How Holly Herndon and her AI baby spawned a new kind of folk music
May 23, 2019 12:11 PM   Subscribe

Holly Hendron's new album PROTO is, according to Fader, "an engrossing testament to the power of multiple voices singing in unison. One of those voices is a computer named Spawn", an AI trained in live ceremonies in which hundreds of people were gathered to teach it how to identify and reinterpret unfamiliar sounds in group call-and-response singing sessions. The video for Eternal might give some context.

According to Spin "Her 2012 debut Movement explored the intimacy of the laptop, and her 2015 second album Platform critiqued the ways that corporations use technology to leech our data."
Previously.
posted by signal (13 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
I got to see Holly Herndon perform in Brooklyn recently, to kick off the tour for PROTO. The AI couldn't come along, as it's not ready for live performances, but the combination of a 6-person chorus and the AI generated vocals is remarkable in a live setting, as well as on the album.
posted by SansPoint at 12:14 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Great post. PROTO is bonkers, in all the right ways.
posted by salt grass at 12:21 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


PROTO is an amazing piece of work. It manages to be both incredibly human and disquietingly artificial at the same time. Sacred harp, but recorded by a cursed tape deck by an AI that hasn't quite understood humans.

I see some parallels between Herndon's approach to music and Brecht's approach to theatre - that of deliberate alienation as a paradoxical way of drawing an audience in even closer.
posted by parm at 12:52 PM on May 23 [5 favorites]


Beautiful music but that video is goddamn disquieting. I had to open a tab over it to be able to keep listening.
posted by skullhead at 1:11 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


that video is goddamn disquieting

That image-blending shimmer is one of the closest reproductions of the sixth hour of several doses of good acid I've ever seen.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:54 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Previously on MeFi, an FPP about her second full-length album, Platform.

ack, didn't see the previously link at the bottom of the post! nm.
posted by what does it eat, light? at 2:07 PM on May 23


One of the best albums I have ever heard
posted by nikodym at 2:53 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


That image-blending shimmer is one of the closest reproductions of the sixth hour of several doses of good acid I've ever seen.

I am like 90% sure it’s the result of passing each frame through an autoencoder, which is basically where a neural network tries to encode an image compactly and then recreate it as well as possible using only that small amount of information.

This opens room for baseless speculation about the nature of perception — are we seeing the world or just creating the world we expect to see, man?
posted by vogon_poet at 4:27 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]


Trevor Paglen, who is thanked in the credits of the video, is an artist who has worked with autoencoders. Some of his stuff is cool, but sometimes it seems like he’s essentially done a homework assignment from a machine learning course, framed the results, and put them in the Smithsonian. Still, I guess art is art or whatever.
posted by vogon_poet at 4:29 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


My first encounter with this album was Frontier on Spotify's Release Radar a few weeks ago, which I think is quite astounding. What is remarkable about the album for me is that I find it simultaneously beguiling and repellant - not disgusting, but it pushes me away as much as it draws me in. It does seem that I'm going to have to work to develop a relationship with the record, but that's a good sign.
posted by Grangousier at 5:14 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


This could not be more relevant to my interests.

Now collaborate with King Princess so I can just die happy.

(Thank you)
posted by abulafa at 8:18 PM on May 23


PROTO is amazing. So happy to see this here.
posted by defenestration at 3:57 PM on May 24


Yesterday afternoon I listened to it and to The Smile Sessions by the Beach Boys. They go together very well.
posted by Grangousier at 3:44 AM on May 25


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