Lost Tapes of the 27 Club
April 5, 2021 12:13 PM   Subscribe

An AI writes songs by musicians who died at 27 to raise awareness of mental health in the music industry "As long as there’s been popular music, musicians and crews have struggled with mental health at a rate far exceeding the general adult population. And this issue hasn’t just been ignored. It’s been romanticized, by things like the 27 Club—a group of musicians whose lives were all lost at just 27 years old." New? Tracks from Amy Winehouse, Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison written by an AI.
posted by burningyrboats (38 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is eerie.
posted by all about eevee at 12:24 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


It's not an AI. It's (very cool) software that generates creates things based on previous of examples of things. Does it know what any of the lyrics mean? Does it know who any of the artists were?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:29 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


This made me a little sad. Thanks.
posted by klausman at 12:40 PM on April 5


The Amy Winehouse one ("Man, I Know") is particularly impressive. (ymmv)
posted by Spathe Cadet at 12:40 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


The whole project is frankly a weird way to "raise awareness."

But.

If someone had passed me a grainy C90 cassette in 1987 with "You're Gonna Kill Me," I almost certainly would have thought, okay, this isn't top-shelf Jimi (sort of on a par with one-off songs recorded live in a Berlin gig or similar), not sure it's in regular rotation, but not wildly wrong.

Like, a cut above a movie that has a talented Hendrix-esque guy wearing a headband and playing pre-Electric Ladyland songs.

The Doors joint is exactly as dreadful as an AI-like Doors joint should be.
posted by Caxton1476 at 12:44 PM on April 5 [3 favorites]


Does it know what any of the lyrics mean? Does it know who any of the artists were?

That's a somewhat narrow and outdated definition of AI, especially these days. It's no AGI but GPT (and other language learning models) definitely falls into Weak/Narrow AI.
posted by simmering octagon at 12:46 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


Today is 27 years since Kurt pulled the trigger, incidentally
posted by anazgnos at 12:52 PM on April 5 [10 favorites]


This sounds closer than I expected. Not perfect but something.
posted by ovvl at 12:56 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


I think listening to the real music made by those musicians is better than some fake tuff made by some program.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:57 PM on April 5


I have to say this doesn't really sit right with me (as an affirmative fan of at least four "27 club" members - I'm not being dismissive of the project). Grouping all these problems together collectively as "mental health issues" seems... dismissive? Missing the elephant in the room? So many of these musicians and other industry participants are ground into dust by the way they and their fame are exploited by the music industry - typically wealthy, misogynistic, racist white men - that it's hardly surprising they OD'd or drank themselves to death. Like, sure, Janice Joplin and Jimi Hendrix would've benefited from mental health care in some sense, but what they really needed was an advocate, they needed power in their industry and the ability to stand up for themselves. Artists like Taylor Swift are starting to get this now, but even still we have people like Britney Spears who are being treated as music-producing machines (and note, ironically, that it's an ostensible "mental health" measure that is keeping her in thrall to her father).

I listened to the "You're going to kill me" track and it sure is a passable Hendrix impression. But that's so on the nose it almost made me more angry! Like, 50 years after he died, a ML algorithm is using Jimi's voice to advance this organizations goals, obviously without his consent and likely without checking in with his estate or family.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 12:59 PM on April 5 [19 favorites]


I think listening to the real music made by those musicians is better than some fake tuff made by some program.

What a controversial position!
posted by Spathe Cadet at 12:59 PM on April 5 [9 favorites]


An audio engineer took these AI-generated musical elements and composed the Lost Tapes of the 27 Club.

So, it's basically Jeff Lynne producing the surviving members of The Markov Chains.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:00 PM on April 5


But this isn't performed by the AI, right? They hired session players/tribute band people who could sing like Kurt?

I admit to being awfully confused because I was assuming this was something like what Andy Baio posted a year ago on Waxy.
posted by stevil at 1:00 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


Reminds me of how the gramaphone first allowed us to hear the voices of the dead.
posted by doctornemo at 1:17 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


At first listen, I am surprised at how musically coherent and stylistically accurate these songs are, but I would really need a whole Joy Division album to make a proper assessment.

If this technology was perfected, presumably one could do all kinds of stuff, not limited to dead artists. Just this morning, I was idly wishing that Julian Cope had recorded a cover of the 13th Floor Elevators album Easter Everywhere instead of the lackluster My Nation Underground. Seems like it could be possible someday. What if The Cure recorded a second album of angular post-punk before taking their sound in a darker direction? Or what about dropping AI Peter Hook into some 2010s New Order tracks?
posted by snofoam at 1:19 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


This software seems like it could be a goldmine for ethically compromised record execs (which is to say, all record execs). Some musician getting uppity on you, but you own the rights to their music? Run it through the AI machine and voila, you've got an endless supply of new material.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:28 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


OD'd or drank themselves to death.

