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School of Music, Theatre & Dance pres.

Distinguished Lecture Series in Musicology: Prof. Charles Garrett, University of Michigan

“Our AI Lets Humans Take Control”: Popular Music and Collaborative Artificial Intelligence”

Recent technological advances have ushered artificial intelligence into everyday musical life, from Spotify predicting what songs you like to Google generating customized music with the click of a mouse to Amazon streaming AI-produced music through its virtual assistant Alexa. As AI moves from the research lab into the mass marketplace, debates have shifted from the philosophical to the pragmatic. Expansive questions probing consciousness and creativity have taken a backseat to corporate concerns about efficiency, price points, and scale. Whether AI will surpass the ability of human creativity has become less pressing than whether AI-generated music can be copyright protected. Most notably, to assuage anxieties sounded across the music world, industry leaders have come to embrace collaboration as a model for how AI can enhance, rather than replace, human creativity.

This presentation explores the mechanics and theorizes the challenges of computer-human interactivity through the lens of singer/songwriter Taryn Southern’s I AM AI (2018), billed as the first AI pop album. Co-produced with cutting-edge software developed by AIVA, Amper, Google, and IBM, the album reveals how AI helps to extend, automate, and supplement Southern’s musical abilities while enabling her to maintain claims of artistic agency. Recent writings on virtuality and interactivity, complemented by interviews with AI industry professionals and musicians who use AI, reveal similarly productive tensions involving collaboration, control, credit, and creative independence. Coming to terms with new forms of intelligence challenges us to explore how we characterize, distinguish, and understand musical relationships between human and virtual beings.


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