You probably don’t think about artificial intelligence (AI) when it comes to music, it’s usually all about self-driving cars and flying drones. However, scientists are now using it to create new sounds that have never been heard before by combining real samples from real instruments with some very advanced mathematics.
The new system was developed by an engineering team called Google Magenta and is part of Google’s big plan to accelerate the use of AI in their applications. “Learning directly from data, NSynth provides artists with intuitive control over timbre and dynamics and the ability to explore new sounds that would be difficult or impossible to produce with a hand-tuned synthesize,” explained the team.
The way it works is NSynth collects samples from thousands of different instruments and chooses some to put together in a sophisticated manner. It then learns to identify these instrument sounds so that it can reproduce them as and when needed. Using that learned knowledge, the AI sets to work producing a detailed mix of instrument sounds that are so well blended you would never know there were multiple instruments sounds there. It simply sounds like some new instrument.
So, instead of having two separate sounds like that of a flute and violin play simultaneously, you get a whole new creation based on an algorithm, who’s fine-tuning is all down to the user. Simply add more flute and less violin, or vice versa. It really is up to you. As with many of Google’s newer AI applications, NSynth relies heavily upon deep learning techniques. This is the preferred method of using AI as it works very much the same as the human brain does.
Deep learning may have been around for quite a while now, but we’re still only starting to get to grips with it all. The fact that’s it’s now being used to create wonderful music just goes to show the range of possibilities that it can help deliver. Music critic Marc Weidenbaum feels it shows promise and commented, “Artistically, it could yield some cool stuff, and because it’s Google, people will follow their lead.”
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