AI in music: a harmony of creativity and concerns

February 16, 2024 /

By Dianeli Nevarez

The music industry is something that has always been powered by humans, driven by our creativity and self-expression. Artificial Intelligence, also known as AI, has slowly been making its big debut in the world and the music industry changing the way it has always been done.

It is simply known as using computers to do things that originally required a human’s intelligence. It is the making of machines that can think like humans, respond like humans, and do tasks that humans would usually do. This can be a good or bad thing depending on who you ask. 

AI has already had a negative connotation in people’s minds since figuring out the possibility of it taking many human jobs, leaving people without ways to make money. It might even soon take over the world for what we know! It can generate an entire song from start to finish, voice clone, and compose. It is trained to learn musical structures, harmonies, melodies, rhythms, dynamics, and form. 

Artificial Intelligence was most recently used in the final Beatles song, “Now and Then”. It was miscommunicated that Paul McCartney used AI to bring back John Lennon’s entire voice for the song, but it was later cleared up that the song was recorded before he died and AI was only used to separate his vocals from the piano music that backed it. 

The reason why many people speculated this was because of the recent use of AI to mimic various singers, bringing back musicians like Micheal Jackson, Elvis Presley, Amy Winehouse, and even Aaliyah from the dead. Someone was able to AI generate Drake and the Weeknd singing a song together that was uploaded to multiple streaming platforms which gained lots of attention. It was then taken down once it was realized that this was not an actual duet and the record company for both artists criticized the song for “infringing content created with generative AI.”

People say that this makes making music an easy task, but also takes away total originality, creativity, and credibility. How will this affect future generations of musicians? How do they feel about it? 

Here in McFarland, the music department has grown significantly in the past couple of years. These students have improved over their high school career and work day and night to bring school spirit to McFarland High School Early College. Who better to ask about this topic than people who devote their time to music and directly are affected by it? 

McFarland High School Band Director, Steven Herrera had a lot to say about Artificial Intelligence. 

Q: What are your first impressions of AI from what you know? 

Steven Herrera: “My first impression regarding AI is that it’s a very sophisticated computer, an incredible tool. I actually have used it and my impression is that it could be a very useful tool to gather information, create documents, even assist in the process of creating ideas and I think it can be very useful if used correctly.”

Q: In your own opinion is AI a good or bad thing for the music industry? For your band kids, do you think it would impact them negatively in the future? 

Steven Herrera: “I don’t see AI affecting band students anytime soon. The reason why is that you can’t use AI to play a trumpet. You can’t use AI to create a saxophone or any instrument.  I don’t see it affecting any player, who plays a musical instrument, I do see it affecting other aspects of the industry.” 

Q: Has there ever been a time in your classroom or with your band kids where you used AI?

Steven Herrera: “In the process of creating some documentation, and even on one occasion I used AI to create a lesson plan. I found it very interesting, it was very informative, and I was able to gather information based on findings to create a solid lesson.” 

Q: When people use AI, do you see it as a valuable collaborator for musicians, or do you believe it should be more of a supporting tool? 

Steven Herrera: “I think it should be more of a supporting tool. I have the opportunity to conduct here with our band at the high school, but I also have a background in composition so I think that when using AI to compose it can become a crutch. It can even impede, I think, on some of the creativity because it is the computer generating the ideas and not necessarily the individual. So in that regard, I’m not looking forward to AI. There are some things that people are doing already with AI that kind of bypass the creative process, which is that human touch that I don’t think we can ever get away from.” 

Q: Can you elaborate on that? 

Steven Herrera: “Sure, so for instance not too long ago, I don’t remember who it was, but they basically put in chat GPT ‘Can you write a song using the influences of Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones,’ and they wrote and came out with a song that sounded like Micheal Jackson and the musical structure, if you will of Quincy Jones! It sounded like it was constructed by Quincy Jones in the style of Michael Jackson. AI is a very powerful tool, but there will always be a need for that human touch that can never be replaced.” 

Steven Herrera does not feel like it will impact his students specifically in any way but he does think it’ll have major effects on the music industry itself. This is a very opinionated topic, we do not know where AI will take us just yet! Some of his band kids who attend McFarland High School Early College had this to say when I asked them about AI. 

Q: What are your first impressions of AI from what you already know? 

Leilah Garcia: “From what I already know, AI can be used to make amazing things, but I know it also has the opportunity to take over creative fields like art and music and other stuff.” 

Alex Campos: “My first impression of it is that it’s awesome because back then there was no internet, everything is more advanced now. AI can figure out things, we can search for things to help us with our everyday life.” 

Q: Do you feel like AI is more harmful or helpful to music? 

Leilah Garcia: “I feel like it depends, it affects different sections, you know, of music. More than others. There are trends going around on TikTok where they cover songs using Ai, which you know sounds cool, but then if they don’t get permission for it then it’s iffy.”  

Alex Campos: “It could be both because copyrighting could happen.” 

Q: Mr. Herrera said it would not affect you guys if you pursue a music career after high school, but do you feel like AI will take away those opportunities or impact them? 

Leilah Garcia: “I feel like there’s a chance it always could if the music students let it, but with the way I’ve been seeing, it has been more popular over the years. Overall, however, it has remained not that impactful.” 

Alex Campos: “Same answer, it could be both because people like to see others play live in person so there will always be those job opportunities. However, AI can do what I do in a shorter amount of time which is an advantage that could harm me.”

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