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Using AI to write a film score with Juan Dussán

Composer Juan Dussán takes on the challenge of using ChatGPT to create an epic adventure theme.

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Can AI write a film score fit for the cinematic epics of the silver screen? Juan Dussán is taking the challenge to find out.

Juan Dussán is a New York-based composer who specializes in scoring for film, trailers and ads. His work includes Francesca Scorcese’s ‘Crimson Ties’, HBO's ‘Chico Virtual’ and Hourglass Cosmetics' campaign with Oscar winner Julianne Moore.

Dussán’s award-winning work has an innate sense of emotional complexity, drawing on the power of story and character and communicating that through sound. All these traits are not things that ChatGPT is particularly well-known for, so how will it fair when tasked with the challenge of creating a film score?

Watch below as Juan Dussán explores the highs and lows of scoring music under the direction of a custom made AI of Dussán’s invention using the latest version of ChatGPT.

Using AI to write a film score with Juan Dussán

Cinematic Composer Assistant in ChatGPT is trained to assist Juan with the composition of music, so, starting with the idea of writing an epic adventure theme, ChatGPT sets the tone, describing the necessary components such as melody and percussion that would best suit the mood of adventure.

Across the creation process, Juan encountered quite a few issues and found the experience to be less of a linear progression to a finalised piece of music than one would anticipate. There was a lot of push and pull to get an idea for a theme going. “So far this has been kind of a headache. I’m not gonna lie to you,” laments Juan. “It would’ve taken me no time to come up with these two things: a melody and a countermelody”, subsequently scrapping the unfavourable part and applying his own.

It became apparent that ChatGPT didn’t innately understand music theory enough to apply it to the melodies it was creating, or it quickly forgot what it had created and so did not create complementary ideas. It failed to grasp the concept of counterpoint well enough to create melodic lines that blended well between instrumentation, nor did it have the ears to notice these things as a listener creating music. It was clear that the work needed much more refinement.

While AI proved to be helpful in providing ideas for melody to some degree, there were plenty of moments where Juan strayed from the path of GPT’s instruction and followed his intuition instead.

With years’ worth of knowledge of film scores, Juan was able to draw from that spring of more original and stylistic ideas, what he called “the movie soundtrack literature”. Drawing on the likes of legends like John Williams and Ennio Morricone, Juan was able to create more emotive melodies, many of which GPT did not suggest at all.

This approach was particularly beneficial for the use of an instrument like Seaboard RISE 2 which enhances the nuances of human interaction in music making. With Juan’s musical intuition, the MPE technology brought a greater sense of life to the piece, evoking the organic sound of live instrumentation.

Rather than using ChatGPT to write the music for him, it was better suited to be a guide to prompt ideas for instrumentation, where they should be placed or layered, inflections, and structure of the score, and shaping his own piece from there.

By the end of the composition, what were Juan’s thoughts? “The melody was actually pretty catchy, I actually ended up liking it,” he says, “nothing too unique or crazy original.” However, despite AI’s apparent ability to create somewhat cohesive writing, there were still plenty of areas where it fell short, Juan pointing out ChatGPT’s tendency to ignore sharps/flats in notation and its inability to grasp countermelodies.

Juan also makes an important note that while you may be able to use ChatGPT to compose your own music, you do run the risk of not being able to own that composition. Copyright law in the US forbids any compositions made with AI to be copyrighted, so for all the push and pull to get AI to create something that sounds okay, is it worth the effort in the end?

AI presents itself as a powerful tool in the aid of music creation. While it’s still early days and there are plenty of stumbling blocks it needs to overcome, there’s a substantial amount of potential for AI to reshape how we approach music production, creating new places where technology and creative expression intersect. But as it stands, it’s safe to say that for all the suggestions that ChatGPT provides, nothing beats human creative freedom.

Find more from Juan Dussán on Instagram, TikTok and Youtube

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