In the case of Winehouse, it was remarkable how much the media and some fans seemed to want her death to be a drug - not alcohol - overdose. I think at least some of her family was in this camp too. Eventually the findings were released, and the poor woman had relapsed on alcohol and that is what killed her.

Anyway, fuck the whole "27 Club" trope. It doesn't reflect anything but the short life-expectancy of a young person with huge substance abuse problems given access to fame, money, sycophants. There's no deep lesson. If you aspirate vomit, you will die. If you drink enough alcohol to where your central nervous system can't run the breathing hardware anymore, you will die.
posted by thelonius at 1:50 PM on April 5 [6 favorites]


Where is Janis!
posted by clavdivs at 1:58 PM on April 5


a while back a co-worker quoted something their therapist had recently said -- that the shit you're still working on when you're twenty-seven is the shit you'll be working on for the rest of your life. Which struck me as an awfully broad statement. Except it's stuck with me. It seems to keep coming up. That is, I encounter somebody who's into their late twenties and still messing themselves up in juvenile ways -- that seems an extremely hard rut to get out of. Whatever's going on, it doesn't feel like something they're just going to grow out of.

And then there's another friend who says proper adulthood shouldn't legally begin until you're twenty-five. I think I agree.
posted by philip-random at 2:02 PM on April 5 [4 favorites]


Brings to mind an old Matt Groening Life in Hell tagline:

Live slow, die old and leave an arteriosclerotic corpse.

How few of these icons might be remembered had they lived another fifty years -- with Jim Morrison first and foremost. Imagine his shambolic self electrified corpse yammering on with T.J. Lubinsky in endless PBS fundraiser specials... Man, talk about Lovecraft Country.
posted by y2karl at 2:04 PM on April 5


fiddle, Jim would have become a director having won a fist a cuffs with Werner Herzog.

this is why we can't quite put our finger on the length, breadth and depth of Jonny Depp
posted by clavdivs at 2:21 PM on April 5


Bogus-or-joking claims of AI authorship of music are a common promotional tactic.

Unless some technical behind-the-scenes evidence exists my assumption would be that the music is entirely created by human imitators.
posted by BobInce at 2:28 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


GallonOfAlan: "It's not an AI. It's (very cool) software that generates creates things based on previous of examples of things. "

The same can be said of everything being called AI nowadays. Which, you can say that it's not what you think of when you read 'AI', fine, but it's the way the term is used currently.

Language changes, even technical language,
posted by signal at 3:12 PM on April 5


That list of "People I admire who died younger than me" keeps getting longer.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:33 PM on April 5 [5 favorites]


Guess I was naive, but 20 years ago it was my supposition that ProTools already had this algorithm in some form or another, and basically when you went all in and bought the $1M+ full-version of the tool (software, hardware, bendoverware) you were given--as a business courtesy--your choice of one of like 5 different "AI"-produced songs, stitched together from pop/your genre's history of the hooks/melodies/rhythms that were commercially successful, with little flips added in (major/minor key changes, dynamic changes, pasting different things from different hit songs together, melody inversions, rhythm changes, featured instruments, etc.). It explained to me the ubiquity of so much similar music in the late '90s/early 2000s and the existence of soooo many one-hit wonders at that time.

Then everyone got GarageBand and could make different similar music.
posted by riverlife at 3:34 PM on April 5


Botnik feat. Morrissey – Bored With This Desire To Get Ripped

Description: "The lyrics to this song were written using a predictive keyboard trained on half Morrissey lyrics, half Amazon customer reviews of the P90X home workout DVD system."

Granted Morrissey isn't currently dead, but this track does slay.
posted by FatherDagon at 3:40 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


Morrissey was lost at sea shortly after the release of Vauxhall and I.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:46 PM on April 5


I've yet to see a really good algorithm generate realistic soundalikes, aside from some almost passable Mozart-ish stuff that's all purely diatonic. If anyone can point me in the direction of a good one, I'm all ears.

