As a hardcore Beethoven fan, I would personally feel gutted if some artificial intelligence (AI) churned out a “tenth” symphony in the same style. Beethoven had a unique talent and a distinct, yet recognizable style. For example, each of his nine symphonies are all incredibly different from each other. Yet each one is unmistakably identifiable as Beethoven. In this era of generative AI, is it possible that a machine could learn enough to compose like Beethoven? What would that say about the future of music? And more importantly, what would that mean for musicians and composers?
It’s curious to wonder what sort of skills we may be losing by incorporating AI more into our daily lives. For instance, will people still learn to compose music? Or will they instead invest their time in learning how to train, or program, a generative AI chatbot to compose something? With the latter approach, would a composer even need to learn how to play an instrument or read music?
These same questions are relevant in nearly every profession and art form. Even dancers, who need their bodies to perform, could have the choreography generated by AI. I’m sure in the future, AI will be powerful and accurate enough to simulate a dance performance without real people. Or maybe we’ll all just wear Augmented Reality glasses for the performance. There have been many headlines in the news lately about studios using AI to capture the likeness of an actor/actress and reuse his/her face in future productions.
I blogged about this issue a few weeks ago in “The End of Originality.” AI is good at summarizing and recreating, but can it innovate? And can it innovate as well, or better, than a human? Admittedly, our creations are based on our experiences. However, the interpretation and expression of our experiences is unique and offers limitless opportunities for innovation and originality. AI, by contrast, is trained and programmed to create based on what’s already available for consumption (i.e., the AI’s experiences). With so many people learning to use AI, we will definitely need to consider the ways in which we are being trained and reprogrammed.
Nobody will ever be able to compose exactly like Beethoven. And that’s a good thing, in my opinion.