Sunday, March 24, 2024

The History of Music Recording or Why AI in the Arts is Not "Just a Tool."

(Vocab: "Tracks" are basically slots for separate instruments in recording.)

1) A whole band, even the singer (often, 16 piece big bands and orchestras) gathered around one microphone, recording onto one track on a tape (before that, onto a wax cylinder). If someone made a mistake, you had to do the whole take over again. Performance was everything.

2) Two-track tape was invented. The whole band could record onto one track and the singer on another (or choose your configuration). The singer could try multiple takes and even (later down the line) "punch in" to fix mistakes.

3) More and more tracks were added: 4, then 8, then 16, 24 etc. Tape got literally wider. Multiple tapes could run in synchronization. Some big studios had as many as 100+ tracks.

4) Now, mistakes could be fixed with "punch-ins;" tape could be cut and spliced to mix a great chorus with a great verse from another take, etc. (Tape could even be slowed down, lowering the pitch, so a performer could hit higher notes. Robert Plant did this with Zeppelin. Disappointing? Have you hit your "tech line"?)

5) Digital recording was born. No more tape -- right to computer. Infinite tracks. Infinite takes. Editing became surgical. The computer could now "quantize" rhythms so they were perfect. Notes could be tuned, so that a singer could sound perfect. This is still the case, of course.

[It is at step 5 that I, personally, started getting miffed. I recorded my first CD digitally, but used no correction software and didn't even "punch in" -- every instrument, every vocal is a real, full take. (But, yes, I did redo tracks until they were where I wanted them to be.)]

6) AI is created. Now the music can be written for you. AI can already write (at this point) souless songs. A composer or a songwriter can ask AI to write a section in the style of Bach or Gershwin, and AI will do it (poorly, at this point) for him or her.

This is not "a tool." This is beyond even excessive manipulation of recordings. This is a replacement of the artist. Of the human.

Artists should take a stance against it. Consumers should refuse to buy it. (The consumers will not do this, however. They don't care.)

The great drummer and teacher, Tommy Igoe, said to me, in an online discussion, that fighting AI in music is like fighting gravity. There's no point. It is going to happen.

Well, while I'm at it, I have issues with gravity, too...

No comments:

Post a Comment