All the stylistic flourishes — the harmonies, instrumentation, and the lyrics — are thanks to Carré. What the computer spits out is pretty basic. Songs are entered into the database in their most barebones form — a lead sheet with just chord labels and a melody — and that’s how the computer composes as well. Carré is responsible for all the production touches and details that give a song its distinctive sound.
This offers Carré a great deal of artistic license in the rendering and production phase, but also places constraints on what kind of music the program can interpret and produce.
“It only can be used for the type of music that can be represented by a lead sheet,” said Roy. “Classical wouldn’t make sense... even techno or trance wouldn’t make sense. Only music based on harmonized melodies, that is Western popular music, that can be reduced to notes and chords.”
The limitations of this particular technology beg the question: When we thrill to a certain phrase of music, what is it that we're responding to? And can we expect a machine to ever recreate an expression we consider to be so fundamentally human?
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Marvin Minsky, who founded MIT’s AI Lab and is considered one of the forefathers of the field, notably hypothesized that humans take pleasure in self-contained, repetitive patterns and their variations because they allow us to comprehend and play with time.
Advances in neuroimaging have offered deeper insight into this idea. Neuroscience researchers from McGill University and the Rotman Research Institute have found that when people listen to music they enjoy, the parts of their brain linked to reward and motivation light up. Listening to passages of music that cause us to react with particular intensity — those that give us “chills” — initiates a rush of dopamine, the “reward” neurotransmitter associated with pleasure that has been linked to sex, food, and falling in love.
Interestingly, dopamine is released in anticipation of the peak emotional moment as well as during it.
“We build expectations and delight when they are creatively violated, whether by composers or in the performer's interpretations,” explained Jonathan Berger, a composer and professor of music at Stanford University.
By this logic, AI should, in theory, eventually be able to identify the patterns of expectation, disruption, deferral, and eventual satisfaction that we find the most pleasurable and produce melodies that give us chills — although “Daddy’s Car” suggests they have some way to go yet.