music. And just as using Garage Band doesn't make you a pop star, an AI compositional assistant cannot substitute for years of study and innate talent, and is a step down the road to membership in the Borg collective. Rant finished.
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Re: Andrew York about musical dystopia

Post by marvluse » Fri Jun 14, 2019 10:54 am

I certainly concur with his sentiments. What worries me, though, is that I see the same thing happening across all pursuits, niches, and corners of life, everything from a simple spell checker to self-driving cars. Let the computer do it. No need to study a language, the computer can translate for me. No need for pilots in the cockpit, the computer can fly the plane.

AI has matured to the point where it can handle almost anything. It's a slippery slope, a multi-edged sword. There is an old aphorism, "use it or lose it." If things continue along this trend, there will be no need for humans, and indeed they will be unable to do anything to boot.

Art (i.e., music, poetry, literature, et al) has always struck me as the one aspect of culture where a soulless machine could not compete. Apparently, even that is under siege.

Maybe we should ban computers. :wink:

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Re: Andrew York about musical dystopia

Post by Marshall Dixon » Fri Jun 14, 2019 1:04 pm

Turn the clock back one hundred years: "These gramophones are going to replace the multitude of musicians who perform in their homes."

Rant on Mr. York. The Lancastrians are at the gates. We definately could use a tutor to lead the way.

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Re: Andrew York about musical dystopia

Post by segobreawill » Fri Jun 14, 2019 1:44 pm

Erik Zurcher wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 9:06 am
Andrew York on Facebook:

... And just as using Garage Band doesn't make you a pop star, an AI compositional assistant cannot substitute for years of study and innate talent, and is a step down the road to membership in the Borg collective.
People will spend hours upon hours of "practicing" Guitar Hero ... but they would never spend those hours seated on a chair working through a gruelling Sor study that just won't bow down to you but will have every ounce of your respect before it shows you the light of day with regards to playing it cleanly, correctly and musically proper.

None of this surprises me. We've never lived in an age where 'instant gratification' was the modus operandi of the generation then present as it is now. There is an unwillingness to wait for things - everything needs to be had or done by yesterday. It's all about "who's the youngest this, or who's the youngest that..." We're getting older faster. I heard an expression not too long ago with regards to older folks, "Seventy is the new forty!" Although this was said in regards to peopel at seventy being as active as they were at forty (really?), I saw something else in that statement. I said to myself, "Well, that's it then - it's official: We're now considered old at forty!"

It used to be that we would write out all our essays for English literature by hand and in ink. We would know whose essay belonged to whom because of their hand-writing. And some had exceptional hand-writing indeed. Now, everyone hands in a paper that looks the same because this "thing" called a computer writes it out for us while our composition/spelling skills go to hell and our hand-wrting deteriorates to the level where it begins to look like some form of chicken scratch straight out of the hen house. If it were not for the name on the cover page, you'd never know whose paper that was. There was a time when a University degree meant something - nowadays it just raises speculation as to whether or not that particular individual cheated their way to graduation?

Are we headed for the Borg collective? Is resistance futile? Will we be assimilated?

Will people be too busy with their damn cell phone, vain selfies, or "the latest greatest app", to even know it's happening?

Perhaps...

... but for now, I'm going back to my chair and work on that damn Sor study!

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Re: Andrew York about musical dystopia

Post by soltirefa » Fri Jun 14, 2019 1:55 pm

We've never lived in an age where 'instant gratification' was the modus operandi of the generation then present as it is now.
Being perpetually offended is another attribute of the current generation, as well.

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Re: Andrew York about musical dystopia

Post by Arion Romanus » Fri Jun 14, 2019 4:27 pm

segobreawill wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 1:44 pm
It used to be that we would write out all our essays for English literature by hand and in ink. We would know whose essay belonged to whom because of their hand-writing. And some had exceptional hand-writing indeed.
It's funny that you romanticize handwriting in this way considering how Socrates argued that writing itself was harmful because it meant that people no longer relied on their own memories. I'm not saying this to dismiss your concerns, I'm very concerned about where new technologies are taking us, but I think it's also very easy to dismiss the "new things" while taking old things for granted.

Why should we draw the line at computers or AI? You could make a similar case against the printing press, which not only destroyed the centuries old craft of producing manuscripts by hand, but also lead to a total transformation of society to the point that it would have been unrecognizable to those who had lived before its invention. But there's no reason to stop there; I've heard it argued by people much smarter than me that humanity was much happier living as hunter-gatherers and that the invention of agriculture (and the civilizations that followed it) was a huge mistake. It's very easy to dismiss people like Socrates as silly for worrying about writing, but what reason do we today have to say "here but no further" when it comes to technological development? Won't people centuries from now look at us as being just as silly? Again, I'm not saying that there's nothing to be worried about (far from it), but I think it's useful to have some perspective and not get too comfortable with one's own limited vantage point.

