Artificial Intelligence

These Sounds Created by Google AI Are Completely New to Human Ears

Multiple instruments playing at the same time has been a component of music for at least half a millennium. But what about the sound of multiple instruments becoming the same sound? Google's NSynth is a digital synthesizer that uses artificial intelligence to blending instruments in a way never before possible, to create sounds never before heard.

Two Become One

Maybe best way to represent how this technology works is to think of two instruments as opposite ends of a digital color spectrum. As you get closer to one side of the color green, for instance, you get to darker and darker shades of green until you reach black; on the other side, you get lighter shades until you reach white. If you dragged the marker up the spectrum from light to dark by 25 percent, you would have a unique shade of light green.

With NSynth—a project developed by Google Magenta, the company's AI research and development team—you would have different instruments, let's say a banjo and a tuba, on each side of the spectrum. If you moved the cursor up 25 percent from the pure banjo sound toward the pure tuba sound, you would get a sound that was 25 percent tuba, 75 percent banjo—not the two playing in unison, but a single sound that was never before heard before. The trick is AI, which uses the mathematical characteristics of each instrument's tone to blend them into one sound.

Listen to Google NSynth

Making History

Magenta's synthesizer features around 300,000 notes from around 1,000 different instruments at the time of writing this piece, and they've made it clear that they're planning on continually improving and adding to the data. With all those notes and instruments, the combination of never-before-heard sounds holds incredible possibilities for artists of every conceivable genre willing to create music through a computer program. Magenta's AI has made the process intuitive, accessible, and relatively easy, and we're excited to see what new music comes out as a result.

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Written by Mike Epifani June 13, 2017

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