Making music used to be something everybody did, and will likely do again in the future according to Parag Chordia, Director of the Music Intelligence Lab at Georgia Tech.
Parag Chordia: Music has been something that is a cross-culture phenomenon. It's something that's deeply embedded in our psyche. And it's something that used to be participatory. You know, music used to be a ritualistic thing, a work-related thing, something that helped you pass the time or coordinate your activities or just entertain yourself. And it was something that...it wasn't the sense that I can't dance or I can't sing...it was something that everyone did and everyone can do.
Music has come a long way since it was truly a community-wide, participatory event. These days, in order to make music one must be expected to play an instrument and actually sound good. Back in the day, that stuff didn't matter as much: the point was to make music together. So the question is, according to Parag, can computers help us get back to that place...
Parag Chordia: There are so many other people who would like to participate in music, but they're used to hearing a certain kind of music. How can we use technology to express themselves creatively? And that's really what my research is focused on.
At his Music Intelligence Lab, Chordia is primarily interested in answer two questions:
1 – Can we get computers to listen to and understand music?
2 – Can we get them to help us be creative?
Parag Chordia: For me, those things on their own are interesting theoretical problems but they became really interesting when you think about how we can use a machine listening and a machine creating to enhance and enable human creativity.
Essentially he wants to lower the floor so that more people - people who wouldn't normally possess the means or ability to create music - are able to do just that: create music. So we're not talking about musicians creating music using computer programs. We're talking about non-musicians creating music because they no longer need to play instruments: that part would be left up to a computer to figure out.
The idea is that if technology allow can anyone to partake in the creation of modern sounding music, the process essentially returns to its community-based roots, full circle.
To facilitate this change, Parag has created an iPhone app called "La Di Da" that creates music using "reverse karaoke." You sing into the iPhone, then the computer program writes the music in the appropriate key and even auto tunes your voice for you. It's available for $2.99 in iTunes and is currently among the top ten grossing music apps. Click below to see and hear it in action...