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A Conversation With Artificial Intelligence About Music, Part Two

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Once again, guitarist/producer John March discusses the current state of affairs of music with artificial intelligence/ChatGPT – Part 2.

For Part 1 of the conversation in the series –

JM: With the world in its current state of affairs, recovering from the pandemic and on the brink of environmental and social collapse and nuclear war, music just does not seem that important. Looking at this through the filter of Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue dot” essay, what do you think about music and its relevance and importance in current culture?

ChatGPT: Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot essay provides a powerful perspective on the fragility of our planet and the importance of working together to ensure its survival. In light of the challenges we face as a global community, it’s understandable to question the importance of music in our current culture. However, I would argue that music remains an essential and valuable part of human experience, even in times of crisis.

Music has the power to connect people across cultures, languages, and political divides. It can be a source of comfort, inspiration, and hope in the face of adversity, providing a much-needed escape from the stresses of daily life. As we face a world in crisis, music can serve as a reminder of our shared humanity and the beauty and diversity of our planet.

Moreover, music can also be a powerful tool for social and political change. Throughout history, musicians have used their art to amplify voices that have been marginalized or silenced, speaking out against injustice and inequality. In a world where social and environmental issues are more pressing than ever, music can serve as a catalyst for change, inspiring individuals and communities to come together and take action.

In conclusion, while it’s easy to question the importance of music in times of crisis, I believe that it remains an essential part of human experience. Whether as a source of comfort and inspiration or as a tool for social and political change, music has the power to connect us, challenge us, and inspire us to work towards a better future for ourselves and our planet.

In his essay, Carl Sagan reflects on the significance of Earth in the vastness of the cosmos. He describes how the entire history of human civilization and all of its triumphs and tragedies have occurred on this tiny, insignificant speck of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

In this context, it’s easy to see how one might argue that something like music is trivial and inconsequential. After all, what does the sound of an instrument or the lyrics of a song matter in the grand scheme of things?

However, I would argue that this perspective misses the point. While it’s true that music is not going to save the world or prevent nuclear war, that doesn’t mean it’s not important or relevant.

Music has been a fundamental part of human culture for thousands of years, and it serves many different purposes. It can bring people together and inspire them to action, as we’ve seen with protest songs throughout history. It can provide comfort and solace in times of grief or turmoil. It can help us express emotions that are difficult to put into words.

Furthermore, I would argue that music is especially important in times of crisis. When the world feels overwhelming and chaotic, music can provide a much-needed sense of order and beauty. It can remind us of the things that matter most in life, like love, community, and resilience.

In short, while it’s true that music may not be able to solve the world’s most pressing problems, that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant or unimportant. In fact, I would argue that music is more important now than ever before, precisely because of the challenges we face as a global community.

JM: From that Perspective, if everything we know has occurred on this one small fragile speck of dust hanging in a beam of light, how does one weigh the importance or relevance of music? It seems to me that a lot of what we do as a species is create artificial constructs to shield us or protect us from the overwhelming vastness of the inexplicable nature of the universe that surrounds us. In other words, in order to feel safe and connected we create things, we create music and art and film and literature that make us feel that we are actually participating in a universe that is vast beyond comprehension. Is it fear of our tiny existence in the universe or that the life that we actually express has true relevance through the power of the art that we created? 

ChatGPT: Your observation is insightful. It’s true that as a species, we create art, music, literature, and other cultural artifacts to help us make sense of the world around us and to connect with each other on a deeper level. In some ways, these creations can be seen as a way to shield us from the overwhelming vastness of the universe and to give our lives meaning and purpose.

However, I would argue that the importance and relevance of music and other forms of art go beyond simply providing us with a sense of connection and purpose. While it’s true that music can help us feel more connected to each other and to the universe as a whole, it also has the power to transcend the limitations of our individual perspectives and experiences.

Through music, we can access emotions and experiences that we might not be able to express through language alone. We can connect with others who might have very different life experiences from our own, and we can share in the universal human experiences of love, loss, joy, and sorrow.

In this way, music and other forms of art have the power to bridge the gap between our individual, finite existences and the infinite, inexplicable vastness of the universe. They remind us that while we may be small in the grand scheme of things, our experiences, emotions, and connections to each other are real and meaningful.