As to the matter of AI composition in particular, I must say I'm rather indifferent. Music for me isn't about the "end product" so to speak. Using synthesizers, sampling and music software I can already assemble a performance which is much better in every way than what I'll ever accomplish on my guitar, but who cares? I don't play guitar to produce the perfect performance, I do it because the process itself is rewarding. By the same logic, it doesn't matter if an AI can produce a thousand brilliant symphonies in a single day; what matters is the creative labor and journey of music-making which a computer will never be able to do "for me" as it were. The final product itself is mostly incidental. People still attend concert despite having access to recordings and by the same token people will still want to make music because it was never about the "product" or end result, but about the experience.

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Re: Andrew York about musical dystopia

Post by Karen » Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:24 pm

People still attend concert despite having access to recordings and by the same token people will still want to make music because it was never about the "product" or end result, but about the experience.
+1

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Re: Andrew York about musical dystopia

Post by Terpfan » Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:32 pm

Marshall Dixon wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 1:04 pm
Turn the clock back one hundred years: "These gramophones are going to replace the multitude of musicians who perform in their homes."

Rant on Mr. York. The Lancastrians are at the gates. We definately could use a tutor to lead the way.
Amplification killed classical music.

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Re: Andrew York about musical dystopia

Post by marvluse » Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:56 pm

Terpfan wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:32 pm
Marshall Dixon wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 1:04 pm
Turn the clock back one hundred years: "These gramophones are going to replace the multitude of musicians who perform in their homes."

Rant on Mr. York. The Lancastrians are at the gates. We definately could use a tutor to lead the way.
Amplification killed classical music.
Both the post you quote and your own comment are somewhat nebulous in their meaning, but in general I disagree with both. What do you mean by "amplification?" The electric guitar, for instance? If anything, it enhanced the possibilities, enlarged the palette of what is possible. The synthesizer? Same comment applies. Recordings played on a 1000 watt surround-sound audio system? Ah, the convenience. Wish I had one.

One of my favorite orchestral works is Ottorino Respighi's Pini di Roma. Love listening to recordings of it. But I've also heard it performed live, and that was a good order of magnitude more profound and enjoyable than any recording. Imagine, a bunch of flesh and blood humans producing such incredible sounds, versus the same thing from the speakers on my computer. No comparison. :)

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Re: Andrew York about musical dystopia

Post by riffmeister » Fri Jun 14, 2019 6:04 pm

It's here to stay. Get used to it. Intellectually gifted people will continue to create and do amazing things. I hope.... ;)

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Re: Andrew York about musical dystopia

Post by Marshall Dixon » Fri Jun 14, 2019 6:20 pm

marvluse wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:56 pm

...Both the post you quote and your own comment are somewhat nebulous in their meaning...
My post was meant to be nebulous.

As for classical music; you could argue that it died with Schubert.

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Re: Andrew York about musical dystopia

Post by marvluse » Fri Jun 14, 2019 6:26 pm

Marshall Dixon wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 6:20 pm
marvluse wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:56 pm

...Both the post you quote and your own comment are somewhat nebulous in their meaning...
As for classical music; you could argue that it died with Schubert.
You could argue that. But not very convincingly. I'd say it still has a pretty strong heartbeat. :)

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Re: Andrew York about musical dystopia

Post by RussellFW » Fri Jun 14, 2019 9:23 pm

AI can't perform live though. Perhaps we need to re-instate the 'soiree' - get a few friends round and play live in a small setting.

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Re: Andrew York about musical dystopia

Post by marvluse » Fri Jun 14, 2019 10:27 pm

RussellFW wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 9:23 pm
AI can't perform live though. Perhaps we need to re-instate the 'soiree' - get a few friends round and play live in a small setting.
Ah, yes, soiree or salon. Nothing better. I'd stipulate no computers or iPhones, however. :lol:

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Re: Andrew York about musical dystopia

Post by Rick Beauregard » Fri Jun 14, 2019 10:55 pm

... and yet we see a Renaissance of interest in hand crafted or old school things— from vinyl to hand made guitars and film photography and farm to table food— and from the younger generation at that. The impersonal antiseptic technological milieu will, I believe, continue to keep us yearning for the artistic creations of human beings performing in the first degree. We may take a driverless car to work, but on the weekend our heart races at the thought of a mountain drive in your Mustang convertible or a sail on the sound, rail down. Or hearing Scarlatti on a period harpsichord.

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