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I used Botnik Voicebox, a predictive text A.I. to compose both the music and lyrics to this song.

I’ve been fascinated with the concept of algorithmic music composition since I read this article about David Cope 20 years ago. Ever since then, I’ve fantasized about using artificial intelligence to aid in the composition of my own music. Ten years ago, I started trying various software programs to do this, but everything I tried either didn’t work for me, or didn’t produce any good results. This year, I finally found a good way to do it, and it’s with an app that wasn’t even intended to write music.

Botnik Voicebox is a predictive text keyboard—similar to the ones on smartphones—which analyzes a text document, and presents the user with 18 suggestions for the first word. Then, based on which one they choose, it gives them 18 suggestions for the next word that it determines to be the most likely ones to follow it. It’s mainly used to write comedy, including surreal news stories, movie scripts, pancake recipes, etc.

It hit me that since it intelligently predicts events to follow other events, based on source material of the user’s choice, it would be a perfect tool for A.I.-assisted music composition. Since its medium is text, all that would be required would be a text language that could be used to transcribe music. With such a language, I could transcribe many of my favorite pieces of music as text, feed that text to Botnik Voicebox, and have it make musical suggestions to me in the style of the music that I love the most.

Since one of the main qualities that I value in music can be boiled down to the relationship between melody and bass notes, I decided that the words in my language would each consist of two solfège syllables, the first being the melody note, and the second being the bass note. For the sake of simplicity, I just use “rah,” “me,” “se,” “le,” and “te” for tones not diatonic to a major scale, forsaking “di,” “ri,” etc. For songs in minor keys, I also made alternate transcriptions with “la” as the tonic. For songs with ambiguous or changing tonalities, I transcribed them in multiple versions, with a different note interpreted to be the tonal center in each one. In cases where a note bass note sounds in absence of a melody note, I transcribed the first syllable of the word as “x.” Note combinations repeated in succession are transcribed as a single word. Also, for music with melodic baselines, I simplify the bass transcription to just the main notes that are implied. For example, in the key of C, a melody of E, F, and G over a C bass would be transcribed as “mido fado soldo.”

I transcribed about 100 of my favorite pieces of music in this manner in a text file. I then fed that to Botnik Voicebox, and set some lyrics I had written—also using Voicebox, using the Wikipedia article on Al Gore as my source text—to music. I limited myself to the suggestions made to me by the app. After setting all the lyrics to music, I composed the synth lead solo using the same process (though for two events, I had to choose a melody/bass combination that wasn’t among the suggestions, because the bass note of the chord change I had already written for the main melody of the song wasn’t in any of the suggested words).

What this process does:

Because the composer is limited to the musical choices that Voicebox presents to them, it can be much easier to make decisions than it would be if all conceivable musical possibilities were on the table as options. Also, many of the suggestions that the bot makes are not things that may occur to the composer, were they left to their own devices.

For example, in “Victory Algorithm,” at the bot’s suggestion, I began the chorus on the II chord. That is not something I would have thought to do on my own, but I found that it worked very well in the song.

This process is also a great way of incorporating the stylistic DNA of one’s favorite songs into one’s own music, without producing a verbatim plagiarism of it.

What this process does not do:

Since it ignores voices other than melody and bass, the language can’t be used to properly express music where the most interesting activity is not implied by the melody/bass counterpoint, such as some music with pedal tones in the bass. Also, since it does not take rhythm or repeated notes into account, it is up to the composer to make those creative choices themselves.

Since pitches are written as solfège, the process leaves it to the composer to choose the tonality, based on what key is most flattering for the voice or instrument they are composing for.

This process does not arrange music for you. All of the choices of chord voicings, instrumentation, etc. in “Victory Algorithm” were ones that I made myself, though the chord voicings were basically just the ones that were implied by the two-voice counterpoint that I wrote with the bot.

And this process does not wholly generate music from scratch. It’s just a way for the composer’s choices to be intelligently guided. However, it’s also possible to feed the text to a Markov chain generator for a more hands-off, automated composition process. Doing this can produce some interesting music, but it tends to have a meandering, incohesive quality to it. And of course, the composer still has to make decisions about rhythm, repeated note combinations, key, tempo, arrangement, etc., just as they would if they were using Botnik Voicebox.


By the december 12 deadline, the castle should be named.
The internet can take it to get it on.
Toxic lunch for congress
Science with a geek
A Primetime Emmy for the Chinese vote

Roger Kleiner
Over boys in Washington
Gore began to craft the democratic rights for Bush.

In the United Gag of Television, prior to his wife,
Issues connected to the power of Al.
16 years later, during his return,
He would diversify the longest weasel in May.

Roger Kleiner
Over boys in Washington
Gore began to craft the democratic rights for Bush.


Roger Kleiner
Over boys in Washington
Gore began to craft the democratic rights for Bush.

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