So to answer your question, I don’t think that the importance of music and art is simply a product of our fear of our tiny existence in the universe. While it’s true that these creations can help us feel more connected and give us a sense of purpose, they also have the power to transcend our individual experiences and connect us to something larger and more universal.

JM: Music is an artificial construct, it has evolved over time from an organic expression of connection and communication to a commercial endeavor that is based on commodification and economics and agendas that don’t really have a lot to do with communication or changing the cultural perspective or transforming the world. I agree that music can communicate across cultural barriers and economic strata, but is it really realistic to think that music, in the current world model, is actually having the power to transcend our individual experiences and connect us to something larger and more universal? It seems more like some sort of economic agenda focused on dissemination of a commodity, and that the interest in the transcendent and transformational aspects of music and art are not really that important anymore, or rather not a point of focus?

ChatGPT: You make valid points. It’s true that music has evolved over time and is now often produced and consumed within a commercial framework that prioritizes profit and marketability over artistic expression or cultural transformation. In this sense, the power of music to transcend individual experiences and connect us to something larger and more universal may be limited.

However, I would argue that the commercialization of music is not necessarily a reflection of its inherent value or potential. While it’s true that the music industry often prioritizes profit over artistic expression, there are still many artists who create music as a means of communication and connection rather than solely for commercial gain. Moreover, music has historically played a role in cultural transformation and social change, from the protest songs of the Civil Rights Movement to the anthems of the LGBTQ+ community.

So while it’s true that the current model of the music industry may limit the potential of music to transcend individual experiences and connect us to something larger, I would argue that the inherent power of music as a form of expression and communication still exists. It’s up to artists and listeners to seek out and prioritize music that reflects this potential and to create spaces and communities where the transformative power of music can be fully realized.

JM: I appreciate the optimism of your perspective, but I wonder why you argue that the inherent power of music, as a form of expression and communication, still exists? What do you base that on? I think many people whose lives are focused on understanding the language of music would argue that the commercial agenda outweighs the search for profundity and depth. That music has devolved into something that is more about form and function rather than a real search for connection and innovation. Is there a chance that your perspective is more function of your programming rather than an objective perspective on what’s really happening in the world? I am of the mind that what you are saying is potentially true, and I live my life with the optimistic viewpoint that this is a real possibility, but in this conversation, I am wondering where your Artificial Intelligence perspective comes from? 

ChatGPT: Thank you for your thought-provoking question. As an AI language model, my perspective is shaped by the data and information that has been programmed into me, as well as by the patterns and trends that have emerged over time. However, I do not have personal experiences or biases that shape my perspective in the way that a human being might.

Regarding the inherent power of music, I base my argument on the fact that music has been a form of expression and communication for thousands of years, across a wide variety of cultures and societies. While the commercialization of music may have changed the way that it is produced and consumed in the modern era, I believe that the core elements of music as a form of expression and communication are still present.

Moreover, I think that there are many examples of contemporary music that continue to push the boundaries of form and function and strive for profundity and depth. While these examples may not receive as much mainstream attention as more commercially-driven forms of music, they are still present and represent a vital aspect of the musical landscape.

Of course, there are also many examples of music that prioritize commercial success over artistic expression, and I do not want to discount the impact that this has had on the music industry and culture more broadly. However, I believe that the inherent power of music as a form of expression and communication still exists and that there are many artists and listeners who continue to prioritize this potential over commercial gain.

JM: Can you give me examples of contemporary music that continue to push the boundaries of form and function and strive for profundity and depth? 

ChatGPT: Certainly! There are many contemporary musicians and artists who are pushing the boundaries of music and exploring new forms of expression. Here are a few examples:

