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Maya Ackerman, a computer scientist at Santa Clara University in California, has developed a programme that uses data analysis to create songs, producing both the melody and lyrics.

The programme, called ALYSIA, or Automated Lyrical Songwriting Application, uses machine-learning algorithms, which “learn” about how to construct songs through exposure to large data-sets.

Ackerman released ALYSIA as an app at the beginning of this year.  The program generates melodies and lyrics, from which the user picks and then assembles to form a song. The user can also request specific instruments or input a lyric and receive a corresponding melody.  One user who had never played a musical instrument was able to compose an aria for an opera, in Italian.

Ackerman acknowledges the potential controversy around such technology: “Humans have a strong bias against thinking about computers as being creative”.  However, she states that ALYSIA’s function is not to replace human songwriters, but rather to act as a collaborator and inspiration.

She states that she developed the programme out of frustration that she was unable to compose music that she enjoyed listening to.  Regarding this, she says, “The computer has a meaningful role. It does something that I’m no good at.”

Applicants for arts subjects, such as English, History of Art and Music, might consider to what extent we might value art created by machines.  They, along with Engineering applicants, might also reflect on the way in which technology is changing these creative fields.

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