Profiling me?

I’ve been reading (and thinking) a lot about the future lately, maybe it’s fatherhood or chaotic state of things around the world at the moment, and the author Yuval Noah Harari has bought up some fascinating ideas about music and art that I’d like to share and explore with you. His book Homo Deus should be required reading for all humans…

We can try to hide from it if we wish, but technology is coming at us fast, and the leaps in advancement in many areas can arrive very quickly. Big data is collecting info on us from every direction and getting to know us better than we know ourselves. These are incredible and helpful in areas like medicine and car safety, but scary in marketing and in the manipulation of consent.

Yes, yes – it’s a guitar magazine! Don’t bring that stuff near my hobby; it’s what I use to escape all that! I hear you – let me explain how these things make interesting food for thought in music land! Profile me.

I love my Kemper Profiler – it’s such an amazing tool and makes my job a lot easier in so many ways – and I find the technology quite astounding. It can listen to any one of my amps with certain settings and then replicate it to the point where I really can’t tell if it’s the ‘real’ one or the profiler. And while the technology has been developing for some time (remember the old kidney bean Pod?), the ‘believability’ of the technology has arrived with Kemper!

So, it turns out that all that tone hounding came down to zeros and ones in the end… that amazing blackface tone that I’d spent years searching for I can download and be using in a matter of seconds. Michael Britt profiles the amps I love, and I buy them, pop them in the Kemper and I’m using them in a matter of minutes. Effortless, easy, fast, and the majority of players I know love the Kemper.

Got me thinking about what else might be in the future for the profiling. I started thinking about individual players and style and what can be ‘profiled’ from them – and realised that I do a lot of that manually already! I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of Freddie King, studied the notes he likes to use, the way he bends, the inflexions and curls he adds (and to which notes), how he phases way back on the beat… In some ways, I have a ‘profile’ of him in my mind, and I can do a poor man’s imitation of his style.

And it’s not just him, most of the guitar players I really like I have studied and learned from – be it licks, concepts, tones, harmonic ideas and I’m wondering how long it will be before a computer can analyse all that.

Being that computers can analyse big data quite quickly, once the technology is in place to pull a music composition into its individual elements, working out the ‘profile’ of an artist is unlikely to be very difficult. It would also make quite a fascinating ‘blues family tree’ of vocabulary are where the licks started! In many ways, I hope that comes in my lifetime; I’m very curious!

But computers also get to know what music we like and what affects us on an emotional level, and if we end up with any kind of brain implant computer link (quite probable at some point), then a computer would be able to take all that info and make something that we find emotionally stimulating. Or could it?

When we create music, be it composition or improvising – we are mostly regurgitating and exploring things we have learned, practised or studied at some point and so being aware of the ingredients that make up our own style can be quite an interesting one.

I recently got a student to start making his own lick book (you should try it – just write down all the licks you know on tab paper!) and we’re now going to analyse and explore each one, find where they come from and work out many ways to use and get creative with them. Much like some AI program might do in the future when they make a profile of Stevie Ray Vaughan and then try to make solos in his style. Or mix that profile with Stevie Vai’s for a really interesting musical adventure!

Will any of this ever happen? Who knows – but giving it some thought can take your mind in all kinds of interesting places – and in the current age of short attention spans and endless scrolling, taking the time to think about anything is valuable… and what better place to direct your attention than on the future of music. Safe travels.

Food For Thought