PC Magazine


In late May, a small crowd at St. Dunstan’s church in East London’s Stepney district gathered for two hours of traditional Irish music. But this event was different; the tunes it featured were composed, in part, by an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm, dubbed folk-rnn, a stark reminder of how cutting-edge AI is gradually permeating every aspect of human life and culture—even creativity.

Developed by researchers at Kingston University and Queen Mary University of London, folk-rnn is one of numerous projects exploring the intersection of artificial intelligence and creative arts. Folk-rnn’s performance was met with a mixture of fascination, awe, and consternation at seeing soulless machines conquering something widely considered to be the exclusive domain of human intelligence. But these expeditions are discovering new ways that man and machine can cooperate.


Like many other AI products, folk-rnn uses machine learning algorithms, a subset of artificial intelligence. Instead of relying on predefined rules, machine learning ingests large data sets and creates mathematical representations of the patterns and correlations it finds, which it then uses to accomplish tasks.

Folk-rnn was trained with a crowd-sourced repertoire of 23,000 Irish music transcripts before starting to crank out its own tunes. Since its inception in 2015, folk-rnn has undergone three iterations and has produced more than 100,000 songs,

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