The release of the Beatles song “Now And Then” has caused great debate about the use of AI in today’s modern world. Understandably, there is both fear and anger that AI is being used in the arts and pretty much everything else in society. There is no doubt that in many cases, AI is a threat in multiple ways. It threatens great job losses and adds instability about how information can be accurately reported. However, when wisely used, it can also accomplish feats that old technology was unable to establish. This brings us to the case of the use of AI in the Beatles Song “Now And Then.”
One of the issues that has fueled the resentment of the use of AI in a Beatles song stems from the misunderstanding of how it was used. The producers of the song have clearly explained the way it was used, which we will get to soon, but the problem is there are many people who don’t spend any time reading about these explanations or just hear what they want to hear.
People hear parts of a conversation and notice a headline, and they’re off commenting without really knowing the real story because they didn’t bother to read it. We deal with that all the time here at the site. We wrote a story about the song “Now And Then” that was entirely focused on the experience of enjoying the ability to say, “Have you heard the new Beatles song” in 2023. It was all about bringing the spirit of John Lennon back into the conversation and remembering what it was like when the Beatles were releasing new music. However, many people commented very angrily about the story, which they had clearly not even read. It’s a common issue that we see across the board in all aspects of our society.
Hands down, we don’t believe AI should be used to imitate people’s voices, personalities or images. AI should not be used to create art, whether it is music, film, writing, photographs, or anything that has to do with the human creative process. AI is entirely soulless; it doesn’t feel pain, temptation, joy, love, or anything at all. It’s completely dead. So, it should not be used to bring back the dead. That’s not what it did with the Beatles song. It’s just an accusation that people are making because they heard the words John Lennon, the Beatles, and AI in the same sentence. I have been watching news reports on TV non-stop with broadcasters who love stating that AI was used in the release of “Now And Then.” It’s all totally misleading. What about the arrangements, the wonderful playing by all the musicians involved? No one mentioned any of that. It’s all about AI and how much they don’t think the song is anything special. Give me a break.
The producers of the Beatles song used AI technology to isolate John Lennon’s voice from a cassette tape. AI was used like an old-fashioned equalizer that we have all used on our stereos. Remember how you could add more or less bass and treble. Some would be more advanced, like a 12 band or 16 band EQ, where a listener could adjust specific audio frequencies depending on one’s taste. A recording studio has more advanced equalizers. They also have compressors, limiters, and more. Technology has allowed many of those stand-alone electric devices to be used in computer recording software.
As good as the software has been, the use of AI in these effects processors has now gone through the roof, allowing engineers to create mixes that were impossible in the past. That includes isolating sounds from a tape while also masking the sounds like a piano that are not wanted on the recording. That is how the producers and engineers of “Now and Then” used AI. It was used as a superhero equalizer. It didn’t create a fake John Lennon; it only made his voice more audible and defined so that the remaining Beatles and other musicians could build a musical arrangement and performance around Lennon’s voice and George Harrison’s guitar.
Many, many more questions could be asked about the release of this Beatles song that are more important than the debate over the use of AI in this release. Is it fair to John Lennon’s legacy to release a song he may have never wanted to be released? Record companies have been doing that for years with deceased artists by releasing box sets of unreleased recordings and demos. In the end, the song is credited to the Beatles and if Paul and Ringo decided they wanted to do it, well then, do you really want to argue with two Beatles? Well, in today’s society, most people probably will…..
The Misunderstanding Of The Way AI Was Used In Now And Then article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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