Synth and Software – the podcast: A discussion about machine learning, neural networks, and AI
It was a great discussion with Olivio Sarikas, Jim Aikin, Kays Alatrakchi, and Nick Batzdorf. An important subject that’s on a lot of people’s minds right how.
Eek! The robots are taking over your synthesizers!
Or so those guys at Synth and Software would have you believe.
But behind the sci-fi fun is a very complicated issue: machine learning, neural networks, and art – including music, fine art, and many other human endeavors such as creative writing.
What’s brought all of this to a low boil is a new online program called Midjourney. It generates “art” – either in quotes or not, depending on your perspective – from key words that you feed it.
All it took was entering words like “robot army attacking synthesizers” to generate this month’s Synth and Software cover. Eek! indeed.
Now, we cover music tech at Synth and Software, and so far the musical equivalents of Midjourney aren’t quite as advanced – yet. But, for example, a company called Jukedeck was bought by Tik Tok. Another one, called Soundful, has raised a lot of money from major companies like Disney and Microsoft.
Soundful’s claim to have taught it “music theory” is all you need to know, if you understand what music theory actually is.
But the point is that there’s serious investment in all of this, and it’s certainly going to get better – sooner than later. Midjourney is going to get better too.
So should we be worrying? Celebrating? What could this mean to artists (including musicians)?
To sort through these issues we’ve put together a panel with a range of perspectives.
First, Olivio Sarikas is a professional designer coming to us from Austria. He produces very popular, informative, and really outstanding “how to” videos and livestreams on YouTube, first about Affinity Photo – the image editing program I happen to use for art – and now he’s branched out into more varied topics all related to art… such as how to get the most from Midjourney.
Olivio is very excited about Midjourney, and he sees a lot of creative potential in it for his work. He’ll offer a full-throated, articulate defense against the objections of people like, well, me, who feel that machine-generated art can only destroy the soul of humanity. (Olivio has softened my hard stance, which is why we’re happy to have him joining us.)
Next, Jim Aikin is a deservedly famous music tech journalist. He was a staff writer and editor at the late, lamented Keyboard magazine for more than 25 years. Jim has written hundreds of product reviews and tutorial articles on music hardware and software for Keyboard and other magazines – and of course Synth and Software. He’s also a novelist, a classical cellist, an amateur computer programmer, and an active blogger. You can find his books on Amazon or at jimaikin.net, but you do have to know how to spell his name right (J I M A I K I N).
Next, Kays Alatrakchi is a frequent contributor to Synth and Software, and an accomplished film and television composer with a well over two-decades long career. Kays is also an award-winning film director who often leverages the latest technology to bring his ambitious ideas to the screen. His most recent directing project is called Everbliss Inn, which is part of an upcoming horror film anthology produced by Blair Witch Director Daniel Myrick.
And I’m Nick Batzdorf, content director – meaning editor – of Synth and Software. I started out as a film/TV composer, orchestrator, etc. and am a music and audio tech journalist, having been the editor of Recoding magazine for 10-1/2 years, then then the editor and publisher of Virtual Instruments, a music and audio software magazine (I’ve also written all kinds of things along the way).
I’ve also been a Modern artist for the past few years and am just now “turning pro” (www.NickBatzdorf.com for those interested).
Since we went to press, Olivio produced an interesting music video using Stable Diffusion.