School of Engineering

Tuning into Computer-based Music Arrangements

Posted December 5, 2018

Computer multimedia engineer and music composer shows how far computer technology and the arts have become intertwined.

Dana Haffar

Catching up fast with human intelligence, Artificial Intelligence (AI) – integrated with multimedia data and signal processing – it seems, can teach us a thing or two, no less in the arts.

In its ongoing exploration of which chords AI can strike in music composition, the AI Club and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Student Chapter hosted a talk by Computer Multimedia Engineer and Music Composer Anthony Bou Fayad.

Moderated by Interim Assistant Dean Joe Tekli and sponsored by the Special Interest Group on Applied Computing-French Chapter (SIGAPP.fr), the event focused on ways to enhance compositions and raw melodies with computer-based adaptations. In order to highlight the nuances between human and computer-generated compositions, Bou Fayad first touched on the nature and challenges of music arrangements, the processes adopted by humans, the required skills, and the differences between expert and intuitive composition.

Moving on to a tutorial, Bou Fayad demonstrated how compositions can be enhanced with computer-based arrangements. Here, he made use of two music pieces: one synthetic – created by the AI-based automatic music composition software tool, MUSEC, developed by distinguished SOE graduate Ralph Abboud – and a real piece. Working through stages, he added arrangements and then instruments to each piece.

He subsequently played the arranged piece, and his own live performance of it using a digital keyboard, pointing out that the huge leaps in digital music technologies and associated signal processing tools are making it harder for people to distinguish between human and machine interpretations.

“Nowadays, our human ears, with their limited sensitivity, cannot tell the difference between a real violin and its synthesized computer-generated counterpart,” explained Fayad.

“Tasks like music composition and arrangement, previously reserved for humans, are now within the reach of our computers,” said Dr. Tekli. While we may no longer be “the only ‘creative’ snowflakes on the block,” as he put it, “computers could help us boost our own creative process and expand our potential.”

 

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