Can AI Robots Enjoy Music?

By Shekhar Shastri

(Editor’s note: This is part-three of a five-part series on In Search of Melodies by Shekhar Shastri.)

“It is the era of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is becoming very sophisticated, better than anyone of us will ever be.”

“Can it understand Indian raga music?”

“Yes, there are intelligent apps that can recognize Indian classical music elements, its intricate features and analyze patterns.”

“Can it compose music?”

“Yes. Just visit MIT Media Lab and you can see robots singing and improvising.”

“Can AI robots enjoy music?”

At this point, the conversation with my super-enthusiastic AI scientist friend lost momentum.

I was recalling this chat during my walk this late afternoon.

What is enjoyment – an experience of happiness, elation, exhilaration, where the ever-present sensations of bodily and mental limitations become weak or vanish?

Deep Blue: IBM

Upanishads, the ancient Indian texts proclaim, ‘Anand’, joy to be the fundamental nature of all beings.

The sun was setting and in my mind arose the song from Hindi film ‘Anand’ – ‘Kahin dur jab din dhal Jaaye’ (tr. somewhere far away, when the day fades away). The sight of the crimson sky, the serene melody, and the subtle analogy to our mortal existence envelops me in a mysterious embrace.

I live for these moments – ambiguous, symbolic pointers to uncharted territories that only artists can lead us to. Melancholy, elation, and much else packed into a journey beyond the tangible life. What else can one ask for after being musically immersed in the living ocean of bliss?

Yes, the robots can see, hear, walk, talk, and remember. However, what is in a robot that can sense joy? Is there an ‘experiencer’ at its core?

Perhaps the robot can hear and analyze minute technical features which we may not be able to. But an obsessive attention to the technicalities can steal the aesthetic delight. In fact, a certain amount of imperfection, jitter, and roughness makes it human, just like the minor messiness in our personalities makes us unique, and the nature diverse and infinite.

Mastering the grammar of the raga is essential, but the endeavor becomes whole only when the artist surrenders to the moment and invokes oneself to the higher dimensions.

Dusk has turned into darkness, the moon is rising, and Ragini Rageshree looks obliquely away as I rush to find her melodious heart.

To be continued …

(Shekhar Shastri, is a poet-musician and producer of Rāga-Rang, where Indian Classical Music meets cutting-edge melodies.)

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