After years in the lab and a few notable releases on streaming platforms, it’s time for Flow Machines—an artificial intelligence (AI) for composing music—to meet its audience. January 12 marks the release of Hello World, fruit of the collaboration between composer Benoit Carré, the AI Flow Machines and guest artists, featuring Stromae.
“Hello Shadow”, composed with Flow Machines, December 2017:
Flow Machines has been in development since 2012 in Sony France’s research laboratory, led by François Pachet, former director of Sony CSL Paris and current director of Spotify Creator Technology Research Lab, a lab dedicated to developing AI tools for musicians. In 2016, the team of engineers and artists released their first songs: Daddy’s Car, pop inspired by the Beatles; and Mr Shadow, in the style of American composers Irving Berlin and Duke Ellington. The two singles have been viewed 2.3 million times on YouTube.
At the time, François Pachet and Benoit Carré dissected for Makery the technology and philosophy of their program, which is based on a dialogue between human and machine rather than on creating an autonomous AI—which it could also do, Pachet explained.
This dialogue between Benoit Carré and Flow Machines engendered the duo Skygge. It was under this alias that the team released Hello Shadow in December 2017, a catchy title composed in collaboration with Stromae, whose style is easily recognized. According to the press release, the Belgian artist “contributed his musical influences in the form of notes, chords and sounds to feed the machine. He then selected melodies and sound material generated by Flow Machines in order to assemble them into a song.” The song was then sent to Canadian artist Kiesza, who added her lyrics.
A second song was also publicly released: In the House of Poetry, a dark and haunting, whispered ballad—a process that seems to be consistent in AI compositions.
The new album Hello World is released digitally on January 12 by Flow Records, a label created for the occasion in order to “produce AI-composed music”. To compose its 15 titles, Skygge collaborated with more than 30 international artists, including French singer Camille Bertault, German musician Jata, British singer Michael Lovett and producer Ash Workman. There’s still a bit of human in the machine…