In the special case of this album, before speaking of the music it’s useful to introduce the concept behind it. The official notes that come with the record explain that Hello World “is the first mainstream music album composed with artificial intelligence. Its goal is to show that AI can be used to create new, compelling music, generating fresh musical material of all sorts: melodies, harmonies, timbre, rhythms and the like“. We also learn that Hello World started as a research project in which scientists were looking for algorithms to capture and reproduce the concept of musical “style”. After a number of initial prototypes, a first group of electronic music artists joined the research team and at some point they took control of the process, and the scientific project became a music project. These artists were invited and coordinated by French pop artist Benoit Carré, who operates under the stage name of SKYGGE.
Was this introduction necessary to appreciate the album? Partly yes and partly not. The reality is this disc collects 15 songs which, beyond the experimental concept that lies behind, are absolutely interesting and pleasing to listen to. There is certainly an element of novelty and experimentation that emerges from the tracks of Hello World, but these are fundamentally much closer to conventional electronic music than the initial notes can lead one to believe. And it is no coincidence, then, that many songs from this record are already populating the various playlists that are on the web (including mine), meaning that the value of the songs, at the end, doesn’t require the full understanding of the experiment that was carried out. Understanding the role that the technology had for this project is still important, however, because it highlights how many of the melodies that we listen to (not only on this album) are actually the result of models and processes that can be reproduced with computer algorithms. Without going into details, basically the mechanism developed for Hello World is based on the idea to feed computer machines with sounds and melodies selected by every artist as input. Deep learning algorithms are then applied in order to allow the artificial intelligence module to elaborate and refine musical elements that are stylistically similar to the initial ones, but “new”.
From a musical point of view, the album is strongly influenced by European electronic music and it is easy to recognize in many songs the contributio from Stromae, the Belgian musician who came to wide public attention almost ten years ago with a number of catchy electronic songs.
In the end, the most interesting characteristic of the album is not the technological history we told at the beginning, but the pleasant variety and freshness of all the songs included in the album. This is really a well done collection of modern and forward thinking electronic tracks. What were the specific leves of contribution from humans and computers are not clear to me at the moment, but if these are the results we are clearly on the right track.
The album was officialy released on January 12, 2018.