AI + musicians: the creative process, track by track

IN THE HOUSE OF POETRY 4:14

Featuring Kyrie Kristmanson
Composed by SKYGGE with Flow Machines, inspired by jazz and folk ballads
Audio stems generated: voice, piano, strings
Lyrics: Kyrie Kristmanson
Vocals: Kyrie Kristmanson
All instruments performed by SKYGGE
Mixed by Gilles Martin
Produced by SKYGGE

SKYGGE wanted to compose a song with the enchanting charm of ancient folk melodies. He fed Flow Machines with folk ballads and jazz tunes. As a result, the machine generated melodies with chord progressions right in that mood, with a catchy and singular melodic movement. Once the verse was done, he fed Flow Machines with a jazzier style for the chorus part, in order to bring in rich harmonic modulations.
Flow Machines then proposed an unconventional and audacious harmonic modulation in the first bar of the chorus, with an ascending melody illuminating the song. SKYGGE followed up with a small variation by exploiting a 2-bar pattern generated by Flow Machines and asked the system again to generate a harmonic progression that would resolve nicely with the tonality of the verse.
He subsequently looked for a singer with a pure voice to sing this beautiful melody. Having listened to and loved the album Modern Ruin by Kyrie Kristmanson, he thought she would like the song and would not be afraid of its technically challenging nature. She was indeed enthusiastic and wrote lyrics inspired by the tale The Shadow by H.C. Andersen. She focused on the part of the story where the Shadow tells the learned man what he saw in the house of Poetry.
The song is divided in two parts. In the first part Kyrie sings; in the second part, Kyrie’s vocals are generated by Flow Machines from recordings of Kyrie’s voice.
Flow Machines generated pianos, strings and vocals from SKYGGE’s material as well as from Kyrie’s voice. SKYGGE played all additional instruments: drums, piano, and electric guitars.

HELLO SHADOW 2:54

Featuring Kiesza
Composed by Stromae, SKYGGE, The Bionix with Flow Machines, inspired by Cape Verdian music
Audio stems generated: choirs, rhythm guitar
Lyrics: Kiesza
Vocals: Kiesza
All instruments performed by Stromae, The Bionix and SKYGGE
Mixed by Lionel Capouillez
Produced by The Bionix

Stromae was curious about Artificial Intelligence and music creation. He came to visit us at the studio and was fascinated by the possibilities of the software, which offers new ways of making music. He brought his own influences, scores and audio stems he liked in Cape Verdian style, and we fed it to the machine. He selected his favorite melodies and stems that Flow Machines had generated. We put those fragments together and built the song step by step. Stromae sang a vocal line that followed the generated melody, and he improvised on the pre-chorus. The choir in the chorus is also generated. When we had the song ready for final production, we sent it to Kiesza who loved it. We asked her, as well as all the lyricists on the album, to read the tale The Shadow for inspiration. Kiesza envisioned a happy, shiny shadow. We gave all the tracks to The Bionix, a Belgium duet of producers who have worked on many songs by Stromae.
What is most unusual and characteristic of this song are the first four notes of the verse, which evoke the image of a ball bouncing and rolling.

MAGIC MAN 2:57

Composed by SKYGGE with Flow Machines, inspired by French pop of the 80s
Audio stems generated: choirs
Vocals: Mariama Jalloh, SKYGGE
Bass: Jérôme Lavaud
Drums: Raphael Chassin at the Studio Melodium
Performance synths: Michael Lovett
Guitars: SKYGGE
Additional synths: Napkey
Mixed by Fred Decès
Produced by SKYGGE

SKYGGE fed Flow Machines with French pop songs from the 80s. The machine generated this simple melody, which sounded excitingly groovy once SKYGGE rendered it with a generated choir. The title comes from a phrase that returns frequently in this choir: Magic Man. It was a nice surprise that the machine came up with a shiny pop song title with such an electro-disco feel. Flow Machines generated guitars from an American folk stem for the demo. Flow Machines also generated other vocals on the verse, and SKYGGE sang over those voices to get a more complex vocal blend. He also asked the singer Mariama to sing with the choir in order to reinforce the groove. The lyrics are a kind of mashup from all the generated syllables. French electro band Napkey worked on the arrangement at the end of the production. Michael Lovett added synthesizer arpeggios.

