Would machines put composers out of work?

We now live during times where machines are learning to make music. Machines have mastered musical scales and can now produce tunes that are indistinguishable for a listener from pieces that are composed by human beings. Can they someday put composers out of work?

We also refer to music composers as artists and art is as more about feeling than it is about creation. Leo Tolstoy quotes:

“Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.”

It isn’t really possible to play a carnatic piece perfectly without feeling what the composer felt. Indian classical music is deeply rooted in bhakti or devotion. The ornamentation and the expression of the music, therefore, ought to speak to this devotion.

This is true of several other forms of music. The blues would not be the blues if the artist did not feel the pain of a black person in Mississippi. A rendition of the Ode to Joy would be incomplete without understanding what Schiller felt as he penned down those immortal German words. Every music teacher instructs their students to feel the music they play.

While machines maybe able to stitch musical notes together, they lack the neural circuitry to feel. Therefore, they would not be able to produce art. Because art, by definition is about feelings – about emotions that belong in the human realm. Machines are good at following musical rules. But the rules aren’t an end in themselves. They are merely the skeletons over which the artist has to flesh out their composition.

Without the skeleton, a composition has no legs to stand on. But to call a machine an artist is to mistake a skeleton for a human being.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s