One of the first encounters I had with a music teacher was at 7 years old. Singing in a children’s choir where its director would have her own teaching methods, usually passed down to her by previous professors or university classes. It was common to see music educators adapt these methods, like Kodály (developed more than 70 years ago), and make them their own, simply because contextually and culturally, the foundations and needs of students are different.

Several years later while studying composition in college, music education was extremely structured, following a curriculum strongly based on foreign systems. So we asked ourselves, where’s our Colombian music, or how can I learn about J.S. Bach through more contemporary methods or about Nine Inch Nails’ synths and sound deconstruction, or how should I analyze a sonata if I didn’t know the historical context of its composer?

Photo from I Heart Synths
Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails and his synthesizers
Today, any 12 year old can grab an iPhone, open up YouTube and watch endless hours of music lessons, history, and theory. There’s more access to music today than in the past millennium. However, information overload makes it difficult to cut through the noise and access quality content that will indeed make you a good musician. 

The Power of AI in Music Education

Artificial intelligence and machine learning have enabled humans to pour endless amounts of data at obtain fast results never before seen. When applied to music, many efforts for AI-composed music have been created. Analyzing thousands of melodies, harmonies, chord progressions, beats per minute and textures to create new songs or tunes.

However, AI-powered music education is at its nascent stages. Traditionally, music teachers have passed along their knowledge to their students in masterclasses. But acknowledging that music is the only intangible art, music education is a largely biased practice. Its methods and expressions have been filtered by the analysis of previous and even legendary composers, teachers and music researchers.

Beethoven once said that music will never be perfect. Why? Because there are infinite ways to interpret or perform music. There will never be an exact performance after the other. Maybe a violin will be a quarter of a tone off tune, or perhaps the dynamics have increased one decibel compared to the previous version. The possibilities are endless.

Music education is based on the teachers’ effectiveness to communicate music. And talking about music is very different than understanding it, yet alone feeling it. Why are Scandinavian people more prone to produce some of the most renowned metal music in the world? Why is it that along the Pacific coast of Colombia and Ecuador, percussion mallets were hand made with rubber? For sound or for necessity?

Watch the pattern: It’s all context

The underlying pattern here is history. Culture-centric events that have been documented in text books by humans and reinterpreted in a thousand if not millions of different ways. This has influenced how music has been taught and passed on to new generations and artificial intelligence will disrupt the education systems as we know them.
Machine learning allows us to analyze thousands of historic sources and cross reference its results with music, leading to the possibility of understanding music with a whole different perspective and use it as a tool for creative and unpredictable compositions.

It is no secret that music is a mirror of history. But we have depended on oral teachings and text books to understand this. Music has served as a way to express current situations from political, social and even economical circumstances. If we used AI the other way around, analyzing music and context to understand history, we would result with billions of data points to help us unravel more unknowns. From the analogies between Mozart’s ‘The Abduction from the Seraglio’ and Turkish music, where the opera didn’t only reflect Mozart’s personal moment in life, but suggests the impact of the Turks in civilization, both politically and culturally.

Music is a vital part of human existence, and as much as it is being converted into a commodity, its impact on history is not something to take lightly. There used to be a time where studying music was frowned upon, even by our own parents. But when it intersects with technology, it can lead to many new findings. It can even lead to different ways to see and understand our own world.
Tomas Uribe

Tomas Uribe is the Co-founder and CEO of Stereotheque. Composer, bass player and front-end designer and engineer. Also a die-hard fan of Nine Inch Nails.

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