SENSITIVE 4:14

Featuring C Duncan
Composed by SKYGGE with Flow Machines, inspired by bossa nova from the 80s
Lyrics: C Duncan
Audio stems generated: Rhodes piano, bass, drums
Vocals: C Duncan
String arrangement: Marie-Jeanne Serrero
String session: Cyril Baleton, André Joseph, Ana Millet, Florence Bonanni
Under the direction of Marie-Jeanne Serrero
Sound engineer: Alexandre Tanguy for Studio Davout (Paris)
Drums: Raphael Chassin
Bass, guitars, pianos & keyboards: SKYGGE
Mixed by Gilles Martin
Produced by SKYGGE

The song was composed from a corpus of bossa novas of the 60s. There are some patterns in the song such as major-minor progressions, that bossa nova fans will recognize and like. Harmonic changes are sometimes very audacious, but the melody always stays on tracks. C Duncan was very enthusiastic when he listened to the song. SKYGGE generated a voice for the melodic line with random lyrics, like a mosaic of syllables extracted from the a cappella recording of a vocalist. However, once played with a piano, the music sounded like a powerful 70s ballad. SKYGGE liked the combination of the two styles, and recorded a string arrangement and live drums. C Duncan wrote the lyrics from random material with key words like wind, deep and feel. Pianos, guitars and bass were added.

ONE NOTE SAMBA 3:06

Featuring The Pirouettes (generated voices)
Composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim
Lyrics: Antonio Carlos Jobim
Audio stems generated: drums, bass, pads, voices (generated from The Pirouettes)
Vocals: SKYGGE
Performance synths, electric bass: Michael Lovett
Additional sounds and synths: SKYGGE
Mixed by Ash Workman & Fred Decès
Produced by SKYGGE & Ash Workman

François Pachet and SKYGGE happen to love Antonio Carlos Jobim, the great Brazilian composer, and they wanted to do a cover of his famous song One Note Samba with Flow Machines. SKYGGE put together generated stems with drums, bass and pads and right away got awesome results: a singular and catchy tune with great harmonies and timbre. The harmonies are a bit different from the original but do not betray the logic of the song. The chord progression brings a Jobimian touch to the melody through unexpected harmonic modulations.
A few days before, the French band The Pirouettes had come to the studio and had uploaded two songs from their first album Carrément, Carrément. We generated vocals from these recordings for One Note Samba, and that was it!
Fans of The Pirouettes may recognize words from their original songs…
Ash Workman and Michael Lovett added a vintage drums loop and synths. Michael Lovett played the same bass pattern as the one generated by Flow Machines.

JE VAIS TE MANGER 3:00

Featuring Sarah Yu Zeebroeke
Composed by Laurent Bardainne and SKYGGE with Flow Machines, inspired by French pop
Lyrics: Laurent Bardainne
Audio stems generated: guitars, piano, strings, choirs
All instruments by SKYGGE and Laurent Bardainne
Mixed by Julien Briffaz
Produced by Laurent Bardainne and SKYGGE

Laurent Bardainne came to the studio with his audio stems, marimba, synth bass patterns and compositions in an 80s pop style. Flow Machines generated a few songs, and very quickly, Laurent selected the good parts. Laurent and SKYGGE built the song in a few hours. They left each other without knowing what to do with their song. For more than a week SKYGGE woke up every morning with this melody stuck in his head. Looking in depth at the generated lead sheet, one can see a harmonic twist that no one would have thought of. This twist pushes the melody up and down over an audacious modulation. SKYGGE called back Laurent, and they asked Sarah Yu to sing. The song is about a woman who says she will eat our souls and that we are lost.
Additional instruments were played on a Yamaha PSS (80s toy workstation).

