Tech

Hear me out: Maybe AI won’t be so bad for music

[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]

When Barry Manilow wanted to tour in 1982, he was faced with the immense cost of taking an orchestra on the road. So he didn’t. Instead, a larger group of musicians playing traditional instruments was jettisoned and replaced by a couple of guys playing synthesizers. Musicians’ unions hit the roof, saying that synths were costing jobs and the tech should be outlawed. How did that work out?

Around the same time, musicians were exploring the art of sample, the surgical excisions of portions of old songs in the creation of new ones. There was much complaining about that, too. “Creativity is dead!” yelled the naysayers. “We’re doomed to a future of recycled sounds!”

Instead, once the legal issues were worked out (i.e. giving proper credit to those whose works were sampled), a new generation of clever musicians was able to use the new technology to extend the sonic range and texture of popular music.

Then we run into the introduction of the modern drum machine. Drummers were positive this tech was going to put them out of business. A funny thing happened, though. It didn’t. There were still plenty of gigs for drummers. Meanwhile, musicians started using drum machines for the beats and sounds that humans couldn’t create with their arms and legs. The tech ushered in a whole new set of sounds as well as a new job: drum programmer.

Such Luddite bleats against technological progress are seldom successful. When it comes to music vs. tech, tech almost always wins.

The latest challenge to the status quo is the use of artificial intelligence in the creation of new music.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38536 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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