Nearly 30 years after the death of Kurt Cobain, famed frontman of the band Nirvana, his sound is still living on thanks in part to artificial intelligence.
Lost Tapes of the 27 Club is a musical project that utilizes AI to analyze up to 30 songs per selected musician who struggled with mental health issues and died at the age of 27 — including Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Amy Winehouse — and write and perform “new” songs in their signature style as part of one album. One goal of the group is to increase mental health awareness across the world.
The track “Drowned in the Sun” mirrors a lot of the things Nirvana/Cobain did throughout their career. Searing guitar progressions, raw and gritty rhythms and vocal performances to match. The song is accurate enough to give you a Nirvana vibe and passive fans likely wouldn’t even recognize the difference between this software generated track and a piece written 20 years ago.
Sean O’Connor, staff member for Over the Bridge (who operates the project), explains that his staff uses Google’s AI program ‘Magenta’ to analyze old compositions as MIDI files which are readable by computers. Through this, they can accurately create new representations of older ideas through artificial neural networks. Everything from tone, cadence, melody and rhythm can be analyzed, and the result is a trial and error process that isn’t quite as easy as a click of a button.