How to begin a song
4 min read

How to begin a song

How to begin a song

So a while ago I made my first Twitter/Mastodon bot, a very simple little bot called TheSingalongBot. It came out of a chance conversation at the XOXO conference with Kate Compton and Gretchen McCulloch, and all it does is toot/tweet/twoot the first line of a song. Humans can sing along if they want. (To date, SingalongBot followers have finished the ABC song, A British Tar is a Soaring Soul, When Will My Life Begin, and, heroically, The Saga Begins. They are also about 80% through 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall).

To build up a suitable list of first lines for the bot, I started with a list of billboard top hits from the last 50 years. And then, because I was worried that the top hits might exclude some of the best songs, I asked people to submit the catchiest songs they knew. I got over 1,500 suggestions. Once I removed duplicates (”I threw a wish in the well” was submitted 14 times, followed closely by “Is this the real life?”) and combined with the billboard hits, I had 3,847 songs. The bot is going strong, and meanwhile I have this dataset.

Yes, of course I trained a neural net on it.

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[Image from somewhere in BigGAN latent space, using ganbreeder.app]

Here’s how well it did at imitating the song lines after it had seen all 3,847 lines just once in training (that is, at the end of Epoch 1).

All I was a light the goont dood and och go dread
I want the stars a gind was the stord
I can’t a live the sake you hee
I want you ging you sand the rook on the shook
The sharly goold the bodey

By the end of Epoch 2 it could at least spell a bit better, though it made no actual sense.

I can a got a baby
I can day more to make you make you a pan
I was a little time it make a love a friend
When I don’t got a love
I see up a bearsting
Well I was a pan and I ever mise
You can a baby, down
Here you one and you are now

By Epoch 3 it has settled on the strategy of using “baby” in pretty much every song.

I don’t know the baby
We’re the baby baby
I’m gonna get up and love is to the sea
The baby all the trains
You see you wanna take the something
We’re not on your road
I don’t know when I’m gone and thing
My baby but this baby love your eyes
Looking down the baby for you

Epoch 4: experimenting a bit more with new words, including some that don’t actually exist. Grammar: questionable.

You can see your face
I don’t want to be a room
You think a beautiful saids
There all the true of the horse
You don’t never think the street
You can dang the be sunshine
You love me funny things
I don’t never love you
You never good the darn tonight
You know you want you
I was air, the end is the light
The time, I was a train
There’s a tring at the boom
I’m not my bright on the brains the feeling on my heart

Fast-forwarding a bit to Epoch 7, the neural net’s progress is a bit less obvious. At least we can mostly figure out what it is trying to say. Mostly.

I was a little beautiful star
I was a funny life with a little sing
Hearing about a brain
I was so long to be a little baby
I got my love, I got a put you in my heart
I want you to the thing
I got a single and the world so lonely
You took my heart and shipportow
I can’t get up in love
When I was a strangle, day
Spinnarduachy nobody man whiskey, die where it come
Staps the phone
Yo babe, very where you are frow
You shazry waiting and I’m girlin’
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We arrive now at the end of the training, in Epoch 15 (so chosen because progress had pretty much stopped). The neural net has learned quite a bit, really.

It has learned to do love songs.

I see you standing in the hair
I can dance if you want my life
Oh no, my name is in the sky
Oh, I’m in love with your head in my eyes
You look at me like there’s a strungle
I see you and I’m home, and I see your face for me
I’m so tired of being so hearts
Yeah I’m always love you

And dance tunes.

Love, love my eyes rollin’
Ive got to Seem sexy
Hello when I came home from ass
Oh, baby, do you make her bass?
Welp, a-sunshane’ said, doot doot doot dam i gim

And folk songs.

When i get up in the mirror
This is the world that you’re a burning here
I can’t explain my window
Welp, the lack of the sunshine
You are my eyes are the boot
I see you standin’ on the mind
I said it up, the year was 1778

And whatever the heck these are.

The lights in the eventoot, heaven me
I had a peanut, ooooonce colod me back at the sing
Look down! Couse Rider schoode
After all waits that you’re feelinged
Fingertippolming
Muskrat, pen up forever for me
Hush, you’re funny time
I was childrentin'
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Look out, songwriters! AI is coming for your jobs!

I also collected some songs generated by the most highly-trained algorithm, but at a higher creativity level so they’re really really weird. Become an AI Weirdness supporter to get the list as bonus content! Or become a free subscriber to get new AI Weirdness posts in your inbox.

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