Two musicians have recorded and released every possible musical melody in existence
This huge repository of melodies is available on Github and The Internet Archive.
Musicians. Everybody wants to wield the same power that they do, but not everyone has the patience to learn a musical instrument. Well, if you have ten thumbs or you’re completely tone-deaf, then there may well be a solution for you.
Shredding out ridiculous guitar riffs might be best left in Slash’s domain, but two programmer-musicians have generated every single melody possible and committed it to a hard drive. Not only that, but Damien Riehl and Noah Rubin have also copyrighted the entire collection in an effort to prevent musical creativity being stifled by copyright concerns.
If only Vanilla Ice knew about this before he
allegedly stole Queen’s bassline recorded Ice Ice Baby.
The two programmers have created an algorithm to generate every single eight-note twelve-beat melody that can be produced within one octave
Riehl—a musician, programmer, and copyright lawyer—and Rubin—a musician and programmer—have used a specially-designed algorithm to generate every single eight-note twelve-beat melody that can be produced within one octave. The process works in a similar way to that in which a hacker might mine for passwords. It records every single combination of notes and beats until none remain, thus every single melody is produced.
This huge repository of melodies is available on Github and The Internet Archive (why, oh, why did I click on the Software Library?!! Talk about a time sponge) along with the algorithm code for creating the melodies. They hope that this will help to negate copyright infringement lawsuits, especially those in which individuals are deemed to have ‘subconsciously’ infringed on the copyright of another artist’s material.
In a TEDx talk, Riehl stated the following: “Under copyright law, numbers are facts, and under copyright law, facts either have thin copyright, almost no copyright, or no copyright at all. So maybe if these numbers have existed since the beginning of time and we’re just plucking them out, maybe melodies are just math, which is just facts, which is not copyrightable.” Check out the full video and explanation, below.
According to Riehl, the algorithm is capable of producing around 300,000 melodies per second. Almost as fast as people who speed-play Guitar Hero, then. The pair hope to circumvent copyright law by releasing them via a Creative Commons Zero license. Effectively, this means they aren’t reserving the rights on the melodies which, in turn, could mean that they become public domain and therefore free for anyone to use.
This, they hope, will enable musicians to create melodies without the potential for their art to be slammed with a copyright infringement case. Whether this actually works remains to be seen, as copyright is a complicated matter that has many loopholes for exploitation, in both directions. Until a case involving one of the melodies Riehl and Rubin’s algorithm comes to the fore, we will have no way of knowing whether an alleged copyright infringement could use the “public domain” angle as a defense.
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