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“AI in A Minor” in Partnership with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

AI in A Minor: An Exploration of Art & Machine

The Opportunity

At 7 PM on August 9th, 2023, AI came to life through music.

For Jason Michael Perry, Mindgrub CTO and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) board member, it’s tough to remember who came up with the idea first. All he knows for sure is that it was born from a collaboration with BSO, and a few Mindgrubbers.

“There should be something that connects the art, tech, and entertainment spaces here in Baltimore,” Jason remembers thinking, “We went down this rabbit hole of an outdoor speaker series at Mindgrub and holding an event or panel on AI and how it’s progressing.”

From there, the idea snowballed: what if we could put on an event involving Baltimore’s talented musicians, and experiment with the music-generating capabilities of AI? Once the idea came into focus, it was clear it was ambitious. But was it possible?

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Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Our Approach

Mindgrubbers went to work researching this bold new challenge. First, we needed an AI tool that could generate original music by reimagining the style of provided music.

Team Mindgrub began by exploring Riffusion, an AI tool that utilizes spectrograms (2D representations of music) to generate original works. However, it wasn’t quite the right fit due to the MP3 format. In speaking to some of the people behind Riffusion, we were connected with former Google employees, music professors, and other experts to find the right AI for the job. “There were roadblocks,” Jason laughs, “And every time we never threw in our shirts and said ‘no’–we pushed through.”

We eventually landed on Anticipation, an AI tool that worked with MIDI files, which would allow us to separate instrumentals into sheet music. It could also complete or finish a portion of the provided music. From there, we found AIVA, an AI music-generating tool that could create songs based on mood, feeling, or influence. All of this was used with our partner AWS’ machine learning technology, which we were then able to package for any future AI music lovers to explore and discover.

Composed with Anticipation and AVIA

In the spirit of experimentation, a wide range of music (from Nat King Cole to Mozart, to Taylor Swift) was fed to the AI to see where it might be challenged, and where it could shine. More repetitive music, like Pop, or more minimalist compositions in the style of Philip Glass, was where AI thrived.

For some BSO musicians, like Helen Hess, a violist, where AI struggled was the most interesting part. “It has seemed to me that the limits of what AI can do in this field are still being explored and it’s been interesting to ask the questions of what is possible and see what it gives back. On a practical level, it has been a challenge to take what it creates and translate it into something a player like me is accustomed to seeing.”


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AI presents an exciting possibility for Aubrey Foard, one of BSO’s Tubists. “I think the use of AI has the potential to supplement creativity. For example, a composer may use AI to suggest different paths that they can try out to complete their work, just like a writer may use it to get themselves past [writer’s] block.”

Once the music was composed, we used Lilypond to convert the audio files into sheet music, which presented yet another challenge. AI is not constrained by the laws of human ability—it creates tempo changes and shifts that could never be replicated during a live performance. BSO’s musicians collaborated with the provided music, reinterpreting its intent so they could successfully play the composition.

“I think the use of AI has the potential to supplement creativity. For example, a composer may use AI to suggest different paths that they can try out to complete their work, just like a writer may use it to get themselves past [writer’s] block.”

Aubrey Foard, BSO Tubists

Incorporating AI into Every Note, Image, and Custom Cocktail

Now that the music had been squared away, the event itself required planning. Since AI was the main attraction, it made sense for the marketing, menu, and even cocktail recipes and names to receive the AI treatment.

For Emilee Beeson, Mindgrub’s Agency Art Director, finding the right balance between AI-generated imagery and human sophistication would be the key to a successful marketing campaign. She landed on a concept that could play into AI’s awkwardness while providing enough room for her creative polish. Emilee capitalized on the popular meme highlighting AI’s struggles with the realistic depiction of human hands, and so she input detailed prompts that yielded AI-generated musicians with surrealist limbs. These photo-realistic images were then enhanced by human creative professionals—resulting in a refined Dali-esque digital product that embodied the spirit of the evening itself.

An event of this magnitude would also need local support that would embrace the exploration and participate enthusiastically in its discussion. We looked no further than the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), the McDonogh School, and AWS Machine Learning, each of whom became instrumental (pun intended) in creating an unforgettable night of music and conversation.

Discussions about AI and art punctuated each composition, where Mindgrub CEO and avid technologist Todd Marks could converse with Emily Webber (a Generative AI WW Foundations Lead at AWS), Krystal Williams (an adjunct music professor at UMBC), Pothik Chatterjee (CEO of GBC) and Chris Enloe (a composer with Peabody). The conversation explored the limitations, the possibilities, and the challenges of working with AI.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Greater Baltimore Committee, AWS nonprofits

There is no simple answer to how AI can be incorporated into the creative process—and certainly no replacement for human expression. However, the exciting opportunities are clear and worthy of exploration. Mindgrub has DNA deep respect for technology and its many applications, so the only clear answer from that night was this:

Let’s keep going.

Interested in how we can incorporate AI into your marketing and your business? Get in touch, we’d love to see how we can help.