AI And Dance Music: Techno Doomsday Or Infinite Possibilities?

Author : 6AM
March 01, 2023

AI And Dance Music: Techno Doomsday Or Infinite Possibilities?

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, AI has been all the rage and craze. Especially with the release of various art generating programs, ChatGPT and more recently Bing’s AI there has been huge amounts of controversy on various levels. People are both fascinated and concerned about the growth of use in these programs and what the future will bring with them. Other than your typical “skynet overlord robot masters” fear, people in the music world are definitely sweating what’s coming next. Will AI replace artists in the dance world especially within the house and techno realm? Is this the beginning of the dark dystopian music world that ironically techno has always been associated with? Or is this a new realm of possibilities for all genres of music?

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When you hear “AI” the first thing you go to is often science fiction movies of a computer based sentient being that eventually realizes that humans aren’t all that great- cue dystopian destruction of humanity or at least cue someone who has engaged in questionable relationships with it. We are by no mean’s an AI authority, but generally speaking AI isn’t really a new sentient being (at least… that’s what they tell us…) but rather a method to get machines to mimic human intelligence to execute tasks. This is done thru “machine learning” and more specifically a subset known as “deep learning“, where a computer is able to analyze a huge set of data, recognize patterns within that set, and make decisions- seemingly on its own.

Now with that rudimentary and possibly not fully accurate definition in mind, you’ve been dealing with simple forms of AI for years. Ever use SIRI to ask direction towards your favorite taco stand only to be let down and the phone begins to play Kate Bush? Welp… AI (technically)

The main thing is that most experts assure that the AI programs we have are not actually sentient beings (eye brow raise). So why the buzz recently? Past AI really was focused on analyzing data and patterns with machine learning, now AI can actually create based off of those patterns. Currently the way AI creates, is essentially by mimicing other artists’ creation extremely well. Think of it this way, before AI was able to recognize pictures of tacos, now it can create its own picture of a taco in the style of a certain artist as well. (Yes it’s lunch time).

Of course depending on your argument or how deep do you want to get, many could argue that this creation ability is in fact a sign of a sentient being. Surely you’ve had a coworker or boss that you wonder if they even are conscious or alive- so how can we truly say that this machine is less sentient or not? Well, that is definitely something you probably should look for on TED talks and not a house and techno website. The key thing to point out is that this new generation of AI (regardless of it being alive or not) has recently caused controversy because it threatens the creative space with picture generation and text/chat generation. Now you’re probably wondering if this AI article was in fact written by AI…?


Music: An Easy Target for AI?

AI for art creation and chat generators have been widely known for some time now. In fact check out what happens when we asked the AI overlord about house and techno:

But maybe not as publicly known (not yet) is the fact that AI programs exist for creating music as well. One example is AIVA, which is a program made specifically for generating soundtrack music for whatever content you need it for. Shocked or not that this is indeed a thing- And if you think about it, music is probably one of the easier mediums for machine learning and pattern recognition.

Arguably, in the most basic form, music is essentially sounds done in patterns and on a beat requiring a very numbers based structure. Sure there are definitely those that break the rules with that dumbed down definition, but for the most part that’s what most think music is. Especially with more modern pop music and definitely dance music there tends to be a typical structure: Intro> Build> Drop> Bridge>Build> Drop> Outro. (Swap out with terms like Chorus, Pre Chorus, Verse etc). Once again this is the most basic structure, and of course many artists often break from this mold- but also many stick with it. However in the dance music world specifically, it’s almost a requirement that artist’s do not break from certain structures; making it potentially easier to mimic.


Dance Music: An Even Easier Target for AI?

In dance music, even if an artist is known to have a unique method of song structure or arrangement, due to the nature of the way dance music is enjoyed (usually within a dj set), there will still need to be some level of standardize structure. Dance music is almost always created with “mix-ability” in mind- which is essentially how easy it is for a dj to mix the song into and out of the set. This means that there needs to be some sort of standard time to be able to mix the track into the set (an intro) and a standard time to mix out of the set into another song (outro). With this requirement, it’s difficult to have a dance music track that breaks the mold entirely throughout the track, and potentially can be an even easier medium for a machine to mimic.

