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Sherrin Varghese: People will love the future of tech, not fear it

Updated on: 28 January,2024 10:08 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Sonia Lulla |

Discussing the use of AI in the music industry at a city event, Sherrin Varghese, of Band of Boys fame, says young composers have a friend they need not fear

Sherrin Varghese: People will love the future of tech, not fear it

Sherrin Varghese

A conversation with Sherrin Varghese on the future of artificial intelligence evokes a mixed bag of emotions: for the most part, he’s optimistic, often, he’s enthusiastically enraged; and sometimes, he’s willing to entertain a contradictory opinion. Varghese is certain that, despite all the pushback it faces, the evolution of AI is imminent, and, he says, beneficial for music composers.  

Often he finds himself employing Chat GPT to “sweeten” sentences to “avoid ruffling any feathers” when a payment fails to come through, or enhance his responses when invited to participate in a written interview. “I don’t think it is overwhelming. It is growing at a healthy pace. A few years ago, when musicians had to lay down a track, they had to [invite players]  in the room to [record] an acoustic or an electronic segment, which was then arranged, and  produced in an organic fashion. Now that has become quite mechanical. We needed to have a bunch of musicians who would arrive on time and play together. Now, you can record [sounds individually] using a ready pack of loops and have the ensemble that you require,” says the musician, who participated in a discussion on the subject as part of his association with the Indian Performing Rights Society. “So, it’s markedly different from needing to call 24 musicians to conduct six sessions and work on the song over a period of a month. Now, I can just tell an interface to play melancholic, light music with a tempo of 69, and it will cough something up.”

But with prompt engineering replacing the years of practice musicians put into honing their skills, with accurately crafted sentences, could the creation of music be devoid of creativity? “An understanding of the final product being created is what will define the musician. There is no money in music. You have to look at yourself as a product, and not all musicians are able to do that. You need to shake it up. Learn to sing, be the singer-songwriter, and the composer too. With AI, you can do it all. If you feel something, describe it, and you’ll have the lyrics ready. Why wait for a lyricist to charge you Rs 35,000? The next chapter in technology is going to make people fall in love with tech, not hate it.”

Apart from a long-drawn writers’ strike in which the unchecked use of AI was criticised, questions have been raised about artistic copyright when songs by singers were released using AI, even though the musicians were not associated with them. Varghese however, doesn’t believe that the interest in recreating existing artistes’ works will be long-term. “It’s too difficult to predict where this road is going to go. There is a novelty factor attached to listening to Kishore Kumar’s voice in today’s song, as can be done using AI. But, if Kishore Kumar is dead, there is glory in what he has left. But, why will [anyone] make something new with his voice? Only the oldies will [enjoy] it. The youngsters don’t even know who Kishore Kumar is. What’s the point of bringing back an old voice? Use AI intelligently, because it is an eventuality. Children learn it. It’s a new toy. Learn it and use it to your advantage. You’re an intelligent person. You’re a musician. You learn stuff.”

Varghese appears dismissive about the “fear-mongering” related to AI, and how it will alter the workforce. We argue, however, that with the technology still considered to be at a nascent stage, it’s tough to make predictions on what it will be capable of in the future. Does he believe the fame afforded to him due to his years of hard work as a musician puts him in a comfortable space when compared to young artistes who may only be starting out? “I had no idea what the future was going to look like when we were shifting from organic [recording] to digital either. We all have just about the same [life span]. [We need to think about] how we make a difference.”



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