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3- AI Pop Music, SKYGGE, and the Sonic Uncanny Valley - Melissa Avdeeff, Coventry University

11:30 AM, Sunday 26 May 2019 (2 hours)
Just as new coders first interact with the networked world with a simple “Hello World,” a new era of pop music production was introduced with Hello Computer(2018), the first AI-collaborated album, by the SKYGGE music collective. While algorithmic music has a much longer history in the art music world, its use in pop music is much more recent. Currently, there is a lot of misperceptions in the general public about what AI music entails, the degree of computational autonomy that is possible, and the anthropocentrism of creativity. The focus on the human in music production is often linked to issues of sincerity and authenticity, which have been challenged at each adoption of new technologies; for example: electric drum-beats, synthesized sounds, autotune, and more recently, vocaloids. Each technology engineers a new incarnation of the unfamiliar, expanding sonic possibilities. Pop music thrives on a balance of the familiar and the unfamiliar, with tracks at the extreme ends of this continuum often gaining the highest prominence. In robotics and visual art, the uncanny valley marks the point where an image is not quite convincingly human, causing reactions of disgust and unease. AI pop music arguably produces a sonic uncanny valley, but unlike the visual, the sonic unease is more quickly overcome, most likely due to expectations of the unfamiliar/novel in popular music. This paper explores the sonic uncanny valley of AI-produced pop, through key moment on Hello World: the AI-produced language of “Magic Man,” and the eerie melody of “In the House of Poetry.”
Coventry University
Assistant Professor
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