A.I. Generated Christmas Carol

The story behind the latest The Forever Now release is so bizarre, I feel like I owe you an explanation. The song, while not wholly disingenuous, is a comically and eerily twisted take on a Christmas carol due to the fact that the lyrics were penned by an artificial intelligence.

This one started back in Christmas of 2019 when my friend Andrew, knowing I’m a small A.I. and code enthusiast, sent me a blog post from Janelle Shane, an artificial intelligence researcher who had generated a set of Christmas carol lyrics, and the results were festive, humourous, and a bit more than a little disconcerting.

The neural network had made no distinction between the more historical religious carols, and those featuring our more contemporary and commercial cast of holiday characters. Here’s one of the one’s it came up with:

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, with its red belly
The All-gracious King of all the earth,
Had a baby at Christmas time,
On Christmas Day,
A true and holy Deity,
Went down to earth,
With human flesh for sacrifice.
For sinful men such a Deity doth appear,
And wink and nod in reply,
As he winked and nod in reply,
As he winked and nod in reply
The wretched world is run by ox and ass
The wretched world is run by ox and ass,
And in vain build I.

Maybe I had been listening to too much The National recently and Phoebe Bridgers’ haunting cover of Silent Night recently, or maybe it was that I had just discovered the wonderfully crunchy pad tone I could create by running Spitfire Labs’ Felt Piano through iZotope’s Trash 2 on Wrecktifier mode, but for whatever reason I was inspired to give this AI a voice. I thought it would be a fun, or at least funny, way to spend the holiday break.

In a strange way, the bizarre, and clearly in-human, nature of the lyrics was a bit freeing. It took the pressure off of trying to write the perfect Christmas carol, and allowed me to embrace the idiosyncrasies of the words. The result was that it came together surprisingly quickly, and my first version was written, recorded, and mixed in less than 24 hours.

the music itself is a wonderful complement to such an otherworldly collection of words. The Forever Now have created a holiday tune that has plenty of classic modern Christmas elements and a definitive indie-rock sound

The Ark of Music

As the year passed, I felt like, in spite of the slightly tongue-in-cheek joke of giving the neural net a voice, it still had some interesting qualities that had begun to seep into the new songs I was working on. After reaching out to Janelle, we agreed to have the song mixed and mastered for an official release with her name in the lyric credits.

To top it off this holiday season, while relegated to a 14-day quarantine, I had the idea to make an equally eerie lyric video for the song featuring glitched-out samples of Christmas stock footage that would reflect the somewhat twisted take on a wholesome, instagram-worthy holiday experience that the song seemed to project.

Do yourself a favor ahead of the machine uprising – stream Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, King of All the Earth, and thank an AI near you for its creativity. And while you’re at it, check out The Forever Now – when they’re not collaborating with robots, they’re cultivating a really vibrant, dynamic indie rock sound that’s well worth your time too.

The Ark of Music

Hop over to Janelle’s blog to learn more about her process of making the lyrics using the GPT-2 neural net, and what she’s cooked up this year with the new GPT-3 AI.

As for the music, what does all this mean for the future of song-writing now that AI are entering the music space? I have a few ideas on that coming up soon…