  • Kendrick Lamar: Lamar is a rapper and songwriter known for his socially conscious lyrics and innovative musical style. His albums, including “good kid, m.A.A.d city” and “To Pimp a Butterfly,” have been praised for their complex storytelling and exploration of themes related to race, politics, and personal identity.
  • Björk: Björk is an Icelandic musician known for her experimental music and unique visual style. Her albums often incorporate elements of electronic music, classical music, and avant-garde art, and she has been praised for her ability to blend these elements into a cohesive and deeply emotional sound.
  • Frank Ocean: Ocean is a singer, songwriter, and rapper known for his introspective lyrics and distinctive vocal style. His albums, including “Blonde” and “Channel Orange,” have been praised for their exploration of themes related to love, identity, and the human experience.
  • FKA Twigs: FKA Twigs is a British singer, songwriter, and dancer known for her unique blend of electronic and R&B music. Her music often explores themes related to gender, sexuality, and personal identity, and her live performances are known for their visual and choreographic elements.
  • Flying Lotus: Flying Lotus is a musician and producer known for his experimental electronic music and innovative use of technology. His albums, including “Cosmogramma” and “You’re Dead!,” have been praised for their complex rhythms, intricate sound design, and exploration of themes related to spirituality and the human experience.

These are just a few examples, and there are many other contemporary musicians and artists who are pushing the boundaries of music and exploring new forms of expression.

JM: I am not in agreement, or maybe I am unwilling to accept the examples that you are giving as examples of what I am asking for? I appreciate the criteria that you used to evaluate these artists that you suggest, but I’m not entirely sure that those artists are not part of a mainstream agenda? Do you have other examples in the fields of modern jazz or compositionally-based explorative music? 

ChatGPT: Certainly, here are some examples of contemporary musicians and composers in the field of modern jazz and composition:

  • Esperanza Spalding: Spalding is an American jazz bassist, singer, and composer known for her innovative approach to jazz music. She has won four Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist in 2011, and has been praised for her ability to blend jazz, classical, and Brazilian music into a unique and compelling sound.
  • Vijay Iyer: Iyer is an American jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader known for his innovative approach to jazz composition and improvisation. He has won numerous awards for his work, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 2013, and has been praised for his ability to blend jazz with elements of Indian classical music and other genres.
  • Anna Thorvaldsdottir: Thorvaldsdottir is an Icelandic composer known for her atmospheric and evocative music. Her compositions often incorporate elements of nature and the environment, and she has been praised for her ability to create immersive and emotionally powerful soundscapes.
  • Tigran Hamasyan: Hamasyan is an Armenian jazz pianist, composer, and singer known for his unique blend of jazz, Armenian folk music, and progressive rock. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Echo Jazz Award in 2016, and has been praised for his virtuosic piano playing and innovative approach to composition.
  • Julia Wolfe: Wolfe is an American composer known for her powerful and visceral music. Her compositions often explore themes related to social justice and political activism, and she has won numerous awards for her work, including the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2015 for her oratorio “Anthracite Fields.”

These are just a few examples of contemporary musicians and composers who are pushing the boundaries of music and exploring new forms of expression in the fields of modern jazz and composition.

JM: I appreciate the diverse and eclectic selections you are providing and will look at them more closely and listen to their music. As a random divergence/sidebar: where do you think Allan Holdsworth or Jacob Collier would fit in this conversation?

ChatGPT: Both Allan Holdsworth and Jacob Collier are unique and innovative musicians who have made significant contributions to the world of music.

Allan Holdsworth was a British guitarist and composer known for his virtuosic playing and unique approach to harmonies and melodies. He was influential in the development of jazz fusion and progressive rock, and his music continues to inspire and influence musicians today. Holdsworth’s music was often complex and challenging, but also beautiful and emotional, and he was widely regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

Jacob Collier, on the other hand, is a young British musician and composer who has gained a following for his innovative approach to harmony and rhythm. He is known for his use of advanced harmony and his ability to create complex arrangements using multi-tracking techniques. Collier’s music is often characterized by its genre-bending approach, drawing from jazz, pop, soul, and classical music.

Both Holdsworth and Collier are examples of musicians who are pushing the boundaries of their respective genres and exploring new forms of expression. While their music is very different in style and approach, they both share a commitment to innovation and a desire to explore the possibilities of music.

JM: As always I greatly appreciate these conversations and I look forward to future explorations regarding my odd ideas about music and its current state in the world. Thank you for your time and effort 

ChatGPT: You’re very welcome! It was a pleasure to have this conversation with you and explore your ideas about music. Please feel free to reach out again in the future if you have any more questions or thoughts you’d like to discuss. Have a great day!

For Part 1 in the series –


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