When artificial intelligence pitches in

  (photo credit: Uria Bass)
(photo credit: Uria Bass)

So which one were you? The kid who was told to hush up and stand in the back of the choir, the one who could respectably maintain the melody line or the glamorous soloist who stole the show? Whether this question still elicits severe PTSD from your fourth-grade play or makes you swell with prideful childhood memories, chances are you can relate strongly to the experience of encountering your singing voice in the public sphere. But these questions may be less relevant to the next generation of singers.  With the astounding technological developments we’re witnessing, sharing our songs publicly is now a much more forgiving and expansive experience.  

Our voices are an intimate and vulnerable expression of our individuality. Like a fingerprint, but a public fingerprint, we stand alone in owning our unique sound.  As a music teacher, it impresses me how emotionally laden the experience of singing is for my students. In order to teach lyrical phrasing or to encourage the improvisation of a novel musical line, I often try to encourage my students to sing aloud before they play a musical phrase or compose a melodic motif. But often this innocent request is met by hesitation at best, or horror at worst. Many of us have received feedback that our voices were off-key, unwelcome, or amateur.  Some of us were asked to mouth “watermelon, watermelon” instead of singing along in public performances. The unlucky ones were even mocked, making them reticent about sharing their sound again and leaving childhood scars. I’ll dub a new term and call it “singer’s shame”. And the great news is that “singer’s shame” may very soon become obsolete.

Welcome to the world of Sphereo , an innovative audio-technology company based in Tel Aviv that I have recently discovered. Sphereo is leading a sound revolution by developing advanced algorithms which modify the DNA of music. Sphereo cracked the code on how to recreate musical genres, using artificial intelligence to “rethink” musical styling. This is the brainchild of neurobiologist Dr. Yoav Mor, Sphereo’s, Co-Founder and  CEO, and much of this cutting-edge technology is already patented and accessible on mobile devices. You’re invited to check out their very cool app MIXIT which is set to hit millions of users within the year. How amazing is it that you can take a standard jazz ballad and funk it up with groove, add your own lyrics, and send it in surround sound to your fans across the globe? And for those who have a hard time belting out that slow number, MIXIT allows you to transform the genre of your piece. All at once, that impossible-to-sing  hot pop song  just morphed into rock and you’ve got it covered, so farewell “singer’s shame”!

And what’s next? The upcoming frontier in sound manipulation may be the perfection of your singing voice with a few taps on your cell phone. Does this sound too futuristic to believe? One can’t help think back to a parallel breakthrough, nearly 150 years ago, when Thomas Edison displayed for the first time his brilliant invention, the phonograph. There, within the headquarters of the leading technology journal, Scientific American, Edison unveiled his masterpiece and demonstrated, to the public’s great astonishment and delight, how his machine could not only accurately store sound, but could also reproduce the recording for all to hear! By etching sound waves mechanically onto a tinfoil cylinder, the human voice was captured forever. Suddenly, humans were immortalized in a way that was unprecedented.  The implications would change history forever. 

In the last century we have not only witnessed a sea-change in how we record, store, and share our music, (from the gramophone, victrola, tape recorder, vinyl record player, audio cassette, CD, digital musical MP3, etc.)  but we have lived through a metamorphosis in how the individual interacts with music creation and publicizes it. What used to take years of Sisyphean effort, oodles of financial outlay, a hefty dose of luck, myriad agents and lots of travel, can now often be accomplished in the comfort of one’s home  - with a few clicks!  With MIXIT, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and more, everybody has a shot at becoming a singing sensation pretty much instantly. 

While this has all transpired rather quickly in the scope of technological development, it may give us pause. There is much discussion among my friends these days, whether they are students, educators, business executives, parents or artists, about the implications of artificial intelligence and its impact on the creative experience.  I cannot help but think back to Edison and the unleashing of sound technology. Here was one of the greatest minds in scientific history and even he could not possibly grasp the full consequences of his creation. He may have wondered, alone in his thoughts on dark sleepless nights, whether this manipulation and alteration of audio reality might bring blessings and curses in equal measure.  Would the invention be used for building society or to its detriment?

Every great advance and scientific breakthrough unleashes new power. As scientists crack the codes of creativity genetics, these new tools will fundamentally alter the experience of creating art and music. It is fascinating, but it is humbling, as well.  Let us hope that all those kids and adults who are lip-synching their way through life, hesitant about sharing their talent, will now have more opportunities to  find their voice, and share their art. With heroic neurobiologists like Dr. Yoav Mor, “pitching in”, the future is sounding better each day. 

This article was written in cooperation with Sphereo company