Digital music production tools have opened plenty of doors to modern-day artists, offering endless possibilities to customize, create and manipulate soundscapes. A few free samples and simple recordings can quickly be transformed into intoxicating melodies by the hands of a skilled music producer. But what happens when rapidly learning artificial intelligence enters the recording studio? Can an intelligent computer software replace the creative mind of a living breathing musician? Or can it be used as a tool that pushes the boundaries of what an artist thought they were capable of? Trying to answer these questions, we have taken a closer look at prominent examples of musical artists using artificial intelligence to expand their artistic abilities and empower themselves, like the DIANA AI Songwriting Contest.
SEVDALIZA AND DAHLIA
On October 11, Iranian-Dutch singer-songwriter and music producer Sevdaliza gave metaphorical birth to the artistic persona and female artificial intelligence called Dahlia. Exclaiming her refusal to accept gender bias and her role as a suffering artist, she announced the creation of Dahlia, “the world’s first femmenoid, specialized to navigate within the unrealistic expectations of women in our society”. In an Instagram post, she further explains that “Dahlia will create and dictate the artistic expressions of Sevdaliza, therefore freeing [her] from the mental obligation to come up for [women’s] rights and beliefs”.
“Dahlia will create and dictate the artistic expressions of Sevdaliza, therefore freeing [her] from the mental obligation to come up for [women’s] rights and beliefs.”
While it is unclear whether Dahlia is just a fictional character of Sevdaliza’s latest artistic era or a real AI program that assists her in creating new music, it is clear that the concept of artificial intelligence does not threaten the work of Sevdaliza herself. Instead, she utilizes AI for her own profit: to take pressure off herself and her work and free her from her perceived boundaries as a woman in society.
"AI LULLABY" by GRIMES AND ENDEL
Canadian-born musical artist C Boucher, better known as Grimes, is another well-known AI-aficionado. Her collaboration with AI-powered mindfulness application Endel is less politically charged than Sevdaliza’s Dahlia, but it is powerful and ambitious nonetheless. Endel’s technology collects data from their user’s electronic devices to create personalized adaptive soundscapes that aim to reduce stress and improve the sleep of the listener. Grimes’ and Endel’s project “AI Lullaby” marries the patented technology with Grimes’ soothing electronic audio productions. Based on scientific research on sleep-improving sounds and patterns, this application takes the often criticized aspects of artificial intelligence and data collection and turns it into something that does not exploit its users but benefits them. “I love the movement towards, as you say, ‘humane technology”, says Grimes. In her eyes, artificial intelligence must not be seen as a threat, something that exploits or replaces our cognitive abilities, but rather a beneficial extension of those.
THE DIANA AI SONGWRITING CONTEST
Similarly, at the DIANA Songwriting Camp, artistic intuition and musical skill meet the endless possibilities of artificial intelligence. DIANA – its name derived by merging a female name with the words DNA and AI - is the first AI songwriting contest with an associated songwriting camp and its own award ceremony. The mission of the contest is to actively promote creative and playful dialogue between musicians and AI software. In a one-day songwriting camp, teams of experienced songwriters musicians write and produce songs in interaction with a variety of AI software. The results are presented during a ceremony where the winning team is awarded the DIANA trophy. “I am interested in how we can make great musicians open up to AI and get inspired by it”, says artist profiler, speaker, and songwriter Jovanka von Wilsdorf, who initiated the DIANA Songwriting Camp and Contest. She does not believe that AI could even remotely replace artistic skill and intuition – on the contrary.
“The added value is: you get to know yourself as a musician even more.”
An experienced artist herself, she sees artificial intelligence as a tool to help musicians grow, gain confidence and strengthen their artistic identity. The DIANA AI Songwriting Contest serves as a lesson in decision-making and defining one’s artistic voice, especially for women. Often overshadowed by more aggressive voices in co-writing sessions with other musicians, working with artificial intelligence software allows non-male identifying artists to call the shots in their artistic ventures without being questioned. Thus, artificial intelligence could serve as a powerful catalysator in uplifting female voices and empowering equality in the production field of the music industry. Furthermore, the software reacts immediately to what it is given, thus quick decision-making and confidence are crucial to successfully using the tools.
“The added value is: you get to know yourself as a musician even more”, Jovanka explains. This year’s contest took place during the Cologne Music Week just a few days ago, between Friday and Saturday, October 22nd and 23rd of 2021 – with 90% of the applicants being female artists. It was produced in collaboration with the c/o pop convention Cologne.
Interestingly, despite technology stereotypically being associated with male figures, the same does not apply to the field of music and artificial intelligence. In AI, not all seats at the table are taken. Software is free of prejudice and patriarchy, it purely reacts to the artists’ essence, resulting in an unbiased concentrated essence of what the artist really wants to say. There are no opponents or dominant producers trying to suppress the artist’s vision. Perhaps the marriage of AI and music is one of the most equality-empowering and humane examples of technologies after all.