Generative AI Comes for Songwriting

Generative AI Comes for Songwriting April 25, 2024

I’m very hard to impress when it comes to generative AI…and this new music-generating tool has me seriously impressed!

 

As you know, I have spent a lot of time experimenting with ChatGPT as well as other generative AI chatbots, and AI art generators such as NightCafe and Dall-E (the former is really great and I recommend trying it out if you haven’t already). I have also been trying to keep an eye on developments in music-generating AI, but there weren’t any that were quite as exciting as what was happening in the realm of text and visual art.

Until, that is, I found Suno.

 

Trying it out

My first prompt asked for a song about critical thinking and information literacy. In a matter of seconds it had produced one set of lyrics and two different songs with those lyrics. This one is called “Mind’s Eye”

[Verse] In a world so full of lies and deception We gotta use our minds It’s our protection Critical thinking That’s the key Question everything Set your mind free Information overload It’s hard to tell what’s real Don’t believe the hype Learn how to heal From the fake news Spreading like disease Open up your mind Let the truth breeze [Verse 2] Don’t be fooled by the surface Dig a little deeper It’s time to wake up Be a critical thinker Don’t let them manipulate Control your mind Seek the truth Don’t be left behind

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jk5h11TBK88

 

Play it again, Suno!

Asking it to do the same again it produced another set of lyrics on the subject and another two songs with those new lyrics. This time it called the song “Enlightened Minds.” Here once again is one of the two songs along with the lyrics:

[Verse] Open up your eyes Listen to the truth Let your mind soar Don’t stay aloof Critical thinking It’s the key you see Information literacy Set your mind free In a world full of fake news and deception We need to question every false perception Don’t believe the hype Don’t just go with the flow Educate yourself Let your knowledge grow [Verse 2] In a world of information overload We gotta sift through Find the truth untold Don’t let them fool you with their twisted tales Open up your mind Critical thinking prevails

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dm0PshQKvdk

I think you’ll agree this is impressive, every bit as much as ChatGPT. And whereas ChatGPT is impressive doing what it is designed to do (imitate human speech) but even in the process its inability to deal with facts and information becomes an issue, that doesn’t happen in relation to art.

 

Pronounced Pronunciation Problems

Suno does have the musical equivalent of AI art generators’ penchant for adding extra or overly long fingers, however. Some songs were truncated and end abruptly. Others in which I asked for it to include an uncommon word or neologism resulted in odd pronunciations. I tried “Christmaker” (the title of my next book) and panentheism. It came up with great lyrics on the latter topic yet could not pronounce the word! Here’s “Eternal Boundaries”:

[Verse] In the realm of infinite mystery I question all we see Searching for a truth beyond the vast expanse of reality A cosmic dance Where consciousness and divinity intertwine Panentheism The essence of existence It’s all I’m tryin’ to find [Verse 2] From the tiniest atom to the boundless cosmic sea Every particle carries the divine It’s a tapestry An ever-expanding universe Where God’s presence resides Invisible hands shaping our destiny In this celestial ride [Chorus] Boundaries fade away in this cosmic symphony Panentheism The essence of all I believe Infinite love and consciousness Connecting you and me Let’s transcend this mortal realm And set our spirits free

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxThAYw474Q

really like that song, which is perhaps not surprising given that I asked it to not only make a song about a progressive religious viewpoint but to make a song in the progressive rock genre. Even so, it is striking if not surprising that a song can be enjoyable and emotionally powerful without a human artist involved as creator. Of course, it accomplishes this by imitating an extensive data set of source material. If we compare the songs and the lyrics, as well as the poems and the essays, that challenge our thinking and tug at our heart strings, they all use musical and linguistic formulas that can be understood, analyzed, and imitated.

When AI shows that it can do what humans do, we are having highlighted to us this aspect of human creativity. What seems fresh and new today will one day sound very much archaic, of its time, belonging to a bygone era.

 

Teaching in the Age of AI

As with ChatGPT, being an educator I am also concerned to know what this technology is capable of because I need to make assignments for my classes that cannot simply be carried out by feeding a prompt into some form of generative AI or other artificial intelligence. My first request for a song based on a biblical text made me think I had nothing to worry about. This is what it came up with when asked to make a song based on Psalm 8:

[Verse] Stars in the sky Shining bright In this dance of cosmic light Through the beat We unite Feel the rhythm Take flight [Verse 2] Mysteries of the universe unfold As the bassline takes a hold In this techno symphony We’re told That we’re all part of something bold [Chorus] Oh Higher power Guide us through the night In this techno melody We find our light Hands in the air Bodies moving free Dancing to the rhythm We’re all connected You see

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcZu6OV1sFA&t=2s

Very cool but at best tangentially related to Psalm 8. Next I tried the Lord’s Prayer, indicating in the prompt that I wanted it to stick closely to the words of that text. This time it impressed me with its ability. I assume that ChatGPT could do the same thing, but to couple that text-generating capability with the creation of appropriate music to go along with it still seems remarkable. It called it “Hallelujah Hymn” and as always made two musical versions:

[Verse] Our Father Up above Hallowed be Thy name Take me to the river Wash away all my shame Thy kingdom come Thy will be done On Earth as it is in Heaven Lord Let Your light shine Oh! [Verse 2] Give us this day our daily bread Fill our cups till they overflow Nothin’ left unsaid Forgive our debts as we forgive the ones who harmed us Lead us not into temptation Shelter us from the darkness [Chorus] Hallelujah Hallelujah Sing it loud and clear Hallelujah Hallelujah Let our voices cheer For Thine is the kingdom The power And the glory Forever and ever We’ll sing this eternal story

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr4QxiPxQJI

That is impressive enough that I know I need to rethink my final project in the course I teach on the Bible and Music. But Suno wasn’t done impressing me. I switched to custom mode, gave it an exact text to set, and asked for something in a choral romantic style. What it gave was with a soloist rather than a choir but other than that, well, have a listen:

 

Conclusion: Suno and the Professor

Thus far in my class, making a completely original song rather than a cover of someone else’s was the harder option. Now it seems I might need to make it off limits because a generative AI tool can do it. Presumably thanks to copyright we won’t have AIs generating new versions of existing songs anytime soon (he says hopefully but also with a tinge of uncertainty).

I have made most of “my” songs public on the Suno website. As you’d expect, I’m ReligionProf there as well. Have a listen, explore what this technology can do, and then please come back and share your thought about it!

There has been a lot of other AI news, including a robot delivering a college commencement address.

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