Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Microsoft Songsmith

I learned via the February 4th WNYC Soundcheck podcast about the phenomenon of Microsoft Songsmith. To me, it is the opposite of karaoke. Whereas karaoke is everything but the vocal, and the vocal is the only live part added at the end, Songsmith starts with the vocal (apparently sung synched to a metronome-like set beat) as a start point, and then the software generates what the rest of the song might sound like according to your preferences. As WNYC puts it, "With the release of Microsoft's Songsmith, seasoned songwriters and amateurs alike can generate canned accompaniment to their own voice (or those of others) with the touch of a button." Songsmith compositions seem to have gone viral a few weeks ago, although many of the YouTube videos still only have a few thousand hits. They (at WNYC) put some examples here, and linked to some others at Musicradar. Check out this playlist at YouTube or create one with a search. Microsoft's geeky (anti?-)ad may make you appreciate the production values of real ads. If you have a pc lying around and some audio tracks, you can give it a try for your 6 hour free trial. [download] [screen-shots]

Here are some lesser-known hits of "The Songsmiths":
Tom's Diner (and Glockenspiel Emporium)
Heart of Glass (and Metal!?)
Reggae-o-head's "Reckoner"
PussyCat Dolls (Don't Cha)
Billie Jean (is not my robot?)
Slim Shady (pleeease sit down?)

Just as with real musicians, it's hard for the virtual band to have a hit, but perhaps someday the robo-musicians WILL be better.

Tunes generated by economic data allow the depression to generate its own soundtrack! Any data will do.

I wonder how this cyber-muzak will wash back and influence human musicmaking, like songbirds imitating cellphone ringtones. Will musicians imitate famous bad Songsmith compositions in their live shows? Will machine translations of random wikipedia pages be the most popular lyrics?

We got the beat
Beat it
Heard it thru the grapevine
Just what i need, ed. (the cars)
The Doobie(us) Bros: Long Train Running
Buddy Holly (weezer)
What's goin on?
God only knows (bleach-boyz)

No comments: