Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - Procedural Djent Shouldn't Surprise You (and it's not A.I.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Procedural Djent Shouldn't Surprise You (and it's not A.I.)

    The reader may or may not be aware of the following video:


 For starters, one should know this has nothing to do with artificial intelligence or machine learning.   So the that being the angle that this sort of has become viral around is misinformation and confusing.  

 What this is, is a penultimate iteration of a concept and technology that has been around for decades.  The premise of reducing the creation of music to an algorithm is not new, it's been postulated since the 60s.  The defining factor has been the nature of the technology of reproducing the sound of the procedural approach.  We now have tools available on our desktop or laptop computers to create effectively any sound, and trigger it from a list of numbers (MIDI) representing notes and volume level.

 The process he outlines in another video, so I'm not going into that here.  BUT, what I'd like to point out that he doesn't go into, is that music has two elements to it: math, and human chaos.  He simulates some of that human feel with randomness, but *near* randomness is what humans do best - and what scarily could be used to modify this process to yield something that would be IMO more interesting.

 That's not the same as saying it would have *human character*.  The novel nature of the *context* of human existence allows for a chaotic influence a computer can't have for now.  A computer isn't going to be "perfectly sloppy" like Keith Richards or Kurt Cobain, not in the same way, because it has no context of the physicality of being a human or the choices made that goes into being a human doing a process.
 I'm not surprised by this 10 hour djent video, because I've been saying this was going to happen for years.  Because - when you create music whose basic concept is mathematical complexity, you're in turn restricting the human chaotic aspect.  Being enthralled by complexity is a gimmick IMO, and is why I've sort of turned away from "complex music" in the past years.  Being hard to play, or hard to remember, has nothing to do with what music is about in my book.
 In fact , thinking about it... somewhere on "here" I made a blog post lonnnnng ago (but in this galaxy) about having to take notes about the tuplet (rhythmic groupings) of a song a student wanted to learn, because it resembled a _Dune_ novel translated to Morse code in its mathematical sequencing:  



 That Frederick Thordendahl makes some very intellectually interesting combinations of sequential patterns doesn't mean I want to listen to it.  The organization of sound makes "music"; creating something that is deliberate meant to be almost disorganized in human perception is an interesting idea, but it's not a *human* one.  Listening to ocean surf is one of the most pleasant things in the world to me, but I don't want to listen, or create, hours of faux-chaotic washes of white noise.  I'm sure it could be done in an "artful" fashion, that is again complex, and "amazing" in how it mimics actual surf sound - but LIFE IS TOO SHORT.

 A lot of Bach's music can be turned into algorithms.  It was some of the first music to be attempted to procedurally reproduced.  The results have been similar, it "sounds like Bach", but lacks the human element.  Which isn't adding randomness to imply "human", but is much, much more sophisticated: 

it's missing a human *guided by human experience*, with a bit of randomness around the edges as *the result of trying to shape the result*.  Not just randomness *without context*.  

 Which is why I can't really listen to "modern" metal.  It's wrecked by Occam's Razor.  The closer people, bands, get to "perfection in execution and complexity" the further they get from humanity.  The old school proto-metal bands - Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, et al - by today's standards should be "inferior", they lacked the complexity and perfection of a modern metal production.   But they're *heavier*, more immense sounding, because it's the *human* element that made it *rock and roll*.   10 hours of algorithmically perfect djent is interesting, but it's like admiring the complexity of a computer circuit board.  It's a depiction of a process that starts to *appear* to be something akin to "art", *but it's not art*.

 The real issue here is that people have lost the ability to judge the difference between art and something that is "near" art. 

Paint splatters is not a Jackson Pollock painting, and random scribbled line is not Picasso.  This only resembles art.


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