A band that broke up over 50 years ago, that had one member murdered over 40 years ago, but whose music continues to influence pop culture even today, released a song last week. All members of the band, living and deceased, played on the song. But how?
In 1969 John Lennon informed his bandmates in The Beatles that he was leaving the group. Years later, as many musicians do, he was recording some new partially completed music on the current technology of the time — a cassette tape. In 1980 he was shot to death by a crazed fan and died.
In the mid ‘90s, his wife Yoko Ono gave that tape to the remaining Beatles to attempt to complete the song, but unfortunately at the time, the audio was poor, and John’s voice was drowned out by the piano. So, the cassette went back on the shelf.
Just in the last few years, Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame) and his team created new technology using AI while they were creating a new documentary film about The Beatles Get Back sessions. In the olden days, you were very limited with how many tracks you could record, so oftentimes multiple voices or instruments would be found on a single track, which made mixing — think raising and lowering the volume on a specific instrument — difficult.
With AI, they were able to isolate and clean up each individual instrument and voice of The Beatles in order to create a crisper, more balanced mix of the live recording of their RoofTop Concert. Peter Jackson then offered this technology up to The Beatles in order to lift John Lennon’s voice from the track recorded on that cassette tape. Finally, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr could complete the song, add George Harrison’s (who passed away in 2001) guitar parts from the mid ‘90s, and release the song “Now and Then.”
What is Then? What is Now?
In this case, machine learning is the “now,” and the creative energy of John Lennon is the “then.” Many are afraid that AI could spell the end of creativity amongst human beings, but in this case — and you can rest assured knowing there will continue to be others — AI lifted the creative spirit out from the depths of time.
As some call for consortiums to monopolize the development of AI in a “safe” and “regulated” way, let’s take a lesson from my favorite band. The Beatles were always experimenting with technology to create innovative music, and even now in 2023, they recapture the spirit of their partnership then.
We need to keep an open mind with AI. Doing so can help us recapture the spirit of our continued evolution.