2.6.17

Surviving the Modular Hype #4 ~ Autothenticity

DIY stands for Do It Yourself. In music, this can be making your own instruments, making your own bleeps and noises or crafting your own unique overall sound. Just like modular synthesis, DIY smells of authenticity, which is something we all like. But here's the thing: in the near future, electronic music will not be about DIY or about authenticity. Instead, it will be about fully automated AI-music.

Pragmatic vs. authentic
Nowadays, electronic music producers often use big chunks of pre-recorded sound to create a tune. Drumloops, sample packs, fx packs etc. This makes the creative process a bit lazy and less authentic. In fact, it can result in painting by numbers or IKEA-style interior design. Perhaps the ongoing modular hype is ~ at least in part ~ a reaction against this phenomenon. If only because modular synthesis is often associated with sculpting sounds from scratch.

In many genres of electronic music, it's impossible for the audience to discern what is 'craft' and what is pre-programmed. That doesn't necessarilly have to be a problem. For example, as a DJ, you have to be pragmatic and keep reusing what has proven itself, even if it's a James Brown loop or whatever. But for people who are interested in the creative evolution of electronic music, the mindless repetition of canned cliches can become boring.

Here comes the flood
And the situation is about to get worse for musical purists. Looking at the future of electronic music production, it's not unreasonable to expect that in a few more years, the whole process will start to become 'autonomous'. This feat will be pulled off by advanced music-making AI-networks that build on pioneering research by Google, and learn from audio data retrieved from Spotify playlists and hit-archives. We even dare to predict that robot music will be dirt cheap and ubiquitous long before AI-gurus become immortals.


As soon as this self-perpetuating feedback loop is in place, say in 15 years, we'll never need actual human musicians again to create 'same sounding music'. The only attractive task left for human musicians is the composition of totally new, authentic, creative stuff. Basically anything that can't be done faster, cheaper and better by using an AI-network. The market for the human-made music will probably be small, since Big Media will have the biggest, baddest, best trained networks, creating the greatest hits with the most autothenticity.

Modular machines are future-proof
One of the good things about modular synthesis is the simple fact that it's relatively easy to make unique sounds. Although uniqueness isn't necessarily a good thing, it's preferable to the same old sound you get from using the same old retail sample packs AI-networks. So while the financial side can be devastating, you can at least be certain of one thing: those wacky modular machines are future-proof.