- Grammy-winning artist Miguel spoke to Insider about creating a “generative” AI music project he released with tech company Endel this week.
- In the interview, Miguel discussed the project’s goal of promoting wellness and gave his perspective on future implementations of AI in music.
Grammy-winning artist Miguel spoke to Insider last week about his work with the tech company Endel on a “generative” AI music project that stumbled into Endel’s app on Monday.
Insider Beta tested the project, called “Clarity Trip”, before a phone interview with Miguel. Set to ambient instrumentation and Miguel’s wordless vocals, the dynamic project uses your phone’s accelerometer and step counter to tailor Miguel’s output to your movement.
In the interview, Miguel discussed the making of the project and its goal of promoting movement and well-being. He also referred to how his
practices intersect with music, and gave her perspective on future implementations of AI in music, including in her own work.
This interview has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Miguel, this is a remarkable piece of generative music here.
Dudeâ¦ when they were describing how that would work, I kind of had to say, “Okay, wait a second. Rewind. Okay, repeat it. How is this going to work?”
You know, just trust the guys and get them what they need and then let the algorithm do what it’s programmed to do. It was such a dope experience. So yeah, man, I’m glad you like it. And the great thing is, it’s different every time. So, I hope it’s good enough for you to come back again and again. And yes, really happy.
What attracted you to the project at the start?
I mean, to be honest, just the “what the hell” factor was enough. Just the idea, take pieces that I created, then have an algorithm that adapts the listening experience to the movement of the listener. It sounded interesting and state of the art, and the team put me at ease as well. They seemed to have a real idea of ââwhat they were looking for, and they trusted me, and I felt like it was going to be really collaborative. And it turned out to be absolutely collaborative. And the guys are excellent. So yeah, that was the pull factor, the team and just the possibilities, and it was state of the art.
With the concept in mind, how do you approach the creation of the musical body that you put into it?
I mean, again, I have to give the team credit, a lot of credit actually, because they’ve been so patient. I feel like every turn I was like, âOkay, wait. So how are we going to break this down? Â»Because I usually imagine a piece of music in .. I always start with maybe a finished one. Something, something finite in my mind is sort of the guiding light, and every choice is always somehow to get to this point of what that finite part was in my mind. With that, it’s more about understanding your choices and then letting the finished product be kind of a question mark, you know? So it was just a matter of believing that every element you add reflects your point of view, your choices, your personality, etc.
And I think the most exciting thing is that I didn’t have to be the visionary here at all. Not only was it collaborative to piece it all together, but every time someone listens to it, it’s a collaboration with the algorithm, with the program. So that’s kind of a cool new way, I think, of imagining the possibilities of music, and how we’re going to integrate the human and the technology into the expression. I feel like it’s just a really great thingâ¦ at the very least, a really amazing new step in a direction of the future of music and creativity.
I have to tell you it took me a minute to get it right. I started a walk in downtown Brooklyn, I stopped at a light with an ambient chord hanging, someone shouting shit at me. .
I imagine you came up with this with the picturesque landscapes of California in mind, a different type of environment.
[Laughs]. Yes. You know, it was absolutely meant to help add that atmosphere, and also for those of us who are not in that atmosphere, to hopefully take you to the same place and to that same feeling. So yeah, I hope this added to your experience and maybe got you a bit carried away. I think that’s what good music does. I think that was the other interesting possibility, was it somehow, shape or form, like allowing technology to emote, give the machine the parts to emote and see. what is happening? I think it’s just … like it’s just the idea Savage, to think that these are possibilities. But I think it’s also a lot of fun. And as an experience, just another step into new ways of creating, which I am absolutely. I’m all for it.
For you personally … let’s say … if you take an ideal walk, what do you get out of it from a mental health standpoint, or what do you hope to get out of it like a hike for example?
Man. I mean, I generally walk for clarity. It wasn’t actually intentional, because I know the play is called “Clarity Trip”. But yeah, that’s the point, and that’s what I normally get from any exercise, but especially like hiking, getting out of my space, out of my workspace and just sort of recalibrate . That’s what normally happens for me when I’m hiking, or when I go for a walk or get out of the house and exercise, man.