CRYYYY 3:06

Composed by SKYGGE and Michael Lovett with Flow Machines, inspired by pop of the 60s
Audio stems generated: flutes, guitar, voices
Vocals: Mariama Jalloh
Performance synths: Michael Lovett
Drums programming and synths: SKYGGE
Mixed by Fred Decès
Produced by SKYGGE and Ash Workman

This simple melody in the style of 60s pop tunes was generated almost exactly as you hear it. When SKYGGE was working in the studio of Ash Workman with Michael Lovett, Ash had just received an old cabinet organ from the 70s bought on the net. They plugged it in and began to play the chords of Cryyyy. It sounded great, and they recorded all those sounds for the song.
SKYGGE wanted a melancholic but modern sound. Mariama’s timber matched perfectly. Flutes and detuned and distorted guitars are generated by Flow Machines. SKYGGE added some beats and deep bass.

CAKE WOMAN 4:19

Featuring Camille Bertault and Médéric Collignon
Composed by Médéric Collignon and SKYGGE with Flow Machines, inspired by funk pop of the 80s
Audio stems generated: Rhodes piano, bass, drums
Lyrics: François Pachet, SKYGGE
Vocals: Camille Bertault
Trumpets: Médéric Collignon
All instruments: SKYGGE, except additional drums programming: Michael Lovett and Ash Workman
Mixed by Gilles Martin
Produced by SKYGGE and Ash Workman

Médéric Collignon is an amazing trumpet player, full of energy. He came to the lab with his own audio tracks, mostly jazz progressions played on a Rhodes piano, and some bass synths. SKYGGE also had some hip-hop grooves, and the two musicians worked on a funk pop in the style of the 80s.
The generated lead sheet was simple but contained harmonic twists that Médéric dug as a jazz composer. He selected chromatic modulations that he often uses in his own scores.
When they generated audio stems for the song from all the audio material, the output was kind of crazy and messy but sounded very exciting. In particular, the Rhodes generated from Médéric’s own Rhodes recordings was very groovy and reinforced the funkiness of the song. François Pachet and SKYGGE wrote lyrics inspired by the words of the generated voice and in the style of Surrealist poetry. They asked the young and talented jazz singer Camille Bertault to sing the song. She also did a scat-like improvisation, echoing the trumpet solo. In Andersen’s tale, the Shadow is hiding in the coat of a “cake woman”. If she had a voice, she would surely sing like Camille Bertault in this song.
SKYGGE added bass and pads. Michael Lovett added a vintage loop in the final part of the song. Ash Workman added percussion sounds on the rhythm part.

BALLAD OF THE SHADOW 2:48

Composed by SKYGGE with Flow Machines, inspired by jazz standards
Audio stems generated: ambient textures, voice
Guitars, organs, synths: SKYGGE
Drums: Raphael Chassin
Performance synths: Michael Lovett
Mixed by Ash Workman
Produced by Ash Workman and SKYGGE

The Ballad of the Shadow is the first song written for this album. It was composed as a vaporwave cowboy song. The idea of shadows singing was first developed with this melody which has a very happy mood. It resembles a cartoon-like tune when it is played at 120 bpm, but becomes melancholic when played slower, especially with ambient textures. Ash Workman and Michael Lovett detuned the drums and added some drive effects.

WHISTLE THEME 2:43

Featuring Catastrophe (generated voices)
Composed by SKYGGE with Flow Machines, inspired by soundtracks of the 50s and 60s
Audio stems generated: voice (Pierre Jouan), guitars, piano, airport sounds
All instruments by SKYGGE except drums: Raphael Chassin
Mixed by Gilles Martin
Produced by SKYGGE

Themes from older soundtracks are often more melodic. Today, film scores are rather based on textures than melodies. Inspired by those old melodies, Flow Machines generated a very catchy theme for this song. The whistling is backed up by airports sounds generated to match the song. Pierre Jouan from the pop band Catastrophe came to the studio and sang another song, from which the machine generated the voice you hear in the song. Pierre was very excited to hear his generated voice on the track.
Drums, bass and toy synth solo were added. Other tracks were generated by Flow Machines from pianos, acoustic and electric guitars previously recorded on other songs by SKYGGE.

