Published On: Tue, Sep 14th, 2021

Song lyrics by artificial intelligence? Yes, but only for inspiration

Art is one of those things that cannot be defeated by poverty and war. Humans have been making art for thousands of years, including times of war and deprivation. But how will we make art in the future?

Scientists at the University of Waterloo believe that artificial intelligence (AI) might help us write lyrics.

AI is not going to replace human art, but it can help generate at least some inspiration. Image credit: 刘睿忱 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

People seem to be afraid of our robotic future. What will humans do when so many tasks are delegated to AI and robots? Some argue that we will simply start being more creative with our freed up time. But what if AI will be used in our creative endeavours as well? What if writing music can be done with AI?

It is not even a new concept. AI has written music before and it wasn’t perfect. Now researchers in Canada have launched a new AI tool, called LyricJam, which generates lyric lines for live instrumental music. It is quite a complex system – it analyses musical expressions of artists and generates lyrics in their style. LyricJam takes into account such things as chord progressions, tempo and instrumentation. It creates lyrics that accurately depict the mood and emotions of the live music. Just think about it for a second – this simple AI application is able to listen to music, understand its mood and tempo, and produce lyrics accordingly. Scientists saw that LyricJam generates very different lyrics for ambient and upbeat music. And it more or less matches the style of the artist!

So now what – lyrics will be written by AI and we’re supposed to be happy about it? Well, no. LyricJam does not write entire songs for artists. Instead, it is a tool that helps people realize their own creativity. It generates lines, but it is up to the human creator to use them properly. AI offers metaphors and expressions and actual authors can draw inspiration from them.

Scientists tested LyricJam with musicians and say that their reactions were very positive. Olga Vechtomova, leader of the project, said: “One unexpected finding was that participants felt encouraged by the generated lines to improvise. For example, the lines inspired artists to structure chords a bit differently and take their improvisation in a new direction than originally intended.” Because LyricJam listens to the mood and emotion of the music, musicians were able to check if they were able to steer their songs to desired emotional directions. They said that LyricJam was kind of like an uncritical jamming partner.

The most important thing was that these musicians were encouraged to write lyrics. LyricJam did not replace them, but showed them what is possible with their current melodies. And that is always a good thing – AI may not write song lyrics, but it can inspire humans to do that.

Source: University of Waterloo

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