SA duo to break ground in co-production with supercomputer

Original Swimming Party members Tom Glendinning and Jeremy de Tolly are set to become one of the first bands to collaborate with a supercomputer. (Kyle Venktess)
Original Swimming Party members Tom Glendinning and Jeremy de Tolly are set to become one of the first bands to collaborate with a supercomputer. (Kyle Venktess)
Kyle Venktess, Fin24

Johannesburg - A Cape Town duo is set to become one of the first bands in the world to produce a song in collaboration with a supercomputer.

The electronica outfit Original Swimming Party (OSP) is an audio-visual group from Cape Town who define their music style as a mash-up of Western electronic, with African influences from genres like kwaito and house.

Recently, OSP began working with supercomputer Watson Beat, which is based in Austin, Texas. The band sends through chords of an original song with a "mood", and the supercomputer then uses the same notes to create an entirely new piece according to the mood.

OSP member Tom Glendinning, who produces his work from music software Ableton Live, said the group had collaborated with international artists before, and working with the supercomputer felt no different.

“It has been a very interesting process and scarily similar to working with live artists,” Glendinning told Fin24.

“Watson is meant to be artificially intelligent and emulate human intelligence. It has been like working with any other artist,” he added.

How it works

OSP sends Watson a midi file, which they explain to be music notation that a computer can understand.

Through algorithms the supercomputer listens and learns how the music written.

When a mood has been selected, Watson will send back a midi file with its own composition according to the music notes sent in the midi file by OSP.

OSP plan to work with the supercomputer to produce a world-first collaboration between artists and a supercomputer.

“The beauty of Watson is that the more complex notes we send to Watson, the more it learns. Right now it's like a high school student, with no style of its own,” Glendinning said.

“Part of our project is to send more complex notes back and forth to Watson, to produce our own song,” he added.

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