Search This Blog

Friday 6 November 2020

Composing some organ music and some spooky Halloween music, but with a twist and a view of 2030

My first job out of high school was as a pipe organ builder; I was one of the only apprentices to start that year. I’ve lost touch with Peter Jewkes who was my boss and who taught me. But I’ve got a funny cross-over between my first job and my current work today.
I realise that organ music isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but would you listen to 30 seconds of something original and interesting?
And as a composition, it’s not exactly Bach, but it’s believably something you might hear during Mass at a traditional Catholic service or at a high-Anglican church.
Here’s the punchline: it wasn’t really composed by a human being. I created a one-line melody that had a few random notes and then I told AWS Deepcomposer to create a similar melody and fugue based on it. 

There’s no musical genius behind this: it’s just an autoregression algorithm. I’m really quite surprised at how well it works.
The Deepcomposer platform also has a way of creating accompaniments in a variety of styles (rock, pop, orchestral) which is so spectacularly bad it has to be heard to be believed. About the best I could do was to make it create background breathy noises and ocean effects (which sort of came in at the right time):
Incidentally, if you want to upvote that track on Soundcloud I might win their Halloween competition. It’s a spooky enough track, although I cheated a little bit. After each set of iterations I went back into the resulting composition and put it firmly back into F-minor. For some reason it couldn’t quite cope with the idea that E natural and A-flat could co-exist in one composition — which is odd because they are both together in the F-minor harmonic scale and the F-minor melodic scale. So I had to go in and turn the A-naturals back into A-flats, and vice-versa with the E-natural.
I’m not about to start composing professionally again so I don’t see DeepComposer as some kind of threat. It’s more of a fun toy at the moment. I can easily believe that it could get to the point where it could create an orchestration from a piano accompaniment quite quickly though. And creating a backing track from a pop song melody isn’t something the requires more than a superficial understanding of music theory; it’s more a matter of fashion and adapting to this year’s newest soundscape. I wouldn’t put this beyond about 10 years in the future.
So then we have:
  • can do the vocals
  • Garritan and other sound providers who can provide the authentic-sounding instruments to play an arrangement
  • DeepComposer embellishing a melody and creating an accompaniment.
So I’ll predict that by 2030 it should be possible to take a melody lines and some lyrics and generate a nice song performance with a nice backing automatically. If you can play chopsticks on the piano you will probably have enough knowledge to create something good.
I’m hoping that that will expand the scope of people who can take some joy in composing. At the moment it’s not something that everyone can do, but creating a new music is such a wonderful feeling that I wish more people could experience it.