Our last full day here at Culturistan.
We began our discussion, as usual, with a poem. Today it was “If” by Rudyard Kipling. As with the Khalil Gibran poem earlier in the week, the discussion quickly concerned itself with authorship and contemporary meaning of empire and patriarchy rather than discussing the ideas presented in the writing. This seems to be something unavoidable in a time when we can Google the history of any author or artist and base our feelings and opinions on who they are instead of what they have created. And after this experience, I am certain it is by no means a binary topic.
But this could be a reason as to why we are so easily willing to give up artistic human capabilities to machines and A.I. Are we so disillusioned by the actions of some of our Icons and Idols, both historically and contemporary, that we accept an unfeeling completely programmed source as safer? Since we can’t enjoy the music of a fallen pop star anymore, why not just let a machine do it?
This leads us to the other articles for today that dealt specifically with A.I. and it’s an influence on pop music. There have been many articles written on the topic of A.I. generated music but few seem to be written by actual musicians who make a living solely as a musician, such as myself. And as with most musicians, the discussion about the credibility or authenticity of machine created music happened long ago. We’ve had no choice but to accept for decades now the fact that machines have dominated all genres of music. But we also know it started as much less of an aesthetic choice… it was financial.
When Napster was demanded to actually pay for the music it was sharing it broke the company and framed the idea of music being free by creating a misinformed and false narrative of evil record companies and the music business overall. Now a decade later we’re having the discussion of musicians even being necessary at all to create music. It’s a tiresome dialog to have with those whose lives are not affected by the financial reality of a musician’s work being taken over by machines. I’m also sure it’s a tiresome dialog for someone who just wants to listen to music for free to hear about how difficult it is being a musician. And here we are.
There was still a time when we felt duped as an audience if performance wasn’t real and in the moment. The classic case of Milli Vanilli having their Grammy taken back in 1990 when it was found out they were lip-synching in concert and were not the singers on the album. There were many others as well during this whose careers were shamed beyond repair when they were caught lip-synching. Just like our discussion about forgeries, it only becomes an issue when we find out it’s fake.
It’s way too late to start having the discussion of whether or not music created by A.I. and machines is real or authentic or artistic. Of course, it is to those who are fans of it or who profit from it. But at this point, I think all a real musician has left is to trust that there is something inherently necessary, not better or worse, in why it’s important to think it doesn’t matter if it’s human creating music of any kind. To me, it has nothing to do with music at all. I also feel it misses the point of what is really at stake to not have the discussion evolve into how this topic relates to the much broader narrative of authenticity in all parts of our lives today.