“Music in Tune with the Digital Age: Holly Herndon’s AI Revolution”
Composer Holly Herndon and Mat Dryhurst, co-hosts of the podcast Interdependence, push the boundaries of music and tech, blending artificial intelligence (AI) with sonic creations. Their ambition is to challenge static music perceptions amidst a dynamic digital world that seems unaware of technology’s elevated stakes.
Holly Herndon, the award-winning composer, and her partner Mat Dryhurst, are taking music in a new direction with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). Their podcast, Interdependence, serves as a platform for conversation about the intersection of music, tech, and culture with guests such as AI researcher François Pachet and digital affairs minister Audrey Tang.
While the AI of today seems to be leaps and bounds ahead of where it stood in 2013 when Herndon first played with its potential, the duo voices frustration about society’s obliviousness to the fast-paced digital shift. Despite the focus of big tech companies on using large datasets for AI-driven language models, Herndon has resisted the urge to go down the well-trodden path of appropriating these existing datasets.
Instead, she developed an innovative method, creating her unique dataset based on the voices of herself, her partner, and a small, consenting vocal ensemble. They nurtured this technology as part of their team, calling it ‘Spawn,” an AI-powered collaborator. The resulting work, ‘Proto,’ blurs the borders between digital and organic, manifesting in a mesmerizing collection of sound akin to alien plainsong.
Proto serves as a stepping stone for using machine learning systems ethically and artistically. In contrast to the increasing trend of “deepfake” music extraction and duplication, Herndon and Dryhurst’s methodology calls for consent and originality.
They don’t claim to have all the answers but believe in initiating dialogues that might lead to solutions. As Herndon pointed out, AI is a modern equivalent of recording technology, and we currently lack an ethical and legal framework to deal with it appropriately.
As music production shifts towards a more digital future, adopting an artist-led approach, like Herndon’s, could be crucial in respecting intellectual property while utilizing the wealth of collective human intelligence. This is a pertinent point considering major labels like Warner Records have begun investing in AI-powered music generation systems like Endel.
For those interested in developing their musical prowess, explore MakingMusic101.com to learn more.