Elsewhere VXIII

Many years ago – about 15, I think – I was chatting with someone who was guesting at a library I was working at and the subject of the fact I make music came up. When describing his own approach to music, he said that unlike me, he only consumes music…

It is impossible to consume music. You can engage with it or you can ignore it, or somewhere in between, but you cannot consume it. The music will remain unchanged, although your perception of it won’t.

Imagine thinking like that? I was too nice to debate with him about it, plus I think my thoughts on it took a while to become coherent even though it jarred me immediately. But it speaks to a mindset that believes it is only in existence to consume things because of much larger sociological factors that are not even wrong, that would be giving them waaay too much credit.

I was reminded of this exchange by all the giddy hype about what AI (sidebar: it’s all A, no I) can do for us to save us from the drudgery of, like, leisure and stuff, and reading, and writing, and creating, and making, and, and, and… all we have to do is give some prompts and it do all that for us! And then what do we do? More free time to merely consume things, I suppose.

A compilation like what I bring to your attention today simply could not be made with that kind of approach to music and discernment. There is a thread running through this that can only be done with human judgement. And indeed, DJ soFa, for it is he who has compiled this, has made several compilations and all of them have a particular feel to them though it would be an insult to insinuate they are in any way the same as each other; they are not.

This is why an algorithmic approach to music discovery will never throw the surprises at you that other humans can. You simply could not build in the coherent unpredictability required. In fact, all the best compilations, DJ sets, mixes – what they have in common is a coherent unpredictability. And probably all great art, for that matter.

If you want merely functional, then go ahead and knock yourself out with your AI approach to creativity and novelty, which will be neither creative or novel unless you assign a depressingly low value to what you consider creative or novel. But if you want the great, the sublime… you need the human touch.

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