Technology Planning and Analysis

Francisco J. Vico and the First Computer-Musicians

Ever imagined a computer program composing a symphony? Professor and entrepreneur Francisco J. Vico, with his research team at the University of Malaga in Spain, showed that it could be possible through the creation of Iamus, a machine that has generated over one billion songs across a variety of genres. The symphonies have even been deemed good enough to be played by the London Symphony Orchestra. But now Vico has his eyes set on something more ambitious – the Melomics project.  Could a computer one day be able to compete with human composers? 

Could you please explain your Melomics project?

Melomics is a research project funded by the Spanish Ministry of Industry, and it will target the creation of the first computer-musicians, i.e., hardware and software that can create original music, both at the compositional and the interpretation level.

What are some of the challenges/limitations of the Melomics project?

The main one is to create the biggest repository of professional music in the world (which will be in the public domain, and available in different formats), as well as revolutionary techniques to deliver music, to provide new ways of entertaining and therapy.

Can computers be creative? Is this an enormous challenge for AI?

Now we have proved that they can be creative in music. Iamus was the first computer to compose original pieces in its own style. Designing creative machines that do not mimic the human brain (like Melomics' computers) is a new way of looking at AI. The consequences for the arts, design and engineering are difficult to predict.

What do you think qualifies as creativity?

People will give different answers to this question. For us, not copying a particular aesthetic demonstrates creativity. Melomics' computers do not learn from examples (like someone's repertoire), but instead they store basic rules that, connected to a bio-inspired engine, can create a huge diversity of works. In other words, they learn like a child does.

Do you see computers outperforming human composers in the near future?

It could happen. But it could also happen that we enter a Red Queen race, where humans and computers use their intelligence to beat each other. This would be good for music, no doubt.

Can people be moved by music composed by a computer?

Yes, we have observed that people can interpret Melomics' music in the same way they do with human music (even if there's no intentionality on the computer's side). But, if a listener knows that the music was done by a computer, then the reaction is rather different. It's a bias that has been observed in neuroscience experiments, for some sort of fear of computer control. But, in the end, music is music, no matter where it comes from.

What do you see as the future for Melomics?

We are starting to accept that life can happen anywhere in the universe, not only on Earth. Maybe this type of research will show us that creativity does not have to be a human characteristic, but could be ubiquitous. If so, humans will benefit from enjoying what computers have to say.


 Ayesha Salim is E-Content Writer at IDG Connect


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Ayesha Salim

Ayesha Salim is Staff Writer at IDG Connect

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