This article was originally feature on KCPR.org.
What if some of the greatest tragedies in music history could have been averted? What would Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix and Amy Winehouse music sound like now had they not died so young? That’s the question that the project, “The Lost Tapes of the 27 Club,” seeks to ask.
The project is created by the Toronto, Canada based mental health awareness organization Over The Bridge and used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create unique songs inspired by the discographies of Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Amy Winehouse.
As the project says, “Through this album, we’re encouraging more music industry insiders to get the mental health support they need, so they can continue making the music we all love for years to come.”
According to a study conducted by the University of Westminster and MusicTank of musicians, 68% of musicians have experienced incidences of depression, 71% of musicians believe they have experienced incidences of anxiety and panic attacks, and suicide attempts are twice as high for music industry workers than of the general population.
By shining a light on these music legends whose lives were cut too short, the project hopes to deromanticize the idea of suffering in mental anguish by showing what could have been.
“[Mental suffering has] been romanticized, by things like the 27 Club — a group of musicians whose lives were all lost at just 27 years old. To show the world what’s been lost to this mental health crisis, we’ve used artificial intelligence to create the album the 27 Club never had the chance to,” the project said.
The album itself was created in collaboration with AI generating new lyrics and musical compositions with the input data of the hooks, rhythms, melodies, and lyrics of artists from the 27 club.
From there, a team of audio engineers and technicians worked to parse out the signal from the noise to create cohesive tracks. They then reached out to talented singers from tribute bands to fill in the vocal parts with lyrics prewritten by the AI.
All of this amounts to an album that sounds very haunting. It’s familiar, yet still a bit alien – almost as if coming from an alternate reality or long lost frequency. The listener can almost visualize what could have been. Particularly the tracks “The Roads Are Alive” or “Man, I Know” sound eerily similar to the past works of Morrison and Winehouse, respectively.
While the effect is not seamless, it’s still enough to ruminate on what could have been. The use of AI in music composition is a relatively recent phenomenon. For example, Sony music created a novel Beatles track with AI; there are the classic music compositions of AIVA, an AI built to generate unique classical music arrangements; and the electro-pop group YACHT used AI to create their 2019 album “Chain Tripping.
Yet, with that in mind, to see modern technology used to create something wholesale altogether new, like “The Lost Tapes of the 27 Club” is truly an interesting look into the future and what could be with AI in the musician’s (or label’s) toolbox. It’s also good to see the technology used to help promote better mental health for musicians and music industry professionals.
Regardless of what may come, “The Lost Tapes of the 27 Club” speaks of being worth it to everyone to combat this mental health crisis so that people can continue to enjoy and appreciate their favorite artists and musicians.