So far, and for years, all of the ones I've ever come across function like John Cage's dice. Yeah the algorithm makes something, but then a person decides whether to keep each note. I haven't heard one generate an actual piece of music that's A) not awful, and B) sounds really like the composer it's intended to emulate.
posted by tclark at 4:23 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


"In the case of Winehouse, it was remarkable how much the media and some fans seemed to want her death to be a drug - not alcohol - overdose. "

I have a sense that you'll agree with me in this, but like man, alcohol is a drug. It's just a drug that The Man says is legal. And fuck The Man.
posted by ToddBurson at 6:41 PM on April 5 [5 favorites]


@ToddBurson: I have a sense that you'll agree with me in this, but like man, alcohol is a drug. It's just a drug that The Man says is legal. And fuck The Man.

As a recovering alkie: No shit; man. It's only after getting into recovery that I realize how prevalent alcohol is as a part of our lives. It pervades everything.
posted by indianbadger1 at 10:03 AM on April 6 [2 favorites]


The thing I'm curious about is how exactly the data from these songs was fed to the AI to be processed. I'm assuming its not just connecting a mic to a computer and blasting Electric Ladyland from the speakers. Presumably, it would be in the form of raw information -- pitch frequency, length, attack & sustain, dynamics, etc. -- with each instrument being a separate file or chunk. Were there similar markers in the data indicating, for example, intro, chorus, verse, solo, etc.? The way in which the original artists' songs were broken down and fed into the computer must have a major, defining effect on the final product, as really all the software could do (or so I would think) is analyze the data for patterns, then reproduce something similar to those patterns but with different particulars.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:07 PM on April 6


As a recovering alkie: No shit; man. It's only after getting into recovery that I realize how prevalent alcohol is as a part of our lives. It pervades everything.

This is off-topic, but it is amazing how things look when you stop drinking totally. I think of it as kind of a non-alcoholic dependency on alcohol, learned culturally. I mean you find that there are lots of situations in which people who don't drink at a problem level, or not that bad of one, believe that alcohol is essential for social functioning. Like they think that the positive social aspects that drinking can promote are actually in the alcohol. That you can't become friends with an acquaintance if you don't "have a beer" with them. I've heard stories of people's therapists trying to talk them out of quitting drinking, because they seemed to think that this is a disaster that isolates you from normal adult life.
posted by thelonius at 3:37 PM on April 6 [4 favorites]


Honestly I don't think it's all that off-topic, and I'm glad people understood what I was saying and it didn't come off as too jokey. I think there's an undeniable relationship between mental health and substance abuse. I mean look at the members of the "27 Club" of this post. I don't think that's a controversial opinion. People classifying alcohol as though its in a category of its own is something that bothers me a lot, and I think that distinction is detrimental to mental health initiatives.

The law is irrelevant in whether or not you have a substance problem. Substance abuse or addiction is no less serious just because you can't get locked up for using your drug of choice.
posted by ToddBurson at 4:40 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


it is amazing how things look when you stop drinking totally. ... they seemed to think that this is a disaster that isolates you from normal adult life.

Seriously. I mostly stopped drinking over the last 10 years -- not because of substance abuse or any other reasons, but mostly just because I stopped enjoying it and I'd rather spend $2 on a soda at a restaurant and get free refills than $10 on a glass of wine or beer (with no refills!). When I'm out with people and mention that I don't drink, or don't drink much, I get really weird looks. They usually assume it is either a religious thing or an AA thing, and that makes them really uncomfortable, but when I try to explain, "No, I just don't like drinking all that much anymore," they look at me like I'm crazy.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:24 AM on April 7 [2 favorites]


Honestly I don't think it's all that off-topic,

I meant my comment - was not criticizing you
posted by thelonius at 11:08 AM on April 7


One thing that sorta tweaked my notice is the way they, and others, now use AI as something like a mark of "authenticity", where the AI is held up as capturing more of the "real thing" through some kind of magic algorithm than, say, a dedicated tribute band could if they wrote a song in the style and manner of whatever artists they've dedicated themselves to covering. It's a strange path for the "authentic" to take given the its history in rock music debates.

All in all it's a pretty depressing project really.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:40 AM on April 13


now use AI as something like a mark of "authenticity"

"written by an AI" is the new "made of space age polymers"
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:36 PM on April 13


I mean you find that there are lots of situations in which people who don't drink at a problem level, or not that bad of one, believe that alcohol is essential for social functioning.

I happened to mention once in the comments section of some blog post, that I’d been to a number of weddings where no alcohol was served and everyone enjoyed themselves. You’d have thought I’d said “Sacrificing babies to the Devil on an altar of fire” instead of “celebration without booze.” Some guy went on about how he went to a family friend’s wedding where no alcohol was being served, so he and his mates ran out and brought back cases of beer and liquor and plastic cups because “it was just unacceptable,” and all the other commenters were high-fiving him. It really is a weird thing.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:15 PM on April 13


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