Is this the best form of meditation for you? I can’t like .. I don’t know how people sit and meditate ..
.. maybe I have undiagnosed ADHD or something like that. But do you prefer to like to move?
You know, there are a couple of things that are meditative for me. Music is meditative for me. I would say, yeah, hiking for me is absolutelyâ¦ it brings me that very similar kind of peace of mind, recalibration. But no, I also like to meditate, and often I do it with music that helps put me in a good space. So that’s what I think the purpose of each of the states that we built for the algorithm to use .. the idea was to create music that somehow does each of those experiences, whether you are in a static state, as if you were sitting and meditating, have a piece of music that would help you in that state or help add to this experience. And as you progress through the movement, we’ve tried to build something that has really helped to add to that experience. And I think that with the help of the team, we were able to create something that is going to add value to people, and that’s about all you can hope for when you create things. Will it add value? Will it help people? Is it going to do anything for someone? So here is.
What type of music do you think is meditative for you? Are you the kind of artist who would prefer instrumental music in this type of space?
Yes. Absolutely, more instrumental music, for me, is meditative. Because as a songwriter I pay attention to the lyrics, so it’s hard to stop that. So yes, if I am trying to meditate, it will absolutely be with music that is just instrumental. Often like not even melodic. Sometimes it’s just tones, with no arrangement. I think that’s … I mean, it’s scientifically proven that certain tones help put you in different states of mental activity.
Do you go with it like a Brian Eno type vibe? Which artists would you go to?
Man, I love … I mean, jazz can be like that to me. I’m a big head of Miles. And even though I know the melodies, it can still be meditative for some reason. I think because it’s not lyrical, and more expressionistic, especially the stuff I like to listen to from Miles. It’s not arranged, so I feel like it’s minus oneâ¦ I don’t even know what the word would be nowâ¦ You have to excuse me, it’s Friday. I’m like “Huh? What?”
[Laughs]. I’m in the same boat.
But yeah, I mean, in terms of the things I listen to, honestly, for meditative music it’s normally like downtempo jazz, or it’s literally like frequency tones. So nothing worked out. It’s just more tonal.
i was watching that Brian Eno speech on generative music. This guy said that after experimenting with generative music, he couldn’t listen to a normal record in the same way anymore, it was “very difficult” for him. Has this mode of composition changed your perception at all? Has the project changed your way of seeing things musically?
Well, that absolutely opened up the possibilities, because understanding now that you can give … you can actually program something to … like AI can analyze how a musician typically creates, and then create from that, and create pieces of music that would mimic that kind of choice. I think the more we get to program the better and better. on what is analyzed on my past choices. I think it’s an interesting way to integrate AI. I think there are so many different ways, and it’s just like … it’s just a race. You can assign it to specific tasks.
I think the possibilities are endless. I think it’s an interesting space in general. As technology becomes more and more integrated it will only becomeâ¦ it’s just the way things are, you know? Humans are greedy for convenience, and technology obviously makes things a lot more convenient. So as we move forward I feel like this is the natural way things are going to be. So finding ways to work with technology, I think it’s just kind of a natural progression. And yes, it’s just interesting to kind of start playing around with it and imagining new ways to use algorithm, AI, and computational learning to help us create new, interesting things that we don’t. have never done before.
Do you think this is taken into account in your solo work? As a naturally talented musician, do you see this kind of technology being incorporated into what you do, into the music itself?
By just collaborating with the Endel team, I think the hope is that we continue to collaborate and find new ways to implement the technology. So I would like to. I think right now … not everyone has an Endel team and AI that can do what they’re programming it to do. So, I think it’s early, but that’s kind of why I jumped at the chance because it’s these new ideas that will be absolutely normal over time. So being able to be one of the first to jump in and learn more about the process, and being able to witness the possibilities firsthand, that’s what made it so obvious.