MULTI MEGA FORTUNE 3:39

Featuring Michael Lovett
Composed by Michael Lovett, SKYGGE, Ash Workman with Flow Machines, inspired by American R&B
Lyrics: Michael Lovett
Audio stems generated: drums, bass, keyboards
Performance synths and lead vox: Michael Lovett
Mixed by Ash Workman and Fred Decès
Produced by Ash Workman

The first day at Ash Workman’s studio, Michael Lovett from NZCA Lines was there. We played with Flow Machines. Michael fed the machine with his own audio stems, vocals, drums loops, bass and keyboards, as well as lead sheets in the style of Brit pop. We generated some material, both songs and stems, and kept the best ones. With all this material, Michael Lovett wrote lyrics inspired by the tale The Shadow by H. C. Andersen. He especially liked the part of the story where the Shadow becomes very rich and travels a lot.

VALISE 3:22

Featuring The Pirouettes
Composed by SKYGGE and Stromae with Flow Machines, inspired by Cape Verdian music and SKYGGE’s music
Audio stems generated: rhythm guitar, choirs
Lyrics: SKYGGE and Stromae
Vocals: The Pirouettes
Performance synths: Michael Lovett
Additional keyboards and guitars: SKYGGE
Mixed by Ash Workman
Produced by Ash Workman

When Stromae came to the studio we tried several ideas based on six lead sheets that we had generated with Flow Machines. Between sessions, SKYGGE explored one of those directions and generated a vocal line from a former one of Stromae’s, uploaded on Flow Machines. The lyrics produced from the generated vocals meant something different from the original song by Stromae, but they were relevant, since they addressed the theme of “luggage”. Stromae liked the song, but at the time we focused on the song Hello Shadow and left Valise aside for a while. SKYGGE asked the French band The Pirouettes to sing the melody instead of using the generated voice. The Pirouettes found it very exciting to sing in sync with the generated voice by Stromae.
This song has an uncommon yet catchy chord progression and structure. At first glance it may sound strange, but after a couple of listenings, it becomes an ear worm. You can hear the generated choir laughing with an ungodly chord progression.

MAFIA LOVE (OYSTERSHELL) 2:02

Composed by SKYGGE with Flow Machines, inspired by pop of the 60s
Audio stems generated: voice, from Curtis Clarke Jr.
Piano, guitar: SKYGGE
Mixed by SKYGGE
Produced by SKYGGE

This song is almost a direct composition by Flow Machines. The only human actions were to slightly edit the melody. The song has its internal logic, like all good songs. It tells a story, though unconventionally due to the very rich structure with almost no repetition. This may seem strange at first, but the song becomes an ear worm after hearing it a couple of times. The song was rendered with a generated voice from an a cappella recording of Curtis Clarke Jr.
Flow Machines generated a piano track from a stem by SKYGGE. SKYGGE also added an electric guitar.

PAPER SKIN 3:31

Featuring JATA
Composed by JATA and SKYGGE, inspired by Mafia Love
Lyrics: JATA
Music: JATA, SKYGGE
Performance synths and lead vox: JATA
Mixed by Ash Workman
Produced by JATA

Paper Skin is an interesting, indirect use of AI. This song was built from the generated song Mafia Love, (see description). Ash Workman had just produced JATA’s album and suggested he work on the project. JATA picked up fragments of Mafia Love for the verse and the pre-chorus. He then composed a new chorus fitting those fragments. Ash Workman added some sounds from Mafia Love in the intro and in the bridge.

COLD SONG 3:36

Composed by Purcell
Audio stems generated: voices (generated from Kyte), strings (from recordings by Dima Tsypkin and Emmanuel Deruty)
Pianos, additional synths by SKYGGE
Mixed by Gilles Martin
Produced by SKYGGE

This song is a well-known part of the opera King Arthur. It has been sung by many singers in many styles (Sting, Klaus Nomi). For this cover, SKYGGE was inspired by artists such as Andre Bratten, Anne Clarke and Johann Johannsson, who have shown that machines can produce melancholic moods. The voice is generated from an a cappella recording of singer Kyte. It turns out that the generation produces many “A I A I”, but it’s a pure coincidence! In this song, everything is produced by Flow Machines, and there was no additional production.