TurkSmith

You've probably seen Microsoft's Songsmith by now. It's a program that makes backing music like a Casio keyboard I had as a kid. You pick a style of music such as rock, jazz, or (my old favorite) bossa nova and you get chords and rhythm that changes keys as you press different notes on the keyboard. The innovation with Songsmith is that the software automatically detects your pitch as you sing into the computer. So instead of pressing keys to make the background music change pitch, Songsmith detects the pitch changes in your voice and tries to make the generated music fit. You can see how this could get hilarious quickly. And it did on MetaFilter: Microsoft Songsmith, and then even more hilarious when someone piped David Lee Roth sans Halen into SongSmith with spectacular results: Runnin' With The Songsmith. And don't miss the stupendous Microsoft Songsmith Commercial.

This morning I was thinking about Songsmith, computer automation, and Mechanical Turk. I've thought Mechanical Turk is a terrible idea since I first heard about it in 2006: Mechanical Turk, so I don't want to encourage more experiments with it. But after Andy revealed The Faces of Mechanical Turk, I can't help but wonder if someone could reveal the voices of Mechanical Turk. I wonder if you could break up a song into pieces like Francois Macre's A capella Thriller and farm it out to Turkers. (Not that anyone should do that.) But even that is a copy of something that already existed. Maybe having Turkers write a small piece of music that could be assembled into a whole piece would be a better experiment. Finding a way to have actual humans mass-compose music seems like it would be more interesting than teaching computers to write better music. Tagged: half-baked.