Computer-Generated “Beatles” Song Not That Bad

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beatles65People have been trying to write Beatles-style songs for fifty years, so you knew it was only a matter of time before computers seriously got into the act too. SONY CSL Research has actually been working on this for years, and last week they finally released a Beatles-style song composed by artificial intelligence, and it is really something to hear.

SONY’s been developing some ultra-sophisticated songwriting software called Flow Machines which, according to their website, “learns music styles from a huge database of songs. Then, exploiting unique combinations of style transfer, optimization and interaction techniques, it can compose in any style.”

The weak part of the process is that it still requires a human to arrange, produce and write lyrics to the melodies and harmonies that were produced by AI. We’re still a ways away yet from good AI-generated poetry or lyrics, but somewhere down the line, you can bet that’s coming too.

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Give it a spin, it’s really a lot of fun to listen to. It is amazing how the chord changes, the melodies and the harmonies sound like the Beatles without sounding like any specific Beatles song. I think there are a couple of really nice moments of melody and harmony, and a couple of inspired changes. I would call it a well-written song musically.

Too bad about the lyrics, though. “In daddy’s car, the sound is so good / Like something new, it turns me on” could have been written by Lennon or McCartney I suppose, but only if they were, say, recovering from a severe brain injury. And it’s too bad they didn’t even try to approximate Beatles musicianship. You can’t really sound like the Beatles without McCartney’s flowing bass lines or Ringo’s distinctive slap on the drums.

What’s missing most of all is the human heart that’s beating at the core of The Beatles. The takeaway from this project may very well be that you cannot separate Beatles music, or any music really, from the personalities of the people who created it. There’s a warm and genuine humanity that radiates from Beatles songs, and I don’t think that is something any computer software will ever be able to duplicate in the foreseeable future.

Photo: By EMI. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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