EQ Magazine - April 2009 - (Page 4)
Talk Box THE SONGSMITH FLAP Step right up, and sing into this mic! Click here, and we’ll create an arrangement for you! And now—you’re a musician! And that’s the way some people look at Microsoft Research’s SongSmith. Only problem is, that’s not the way Microsoft looks at it: They bill it as an inspiration starter, or a fun program to get kids interested in music. In the infamous SongSmith promotional video (which is spawning a plethora of hilarious parody videos on YouTube), the main character playing with SongSmith is a young girl, and her father uses SongSmith to create a jingle for glow-in-thedark towels. Can anyone really take a commercial that seriously if it’s based around glow-in-the-dark towels? Poor Microsoft: In the eyes of many, they can’t do anything right. People snicker about seeing a Mac in the video—but Microsoft doesn’t make computers, and Macs run Windows programs just fine. There’s an online debate about whether the video is a self-parody, for real, or a joke; regardless, it shows the potential of viral marketing. Whether people look at the video and think “epic fail” or “hmmm, kinda interesting,” Microsoft has likely gotten more attention with that video than with a big-bucks agency Super Bowl ad. The video has been a magnet for the people who like to pile on Microsoft, but in the YouTube comments threads, I’m starting to the see the first posts along the lines of “Well I tried it, and you know, it’s actually a pretty interesting program. . . .” Is SongSmith going to put us all out of business? Not a chance. The backing tracks are cheesy, and the results are unpredictable. SongSmith uses some form of artificial intelligence (or some would say, artificial stupidity) to build an entire song around a vocal—a process with inherent limitations. Yet I’m fascinated by the program. Not because I’m planning to use it, or because it makes great music. But it’s time for a reality check: Even the people doing the parody videos on YouTube are having fun with the program. And isn’t that what it’s about? Those getting started on SongSmith today might be the Lennon-McCartneys of tomorrow—not because of what they learned from SongSmith, but because they learned that playing with music can be fun. The same impulse that makes people create funny plastic keyboards for babies to play with is the same impulse that created SongSmith. And it’s the same impulse which, when augmented by experience, curiosity, inspiration, and technique, can create great music. But we all have to start somewhere. Some of today’s kids messing with SongSmith will, at some point, say “I can do much better than that.” And indeed, some will. www.eqmag.com Vol. 20 No. 4, April 2009 Executive Editor Craig Anderton, firstname.lastname@example.org Managing Editor Debbie Greenberg, email@example.com Contributors Contessa Abono, Bruce Bartlett, Janice Brown, Mark Davis, Steven D. Losey, Roberto Martinelli, Mr. Bonzai, Will Romano, Michael Ross, Robert J. Shimonski, Angelina Skowronski Art Director Patrick Wong, firstname.lastname@example.org Staff Photographers Paul Haggard, email@example.com, Craig Anderton, firstname.lastname@example.org Group Publisher Joe Perry email@example.com, 770.343.9978 Advertising Director, West Coast & New Business Dev. 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