We still need humans


This is rock and roll. An amazing Jonathan Fire*Eater cover by the Kills. Can't stop playing this song. The bass'y background noise, the thump from the drum machine in the background. The simplistic but rough and raspy guitar-riff. Mossheart and Hince's elegant, enticing, ensnaring vocals luring you in. You could easily remove everything except the vocals and the track would still be delicious. Actually even just with the guitar alone it would still be awesome.

Making great music doesn't have to be more complicated than this. One guitar, one drum-machine and two people conveying a feeling, a message, a calling. Cut all the contemporary complicated emotionless electronic-produced magic. AI have conquered the combinatorial explosive game of Go, why is it so hard for it to do something like this?
Let's assume Hince is only playing chords (he's not, he's also riffing a little bit even with some nice "atonal" stuff in there - so deliciously Beethovenesque). In this case he's playing the same maybe 6-7 chords all over again. That's an amazingly small number of combinations. Google Deepmind's AlphaGo program just beat a human player for the first time. That game has 320 billion possible combinations (source: wiki)... Why is music hard/impossible (at this point) for computers to do?
I think some part of it is because getting computers to "build" music is not just about calculating the optimal combinations of chords (Which sounds like a simple classification problem.)

There's also the whole timing aspect as to when to play those chords. Everybody can play the chords that Hince plays in this track but the rhythm / timing is his own (not even from the original cover). And this is the key human part of playing music.

This suddenly adds another dimension which makes the space of combinations infinite as opposed to just 320 billion even with very few chords. Not something you can calculate but something you have to feel how to do.
Yes sure.. You can get a computer to play the same chords with the same rhythm as Hince but modelling his imperfections and perfections as guitarist that's part of his style. That bar when he's just 1/100th of a beat off that makes the same chords sound different even though it's the exact same thing he played 1 bar a go. And yes you can probably get a computer to imitate the way Mossheart licks your ear when singing "falling down in the hotel hall again" but the way she bends the vowels to convey what this song is all about. Something that you can't even put your words on... Dammit I love this song.

We still need actual humans to play music. Computers/AIs may help some day. But we still need human (im)perfection to pull a track like this off that (at least for my brain) creates strong emotional human-2-human connections.

Michael Reibel Boesen

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