On top of the “easily” mimicable structure most dance tunes, genres such as techno pretty much rely heavily, if not entirely, on sounds generated by machines. Roland 808, 909,  and 303 were some of the first electronic synthesizers that became the back bone of modern dance music as well as other genres of music. With the “non human” sounds requirement for the genre, many forms of electronic music are pretty much an easy task for AI to mimic. These factors alone, will bring a looming sense of doom for any electronic based music producer… or maybe not?


AI Techno Is Already Here

Now AI using prior artists’ music does bring up legal and ethical concerns of infringement of which will have to be a completely different subject. However let’s assume that there is no issues in this regard as the AI overlord has already begun its foray into electronic music. Recently Google released examples created by its music generating AI aka “MusicLM“. Within the publication there are a multitude of examples of pieces the AI created with text based prompts. One of which under the “Long Generation” was a “melodic techno” track:

The track itself isn’t really what can be considered one single long track. In fact there’s a definite switch up in the main elements, such as bass and synths, used in the middle of the track and also more towards the end; making it seem more like 3 different tracks (or maybe more). Perhaps that was the intention to show the AI’s ability to not just create a song, but mix different songs as well- but if it wasn’t intended, then there definitely still needs to be a human editor for the AI’s music. Also opinions on whether a track is good or not will surely be different from sentient being to sentient being. However considering no human was actually used to create it, it’s pretty impressive- but it probably won’t be main staging… just yet.


Not The End of Not-So-Human Music

So is this a new era where human’s no longer create music for humans? Well, not so fast… If you do recall a lot of techno, especially in the past, was really human’s symbiotically using robots/machines to create new sounds and music for humans. Check out this video with acid techno pioneer, Dj Pierre on how he started to experiment to use the TB 303 to make wave for a whole new sound of dance music:

Read Next: Acid Techno Guide: History, Artists & Classics

Whereas before humans would use machines to create sounds, experiment, and then make decisions on what sounds to make into tracks (as with Dj Pierre)- machines have now simply flipped the tables, where they are using the human decisions of the past to find sounds and patterns of sounds that work, and then make into tracks. However, because of many factors (not just the lack of quality as shown in the MusicLM example) it is still not a one way digital street and human-machine symbiosis is still a necessary thing.

One example where strict AI music was not just lacking quality but also considered unacceptable is the case of “FN Meka“. FN Meka is a computer generated “artist” that uses AI generated music. It was noted that the avatar and concept simply perpetuated negative stereotypes especially since it was a fabricated persona. Without the genuine human story and person behind it, the pure AI artist was mostly considered offensive to the point where the project needed to be abandoned.

Another point for team human, is the legal aspect of AI generated music. There is very much an ethical/legal concern with the music AI creates, a human moderator is still required no matter how great the composition. If someone created an AI track that is “inspired” by their favorite producer, without modifying it enough to make it noticeably different, there could be a major legal issue.

That being said with all these factors in mind, AI can currently be consider an interesting tool for artists. Kaveh of Pleasurekraft pointed out in an in-person interview with 6AM:

“Music, generally speaking, we think of as a human art form- a human mode of expression. But we’re teaching these ‘life forms’ rhythm, tonality, and melody. And then ‘they’ will naturally gravitate towards parts of the possibility space that our brains just may never have thought to go there. And I think that kind of symbiosis with AI and human; that in itself is really interesting.”

Kaveh from Pleasurekraft interested in AI’s potential


Listen Now 6AM In Interview: Pleasurekraft

As with DJ Pierre experimenting with the unknown sonic possibilities with the TB303, we can now consider AI a new instrument to discover new sounds or patterns that perhaps we may not ever have thought of. Another practical use of AI, is to have the program create a shell frame for a track to build off of, to help with inspiration and to cut down an artist’s creation time. For those who might consider that “cheating”, many artists have already been using pre-made templates for years; to the point where people even sell templates to aid in the creation process.

Regardless of which side of the AI battlefield and ethical dilemma you are on, the fact is- it is here. Especially in the music realm where there are already complex issues with legal infringements, there’s really no telling what will be allowed regardless of the possibilities. It is obvious why many creatives are in fear of the AI overlord; however, there definitely is another side to this digital coin that should not be ignored as it may bring about new possibilities.

Read Next: 6 Techno Subgenres You Need to Know About