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Mozart in Your Mind: AI's ability to score the music your brain is creating

Photo by h heyerlein on Unsplash

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed everything in his head, or so the story goes. Biographies and letters written by the musical genius affirm his ability or debunk it. Take your pick, but what we do know is that he stated he “heard” all the individual instruments’ parts in his head. The entire composition “played” as he wrote it down in bits and pieces as he went about his daily walks. No sitting at the fortepiano, harpsichord, clavichord, organ, violin or viola for him. Yes, he played all of them. And Stanford University has shown that walking does improve creativity.

Music may have charms to calm or soothe the savage breast (or beast), and we know that it has abilities to enhance brain development. Music also facilitates learning in all areas.

Research literature attributes any music instruction or ability to warding off brain aging, so all that practice was memory in the brain banks for everyone. Want to maintain your mind well up into your 90s? Play an instrument.

And, if you’ve never taken a lesson but have a wish to write music with a bit of help from AI, you can download the Amadeus Code. Curious regarding what AI Amadeus can produce? Give it a listen. Copyright may prove a bit problematic if both you and the AI collaborated on your masterpiece.

Does the coder or the production company get a portion of the royalties if you sell the composition or perform it in clubs? Well, Bell Labs never gave fees for the transistor to their employee-developers, did they? It was all work product. Thomas Edison never engaged in patent sharing with his 20+ scientists who developed all the works now attributed to him, either.

According to the 1965 iteration of the US copyright code in its “Problems Arising From Computer Technology,” the office indicated it “is certain that both the number of works proximately produced or ‘written’ by computers and the problems of the Copyright Office in this area will increase.”

The case of AI-produced music is becoming incredibly complicated because the copyright laws in the US have deficits and loopholes. One of the gaps is that AI hasn’t been codified as yet. The second area of intense interest is that of authorship and here’s the creative loophole as outlined in an article in The Verge:

“…Recently, the developers behind Endel, an app that uses AI to generate reactive, personalized “soundscapes,” signed a distribution deal with Warner Music. As part of the contract, Warner needed to know how to credit each track in order to register the copyrights. The company was initially stumped with what to list for “songwriter,” as it used AI to generate all of the audio. Ultimately, founder Oleg Stavitsky told The Verge, the team decided to list all six employees at Endel as the songwriters for all 600 tracks. “I have songwriting credits,” said Stavitsky, “even though I don’t know how to write a song.”

Another problem that arose after that contract was signed. The copyright office wants anyone to prove authorship. Anyone who can’t write music might have a bit of a problem there.

AI to the rescue?

What about music that is instigated or prompted in some way by AI programming in concert with your brain? Can AI help you to write music? Is it necessary to have an AI implant to be a songwriter or a more creative one if you already write songs?

You don’t need to have a brain implant at all to be able to compose music. A group in Austria used a brain-computer interface (BCI) which enabled them to record brain waves and feed that into an AI-trained computer that had unique and powerful, open-source music composing software (MuseScore 1.3). Melodies were transformed into the final piece of music.

The initial aim of the researchers in the group wasn’t to make music, but it appears to have resulted in an original piece of music research. They were seeking ways to assist disabled individuals with spinal cord injuries to learn to use their mind to control environmental controllers, web browsers, or to paint.

As stated on their website, the mission of The More Grasp project is: “…to develop a non-invasive, multi-adaptive, multimodal user interface including a brain-computer interface (BCI) for intuitive control of a semi-autonomous motor and sensory grasp neuroprosthesis supporting individuals with high spinal cord injury in everyday activities.”

Once the AI program and the computer had recorded the electroencephalogram (EEG) brain wave patterns of individuals, it produced music. The original research was with 17 participants, all of whom had some training in playing a musical instrument, along with one professional composer.

Results indicated that there was a high degree of music-writing accuracy in individuals who had music training in various levels of copy composing. The professional composer scored almost perfectly on all of the measures they took.

A later evaluation from those participants indicated that they were highly satisfied with the application. Final result? “Thinking” musical compositions were available in musical score form and could be played.

The More Grasp project isn’t the only one that is attempting to control computers via thought. Another effort, which has proven helpful as a musical instrument that can be played by the mind alone, is the Encephalophone.

Created by a neurologist at Swedish Medical Center and the University of Washington, is for the rehabilitation of patients with motor disabilities similar to those of the other project. The persons with disability who may be aided by this device also have spinal cord injury, amputation, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis aka Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).

The neurologist, Dr. Thomas Deuel, who is also a musician, had patients who played music before having a stroke or other motor impairment. The patients could no longer utilize that skill or sing. His device also collects brain waves and transforms them into musical notes. Coupling the unit with a synthesizer enables the individual to use a wide variety of musical sounds. There is a patent pending on this device. How does it work?

Two means of control for the unit both use brain signal input. One set of brain signals comes from the visual cortex; the person closes their eyes. The second set has the person think about movement. It’s believed that thinking about movement may be the most helpful.

Perhaps all of us are musicians at heart or would be more musical if we have the tools to enable that skill development. Imagine a day when you might compose your Mozart-like concerto. Or, like Paul McCartney, write a ballet or an opera.

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