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AI round-up: Randy Travis’ AI vocals; on creative AI; Sora used for music video

Country star Randy Travis suffered a stroke in 2013 and set out on a long road of recovery – but his ability to sing has been severely hampered, and as a result, he hasn’t released a new record since. That is, until last week: when his new song, “Where That Came From,” was released – featuring the recognisable voice of Travis himself. His voice was, of course, cloned and created by an AI trained on dozens of Travis’ vocal stems. The output then needed to be fine-tuned by Travis and his engineer to sound as close as possible to his real voice. AI vocal cloning is controversial – but here is a heartwarming use-case that feels right. has a, let’s say, curious track record in the tech startup space: he was an early founder in Beats Electronics, which worked out pretty well, and he also raised over $100m for a voice assistant that you may have already forgotten about. Either way, he has always had a serious focus on the implications of technology on music and thus his comments made in a new interview on AI, voice cloning, and music are worth considering. His thoughts? Artists need to own their voice, or the data model of their voice that an AI would create, and they need to protect the use of those AI voices to ensure that their “vibe” and creative direction are respected. He also posited that AI would soon be better than humans at one very specific task: creating music that is carefully designed to impress DSP algorithms and algo-hack its way to success. It’s an interesting – and worryingly plausible! – thought.

Open AI’s Sora video-generating AI wowed viewers when some deeply impressive demos of the AI’s capabilities were released to the world in February. Critics quickly pointed out that the technology still had a long way to go before it produced longer-form video that was indistinguishable from “real” human-created video. But it wasn’t hard to see that it might already be ideal for fun, fast-paced, quickly-cut content – like, say… a music video. Introducing Washed Out’s new song “The Hardest Part” which is – according to “the godfather of chillwave” – the “first official commissioned music video collaboration between a music artist and filmmaker made with OpenAI’s Sora video model.” So what is it like? It’s extremely impressive and, at moments, hugely exciting; the AI enabling Michel-Gondry-esque, dreamlike imagery that may well have been too difficult or expensive to create otherwise. Cue debate on whether the use of AI in cases like this are growing the pie (because this specific video could not otherwise have been made); or just eating part of it (because the humans involved in a traditional music video were perhaps left out of the process.)

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