Music Meets Artificial Intelligence

A company in North Carolina, Zenph Sound Innovations is looking at new ways to play around with music, some of it very old.  One of their intitiatives is to take very old recorded performances and create new recordings based on what the now dead musicians would be making if they had access to today’s technology.  Wired has a sound snippet of a recently upgraded performance by a virtual Rachmaninoff.  Zenph is also  creating software that will allow today’s musicians to, essentially, jam with virtual versions of those who are no longer with us. The whole thing is predicated on gaining an understanding of the qualities that the original musician had, what made him or her sound like that. Says Wired,

Zenph’s technology looks at actual old recordings to find out how a performer played a certain song, and is not capable of figuring out how a musician would play a new part. ‘We hope — but we can’t demonstrate today — that after we’ve done several re-performances of a given artist, we will understand enough about that individual’s musical style to be able to suggest how that style might manifest itself in the performance of a work that the artist never actually performed,’ said [venture capital partner Kip] Frey, clarifying that today Zenph’s software only reproduces performances, it doesn’t create them.

Here’s the rub:

But if Zenph and other companies succeed in the quest to create virtual musical personalities, the market will likely create licensing mechanisms that allow a wide range of artists and labels to license their personalities to interactive music formats, potentially resulting in wrangling over music licensing. The problem has philosophical overtones: If a machine has to license a certain performer’s style, why doesn’t a human? Licensing the style or personality of performers would open a strange can of worms, even if the intent is just to fairly compensate those involved.

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