Mubert Artist: Richard Youngs โ€” Mubert Blog Mubert Artist: Richard Youngs โ€” Mubert Blog

Mubert Artist: Richard Youngs

Avant rock magus Richard Youngs presents his hallucinatory flow of psych rock, mutant folk and bizarre electronic music for Mubert.

 

The UK underground godfather, who has more than 100 albums to date, experiments with voice and numerous instruments โ€” from guitar and accordion to shakuhachi, theremin and dulcimer. With a number of generations growing up worshiping his music, Richard has worked with indie majors such as Jagjaguwar and Ba Da Bing!, while also putting out releases on his own No Fans label in editions of less than 10. Straddling the traditional and the avant garde, he is primarily interested in being himself.

What did you like about the process of making music with AI? What parts were interesting?

I think there’s this misconception that in experimental music, anything goes. Well, it does and it doesn’t. Often I work with very strict rules โ€“ that’s what makes it experimental. In science, every experiment has parameters, even if you then set random values to certain variables. So, there’s a discipline. What I liked about making music for the Mubert project was this discipline. I had to stick to a time signature, a key, a certain number of bars, certain frequency ranges. It became like very interesting work โ€“ what could I do within these very precise boundaries? Each loop was a mini-experiment.

In what new ways can Mubertโ€™s technology be applied?

Well, yes, it can be background music. You can use it in restaurants, in videos, on podcasts. But, more excitingly, I think AI is a wonderful tool to make music to be listened to as music. The algorithms are in many ways the composition. I’m interested to see how the algorithms develop. Can they pass some kind of Turing test where we cannot tell if the music is algorithmic or human?

Technologies are evolving faster than ever before and becoming a part of our daily life. Should musicians adapt to these changes and how? What disciplines should they learn to be ready for the industry?

I don’t feel that musicians have to do anything other than what they want to. If they want to use a particular technology, if it excites them, then great. If it is not something that they feel they wish to explore, so be it.

Richard Youngs
Photo by Madeleine Hynes

In your opinion, how will music be consumed in the near future? How will it be created?

I’m not sure there’s a simple answer. Music operates on so many levels and in so many ways. Gregorian chant isn’t going to change how it operates. Computer-generated music probably will. Maybe it will become more responsive to human error.

For many musicians, mastering computer science and coding is essential. Have you ever tried coding and how did that go? How easy is it to use Mubertโ€™s platform in that sense? Should the interface be simplified or, on the other hand, include more features, giving more control to the users?

I’ve dabbled with Supercollider. I enjoyed pressing play after the coding was done, and the surprising results. Less so, the process. It felt a touch removed from why I play an instrument. Part of me would love to see Mubert develop to the point where it could be played like an instrument โ€“ this would see users deciding what level of control they wanted. But, at the same time, the joy of Mubert is that it does all of this for you! It’s AI โ€“ it thinks so the user doesn’t have to!

Photo by Madeleine Hynes

Is the listener a co-creator if he is simply modifying the compositions with his likes? Should the platform provide more instruments to allow the audience to tinker with ideas and change them? What could those tools look like?

That’s a bit like mixing, perhaps. At what point does that become creative? There’s a world of difference from me adjusting the tone controls of my playback amplifier and, say, a dub mix. But, I think an interesting aspect of Mubert is that it isn’t another DAW, that it doesn’t enable artistic expression. It does that for you.

Co-creating music with AI theoretically makes the algorithm a co-composer. Do you agree with this statement and how do you feel about this? How does this concept work when it comes to royalties and intellectual property?

Yes, I agree. And, I’ve supplied some loops for the algorithm to hear what it will do. I wanted it to work its magic and to surprise me. When I heard what the algorithm was doing to my sounds I was fascinated. Weirdly, I didn’t feel it was my music anymore. So, I’m not sure how this makes me feel about it being my intellectual property. And can an algorithm make any such claim?

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