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Meet AIVA, the world’s first AI music composer

Music is an ancient human art form, a way we communicate emotion and set a scene without saying a word.

Does that change if artificial intelligence does the creating?

Op.  1 for Piano Solo in D Major is a nice little piece of classical music. It’s bright but not sappy, emotional without being overbearing or heavy handed. It could serve as a perfectly nice soundtrack for a scene in any number of movies or plays.

The most remarkable thing about this four-minute instrumental is that human hands and intellect had no role in its creation until professional musicians began to play it.

The solo is the work of AIVA, or Artificial Intelligence Virtual Artist, the first AI recognized by a rights society as a composer. SACEM, the author’s rights society for France and Luxembourg, recognized AIVA formally and officially, meaning it holds the rights and can receive royalties and credit for the music it composes.

AIVA is the project of Aiva Technologies, founded in 2016 by Pierre Barreau, Denis Shtefan, Arnaud Decker and Vincent Barreau.

The company has lofty goals: “Our mission Establish Aiva as one of the greatest composers in history, and fuel the world with personalized music,” it states on the website.

How does this work? How does an artificial intelligence program begin to understand the first thing about music, let alone figure out composition, pacing, changes in tempo and tone, anything that imbues music with human emotion?

Naturally, Aiva’s creators started with the big names in the world.

“She has been learning the art of music composition by reading through a large collection of music partitions, written by the greatest composers (Mozart, Beethoven, Bach…) to create a mathematical model representation of what music is. This model is then used by Aiva to write completely unique music.”

Aiva composes its own sheet music which is then given to professional musicians to bring to life. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the company’s founders were inspired by the movie “Her,” set in the not-too-distant future where people have strong relationships with the AI contacts that become ubiquitous in the world.

(Remember that “Her” came out in 2013, before we could ask speakers to play certain songs on a whim or order flour and laundry detergent without having to touch a computer or smart phone. How far we’ve come in a really short time.)

“Using deep neural networks, AIVA looks for patterns and rules in the scores to understand the basic style of the music,” according to a company press release. “One way AIVA practices its understanding of music is by predicting what comes next in the track. Once it gets god at these predictions, it creates a set of mathematical rules for that style of music. Finally, AIVA is ready to compose totally unique scores.”

Last year, the company raised more than €650,000 for further development of AIVA through angel investors, including Kima Ventures, backed by French billionaire Xavier Niel.

The Luxemborg-based company already has its first big-name client: it teamed up with Epic Stars to create the world’s first video game with a main theme composed by AI, the theme for the game Pixelfield called Battle Royale.

The company swears it does not want to eliminate jobs for professional musical composers. Far from it: they want to continue working together to keep AIVA learning and moving forward and insist it will only be with real, live, breathing human musicians that such advances are possible.

“AI can fix writer’s block, and address use cases that composers alone cannot solve, but still need humans to be brought to life, with real instruments and a conductor’s irreplaceable artistic supervision,” the company says.

AIVA was featured in the first episode of a recent documentary series by the technology company NVIDIA called “I Am AI.”

For now, AIVA will continue working in classical-style compositions because those are the easiest for it to learn and comprehend. AIVA participated in the European Film Market in Berlin in 2017 and the Artificial Intelligence in Business and Entrepreneurship Summit in London.

Curious? Check out AIVA’s first album, aptly named Genesis.

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