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Holly Herndon: Exploring the Boundaries of Artistic Expression through A.I.-generated Music

In this TED Talk, multidisciplinary artist Holly Hendron unveils Holly+, an extraordinary A.I-powered instrument that lets people sing with her own voice. Witness the magic unfold as musician Pher takes the stage, showcasing this mind-blowing technology in action.

The Future of Music: A.I. and Identity Play

“One way that I like to think about intellectual property, I call identity play. So rather than limiting the use of my voice, I’m creating instruments to allow as many people as possible to create music with me, and even as me.”

Holly Hendron

Artificial intelligence continues to push the boundaries of what we thought possible in the realm of music. In this TED Talk by artist Holly Hendron, she introduced us to Holly+, an A.I. trained on her own voice. Holly+ demonstrated the ability to sing in multiple languages, effortlessly capturing the essence of traditional songs in unfamiliar vocal traditions. This groundbreaking performance raises intriguing questions about the intersection of A.I., identity, and intellectual property. Welcome to the future of music, where artists spawn new possibilities through the power of artificial intelligence.

Holly Plus, Holly Hendron's digital avatar

Unleashing Holly+’s Vocal Capabilities: A Multilingual Journey

Holly+ effortlessly sings in multiple languages, that “human” Holly does not speak. From the Catalan traditional song “El Cant de la Sibilla” to the German classic “Mack the Knife,” Holly+’s ability to seamlessly transition between languages and vocal styles leaves the audience astounded. It was a testament to the A.I.’s remarkable training on Holly’s voice, allowing for a captivating performance that transcended linguistic and cultural barriers.

Timbre Transfer: Unveiling the Secrets of Sonic Alchemy

At the heart of Holly+’s vocal prowess lies a fascinating process called timbre transfer. Through machine learning, a model was created to capture the distinct sound qualities of Holly’s voice. By mapping this timbre onto different performances, the A.I. was able to generate an entirely new sound that captured the essence of the original while embracing a new artistic expression. The process of spawning, as Holly refers to it, draws parallels to the revolutionary impact of sampling in music, albeit taking it to a whole new level of possibilities.

The Ethical Conundrum: Resurrecting the Collective Human Archive

Holly’s exploration of spawning opens up a Pandora’s box of ethical and intellectual property questions. If A.I. can reanimate old media and enable artists to perform as someone else, what does this mean for our collective human archive? The boundaries of intellectual property and ownership are shifting, necessitating new conceptual and legal frameworks. Holly’s approach, which she terms “identity play,” aims to redefine intellectual property by creating instruments that allow others to collaborate with her digital identity, inviting a world of collaborative possibilities.

Mutual Benefit: Empowering Creativity through Shared Identity

In an effort to make this newfound capability mutually beneficial, Holly has made versions of Holly+ freely available for anyone to use online. By embracing the notion of identity play and allowing others to experiment with her intellectual property, Holly seeks to uncover the transformative potential of collaborative artistic expression. Can we imagine someone else going on tour as Holly with her permission? Could Holly perform in a thousand different bands across multiple languages? These questions challenge our traditional notions of artistic ownership while fostering new avenues of creativity.

Imagining the Unthinkable: Performing and Being Performed

As Holly invites us to consider these profound questions, she invites musician Pher to the stage. Pher mesmerizes the audience by singing into two microphones. With one microphone, his natural voice resonates, showcasing his unique talent and the essence of human performance. But with the other microphone, a whole new dimension unfolds as he seamlessly embodies the voice of Holly herself, thanks to Holly+’s incredible capabilities. Holly+ was developed with Voctro Labs and their performance showcases the symbiotic relationship between human artistry and A.I.-generated music.

The duality presented prompts us to ponder who we would like to perform through if given the opportunity and challenges us to imagine the possibility of someone else performing as us.

The convergence of A.I., identity, and music heralds an exciting and transformative era. As artists like Holly continue to push the boundaries of creativity, the landscape of music and intellectual property will require new paradigms. Watch her TED Talk here and see the magic for yourself!

To learn more about Holly Herndon, visit her website: https://herndondryhurst.studio/.

This was written with ChatGPT.