Songsmith is the new Swede
Thankfully, something to lighten the mood a bit from this morning.
For those not familiar with Sweding, it comes from the Michel Gondry film Be Kind, Rewind, referring to a popular film re-created in approximately five minutes via blatantly low-budget means (the characters in the film claim that the films are imported from Sweden, hence the term).
Sweding became briefly popular on YouTube, but has since become somewhat rare. But now a new, similar meme has sprung up around Microsoft’s latest crime against creativity, Songsmith.
A few months ago, the following ad appeared on the interwebs. The only reason I was able to get more than ten seconds in was that I thought it was from The Onion. But some quick research and I discovered that this is an actual Microsoft advertisement for the product.
See how far you can get into the video without having to stop it and take a few deep breaths.
You probably still don’t believe me that this is real, and I don’t blame you. But you don’t have to take my word for it: here’s the official Microsoft product page.
This is the problem with software that is aimed for a “creative market.” A lot of times the software aims to take away the need to have any particular aptitude or practiced skill in the field. They call it “leveling the playing field;” a more appropriate term might be a “scorched earth strategy.”
You already see this even in purportedly “high-end” products like Final Cut Pro. FCP makes it very easy to import and edit a digital project, because it moves so much of the technical stuff “under the hood.” But because you don’t have to learn that stuff to use the software, many people don’t. I can’t tell you how many editing projects I’ve had to un-fuck after the filmmakers fucked them simply by not needing to know better. “Ease-of-use” is too often mistaken for “intuitive.” There is nothing intuitive about, say, removing 3:2 pulldown from a 24p source acquired via NTSC. Before you can even worry about how to do it, you have to be aware that you need to do it.
Songsmith, if it were to be successful, would be another blow to our collective culture, convincing people that all they have to do is screech at their computer and what comes out the other end will be Top 40 material. And don’t tell me people don’t think that way, because you know they do. They want the praise without the effort, and moreover, they think they deserve it.
Songsmith is a product that deserves to be roundly mocked, but how best to do it? Simply calling it stupid would hardly make a good case for its creative inadequacy. There must be a way to demonstrate it.
And lo, there came salvation. Someone got the fantastic idea of isolating the vocals from classic rock and roll songs, feeding them into Songsmith and seeing what the software made of them. Would Songsmith render talented creative artists obsolete in its ability to algorithmically determine style, tempo, and key from a vocal performance? Would its output stand toe-to-toe with the original classic instrumentals?
Well. You be the judge.
So the answer to the question “how do we best mock Songsmith” has an obvious answer: use it.
(Disclaimer: I cannot be held responsible for any brain damage suffered from long-term exposure to Songsmithed music. Hyperclick at your own risk.)