From The Side of the Road… chatbot written bluegrass songs

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Chris Jones

You can consider this a companion piece to John Lawless’ recent article about artificial intelligence and Richard Melling’s use of the technology in interviews about bluegrass music. This was just an odd coincidence since I was working on this AI-themed column simultaneously without realizing it. However, I had decided to go in the direction of AI bluegrass lyrics. 

This week, a family member turned me on to the web site chat.openai.com, which in turn leads you to Chat GPT, which stands for something-or-other. It’s a chatbot that’s only been operational since last month, and it specializes in dialogue. Put simply, you can ask it a range of questions and get intelligent answers, or get it to perform tasks for you (I mean written tasks—It won’t do your taxes or shovel snow for you).

It comes with the following disclaimers, offering a list of limitations:

May occasionally generate incorrect information. 

May occasionally produce harmful instructions or biased content. 

Limited knowledge of world events after 2021.

Those all describe a typical social media post, so that’s okay. I launched in immediately. You can give it fairly complex or even deep assignments, e.g. “Explain quantum physics in simple terms,” or “explain what the Magna Carta is.” To satisfy my own quest for meaningful knowledge, I chose to ask it for a good superhero name for a badger. The responses impressed me:

Burrow Buster

Underground Avenger

The Tunneling Titan

And there were more.

I turned quickly to music when I discovered that it could generate song lyrics on demand. The results were both impressive and troubling: impressive because the results compare favorably to a number of current songs, troubling because the co-writer for the next bluegrass hit could easily be a chatbot, perhaps with the human writer only contributing a line or two.

What you do is direct it to write a song using whatever themes you choose. I saw this as a great opportunity to address a present need in bluegrass music: new bluegrass Christmas songs. The “going home to the mountains for Christmas” subject has been squeezed pretty dry, so I thought why not combine Christmas with some other common subjects of the modern bluegrass song. 

My first assignment for the chatbot: write a Christmas song about reindeer and coal miners. 

This was the result:

Verse 1:

Reindeer in the sky, so high and so bright

Leading Santa’s sleigh, on a magical night

The snow is falling, the stars are aglow

As the reindeer fly, they carry a show

Verse 2:

The coal miners toil in the dark of the night 

To make sure that we have a Christmas so bright

The coal miners work so hard and so long 

To make sure that we can all sing a Christmas song

Chorus:

Oh, the reindeer and the coal miners

Working hard to make the season bright 

Oh, the reindeer and the coal miners 

Bringing joy to us tonight

Verse 3:

The reindeer and the coal miners, they both have a part

To make sure that Christmas is in our hearts 

The reindeer fly and the coal miners toil 

To make sure that Christmas is in our souls

Chorus:

Oh the reindeer and the coal miners . . . etc.

I’ll grant you that “they carry a show” sounds a little like it was Google-translated from the original Tajik, but aside from that, this is pretty solid. Write a decent melody, get a bluegrass band, add some vibes, three-part harmony, and a G-run, and I think we have the next bluegrass Christmas hit.

When I asked it to write a Christmas song about moonshine and Grandpa, the result was more mixed:

Verse 1 

Grandpa’s in the kitchen, makin’ moonshine 

It’s Christmas time, and it’s gonna be just fine

He’s been doin’ this for years, it’s his favorite time

He’s gonna make enough for the whole family to shine

(Great. Grandpa’s getting the kids drunk again this year.)

Chorus 

Christmas time, moonshine, Grandpa’s here

It’s the best time of the year 

We’ll all be together, it’s gonna be alright

Christmas time, moonshine, Grandpa’s here

Verse 2 

Grandpa’s in the living room, tellin’ stories

Of Christmases past, and all the glory 

He’s been around for years, he’s seen it all 

He’s the one that keeps us standing tall

(Note that even a chatbot is overly reliant on the “glory/story” rhyme, so often used in gospel music)

Repeat chorus

Verse 3 

Grandpa’s in the backyard, makin’ snow angels 

It’s Christmas time, and it’s gonna be swell 

He’s been doin’ this for years, it’s his favorite time 

He’s gonna make enough for the whole family to shine

(This was my favorite verse. Grandpa is now so drunk he’s staggered out to make snow angels. I really hope someone is keeping an eye on him.)

Repeat chorus

Also, a good name for a superhero goldfish would be Gill-Man.

The post From The Side of the Road… chatbot written bluegrass songs appeared first on Bluegrass Today.

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