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Humanizing Tech

When Humans Touch Their Music

Sheet music is becoming obsolete in a world where you physically touch your favorite song.

I. Overview

Music holds a very dear place in many of our everyday lives, whether we consciously admit that or if it’s just background “noise” during our half-awake morning commute. Likely at some point in your life you’ve spent some of your hard-earned money on something catchy, or put a tune on repeat in your teennage years (NKOTB!).

You might have even played music at some point in your life, whether that’s the requisite recorder in 2nd grade (hot cross buns…) or something more advanced like a trumpet in 5th.

As a result, you’ve both created and consumed a very powerful form of content. A vibration at a certain frequency that made you, and others, physically move your bodies in tune with it. This strange signal hacked your biomechanics and programmed you do things you wouldn’t normally do.

In short, music controlled you.

From Flappers to Sock Hops and Rock & Roll, Punk and Heavy Metal to Hip-Hop and now EDM, every generation has their individual mechanic, but it always has the same effect.

We put those who make it and perform it on the highest pedistal of celebrity. Because they are nothing more than programmers of human behavior. With a single hair flip, teenagers everywhere swoon.

Music, if I may, is magic.

But the question becomes how will our process for creating and consuming this very human form of magic change as we move into an artificial intelligence-first future?

II. Making Music More Magical

Before we can delve into the future, we have to first consider the present. As streaming, both audio and video, has made its way into the fat middle of consumer products, we’ve seen the way we interact with music also change. We subscribe to things like Apple Music instead of buying an entire album. That’s the biggest business model change of the last 100 years.

Incidentally, it’s opened up a new way for creators to make the music we buy. And in the future, I have to believe that we will be buying feelings on demand instead of songs. I want the feeling of Christmas. I want the feeling of escape. I want the feeling of Free Falling.

One such product, that Apple has begun to feature prominently in its online store is a much more human way to make music. It lets you feel it.

Instead of playing a real instrument with mechanical parts (blow into this tube), we’ve replaced it with digital parts (point and click on this aluminum computing device). Taken even further, instead of dragging and dropping snippets onto a complex timeline like in Logic Studio or Garageband, you can now shape sounds using gestures.

Touch and hold, then drag to change notes and octaves.

Below is just one of the marketing videos of the ROLI Lightpad Block. It doesn’t even need words. Just the melody alone already has me moving.

Goosebumps. I feel like I can feel it. Also, can we hear the entire track please because I would buy this entire song right now? Apple also features ROLI’s product in their online store, complete with another marketing video.

The product is intuitive. We know how we want something to sound in our head and instead of trying to color out notes on lined paper (i.e., sheet music), we just draw the music instead. We’re slowly but surely removing the layers of abstraction between the song our mind hears and creating the song with some tool so someone else can hear it too.

You know how I found this product? I just stumbled onto Apple’s Music page, scrolled down, looked at their music accessories and came across it. It was last week. And I just realized the product was just launched probably that day. Kismet? Or providence?

Take it from a guy who taught himself Logic Studio back during his business school days (no clue why), and how hard it was to get something from my head to the computer. This stuff is not easy. The pros just make it look that way. For $180, the ROLI is pretty darn accessible for the next generation who’s going to be pumping out joints faster than you can say, “that’s my jam, man”.

I still have melodies in my head I was never able to get down because the tools were too archaic. Maybe one day. It’s a reminder of something that matters so much with any message, marketing video, or product.

It’s not about you, or your company.

Even Apple. It’s not about them. It’s about what their tools enable people to do. Stories and music have become such a part of humanity because of the way it makes you feel. You put yourself into the ROLI marketing video and think, “Wow I can do that. I always had this tune in my head. I want to buy this so I can play with it and put my personal melody out into the world.”

Does your product, message, or story enable people to put themselves into it?

That’s the essence of Magic. You enable a creator to create and they value you for it. They trust you for it. And they give you money for it. Your cash balance is nothing more than a physical representation of that trust.

It then begs the question. Could a machine create trust, specifically with music?

III. When A Deaf AI Creates A Masterpiece

Stories have a pretty similar structure. In fact, as Joseph Campbell has written, the Hero’s Journey is a pretty standard mechanic for hacking the human brain with stories. As we’ve already described, a similar mechanic happens with music.

So can a math equation make music that we like? Of course it can. Today, it will exist as just another tool at making music faster and better. Much like the drag-and-drop timeline in music editing programs allow you to keep pushing that space bar to stop, replay, tweak, stop, replay, tweak, a well-built AI program can do all that automatically for you.

Pop music, for instance, follows a very specific pattern at a very specific BPM range. Once you get some of the core mechanics programmed into a mathematic intelligence, it then allows the human intelligence to fill in the creative gaps with a melody in his or her head.

It’s not rocket science, it’s just optimizing a few steps that musicians and producers are already doing. It doesn’t replace your job. It just makes it easier. Did a computer replace musicians? No, it just enabled music to be made faster and in new ways by more people.

It’s the same thing with AI for Music. Faster and more accessible. You can apply that same thinking to other fields as well. It doesn’t really take a job. It just frees you up to do higher order jobs. More critical thinking. More creativity. Less repetition.

Humans aren’t meant to keep doing the same things over and over. Gosh, that sounds tortuous doesn’t it? Not to mention, it’s the definition of insanity. Let automation help out. Free yourself up to do new and more fun things.

America didn’t become great because it forced everyone to work on an assembly line forever. We sent that over to China to handle the very repetitive assembly line. We became white collar workers who used our brains more than our backs.

The same will happen with AI. We just don’t realize that we’re all working on a computer assembly line because we think it’s the most advanced profession.

Wait until we level up again. Only then will we realize how inefficient and barbaric it was to have to write every single line of code, built every spreadsheet, make every powerpoint, type every email. Ughhhhhhhh…Mondays.

It makes the wealth pie bigger. Not smaller.

As we move from writing notes on paper sheets to touching and manipulating music in the air, the next full expression of human existence may be created by a kid named Becky, not Beethoven, and drawn in an empty room. The piano gets replaced by augmented reality. An instrument is just another name for a tool for music.

The rulebook may once again get incinerated in a political and revolutionary rage by a deaf genius.

Apple certainly believes it’s possible. They’ve doubled down on accessibility.

IV. The Future as a Feeling

As we move into an Augmented Reality future where we’re augmenting not just our eyesight, but also our hearing, it doesn’t take much of a leap to consider that we will also want to touch it.

We want to feel it. Our music. Our virtual worlds.

The ultimate instrument.

Haptic touch on Macbook trackpads, the iPhone home button and 3D Touch is only the beginning. Sonar isn’t just for our phone’s proximity sensor or for self-driving cars, it’s something the Navy also uses in their AR Diving Helmets.

Taken a step further, you can transfer a sonar signal into a sense of touch. The product already exists, again, for underwater exploration.

You could very easily connect the dots to see how this might line up with AR glasses, ear buds, and gloves to help you create your own digital world on top of the one we already experience every day.

Then, instead of using sonar signals to feel 3D objects that aren’t already there, you could imagine physically manipulating a 3-dimensional musical environment. You could go to a concert simply by loading the program, putting on your Apple Music Glasses, Gloves, and AirPods to feel the music created by the pop star of the future.

Music stops becoming strictly an auditory experience, but rather something you interact with and move through using your entire body. We already have a word for that.

A festival.

We are at the very beginning of another transformative shift. We are moving from Software as a Service (SAAS) to Future as a Feeling (FAAF). You heard it here first, folks.


Read More

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When Humans Touch Their Music was originally published in Humanizing Tech on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

from Stories by Sean Everett on Medium http://ift.tt/2gHwYps