I recently read an article about a computer-generated musical that had been developed for the stage.
Two feelings struck me while reading – curiosity and denial. The first was asking questions such as: How have they done it? Is it completely computer-generated? The second was: Surely it can’t have removed humans from the creative process. Can it? After all, I read a BBC article on the kinds of jobs that would be automated and creative jobs had a low percentage of automation (actors, entertainers, presenters: 37% likely. Arts officer, producer or director: 12% likely. Musician: 4.5% likely), with jobs such as telephone salesperson almost certain of impending automation (99% likely).
Fortunately it seems that the computer-generated work was an experiment – one that the production team didn’t know the answer to, so human curiosity won out. To further clarify this, at the end of the article, producer Catherine Gale is quoted as saying ‘It is all about helping humans to better themselves.’ Computerised assistance has been around for the for a while now, from the first electronic calculator to computerised manufacturing. Even cars are becoming more computerised to help keep us safe.
What about us?
When Stephen is creating a musical, he uses notation software to compose the music, scriptwriting software to write the script and pens, paper, notebooks and sticky notes to form the ideas. Thus from our perspective there is room for both sides – and maybe that’s the most important thing – after all, if it is our imperfections that make us human, then a perfect musical will seem somewhat inhuman.
Is this the end of the human-created musical?
It should be noted that humans were needed to produce lyrics and the book for the show. They were also required to build the computer programs used to develop the characters, plot-line and music, so I don’t believe that this is the death-knell of the creative arts. However, it does give pause for thought, even if it’s merely out of curiosity.
Beyond the Fence will be showing at the Arts Theatre, London from 22nd February to 5th March 2016. I will be going, out of curiosity, to see how it compares to human-created musical theatre.