Indian classical music gets its groove, the AI way

Updated on Dec 01, 2019 04:52 PM IST
Professor Vinod Vidwans’s artificially intelligent creative expert system generates a bandish (a musical composition) in a given raga and renders it in traditional classical style
Professor Vinod Vidwans has developed a software that generates computational Indian music using AI.(HT/PHOTO)
Professor Vinod Vidwans has developed a software that generates computational Indian music using AI.(HT/PHOTO)
Hindustan Times, Pune | ByAnjali Shetty

Professor Vinod Vidwans has extensively studied the ancient treatises on Indian music such as Naradi Shiksha, Natya Shastra of Bharata, and Sangeet Ratnakar of Sharanga Deva which provide common foundations for Hindustani as well as Carnatic music. He found that the musical concepts mentioned in these treatises are profound and there exists a logical consistency. Curious, he started working on a system that is a culmination of his academic background of fine arts, design, philosophy- logic and doctoral research on creativity.

He developed a software that generates computational Indian music using artificial intelligence (AI). His artificially intelligent creative expert system generates a bandish (a musical composition) in a given raga and renders it in traditional classical style.

So, how will this help the current music scenario?

“The AI enabled system, along with a new bandish or a composition, also generates a text file giving the details of the composition so that you can document the textual description of the rendering for future reference and analysis. It can be a useful tool to learn music and understand these rules with the help of a text file.”

The software is also capable of generating novel musical phrases appropriate for a specific raga while rendering, so it is useful for experienced musicians to use it as a supplementary tool for riyaz (practice). The software can be useful for researchers in musicology for testing existing theoretical concepts in Indian music.

For a common listener, the software can be a handy device to generate a new composition every time you want to listen to a specific Raga. If you like the composition, you can save it and listen to it again and again. The system keeps generating new compositions without repeating them. Presently, the system generates compositions in an artificially created instrument which produces flute-like sound and artificial sound of tanpura. Thus, the AI system will be useful to learners, researchers and musicians in various ways.

Revealing details about the project, he says, “The expert system is supposed to possess the knowledge of an expert in the domain. I encoded the principle concepts of Indian music in the form of generic rules to generate music. It’s a rule-based system. This system does not have any database. It is not a database driven system. In fact, it generates the required musical data following the rules. This is the strength of artificial intelligence.”

Vidwans has encoded generic rules of Indian classical music in this system. The software is capable of generating appropriate alaaps, taans and swara-vistar following these rules.

“You provide Aroha (ascending order of notes) and Avaroha (descending order of notes) along with Vadi (a dominant) and Samvadi (a sub-dominant) notes of the raga to the software and it generates a bandish at the click,” he said.

He adds, “The main motivation of the research effort was to understand the logical and scientific foundations of Indian classical music. It was realised that the concepts from ancient treatises are so scientific that when you implement them on computers, the AI-enabled system starts generating Indian music.”

(One can listen to the samples of Indian AI Music generated by the expert system on http://computationalmusic.com)

Will it contribute in creating more awareness on classical music among the younger generation?

Certainly, it will create more informed awareness about classical Indian music among the younger generation- listeners as well as performers. This AI system demonstrates that music has scientific basis and there is a science (shastra) of Indian music. Therefore, the younger generation will look at Indian music from a scientific perspective. With this enhanced awareness, the new generation will use AI technology for explorations and experimentation in Indian music.

Who is Vinod Vidwans

Vinod Vidwans, is currently a professor at the Flame University, Pune. He is a cognitive philosopher, a designer and a portrait painter. He has done his doctorate in Cognitive Philosophy and Master of Design from Indian Institute of Technology, Powai, Mumbai. His doctoral work postulates a paradigm called `Design Intelligence’ and characterises creativity from a holistic perspective. He holds a post-graduate degree in Fine Arts from Nagpur University where he topped. He is a recipient of junior research fellowship in Fine Arts from University Grants Commission (UGC), India. NCERT invited Vidwans to become a member of the curriculum development committee for Graphic Design. Under the assignment, he has contributed in writing a textbook on Graphic Design for Class 11 and Class 12I. Recently, he has been invited by Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi, as a member of the Board of Studies for School of Visual & Performing Arts as well as an advisor of the doctoral programme.

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