But this is the first time I’ve seen one of them used to convert full songs into images, and the results are so perfect that I’m convinced the real killer application for this technology is sleeping inside David Bowie’s music archive.
You do not believe me? Here’s Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” created by YouTube user aidontknow. Their process involved typing the song’s lyrics into the AI prompt, line by line, to create each image for the video.
See what I mean?
Of course, the likes of Midjourney, Dall-E, and Stable Fusion will one day leave the uncanny valley behind and provide an endless supply of perfect shots that will look just as convincing as the real thing. But there’s a big downside to all this fun: these tools are essentially undermining the existing work of designers and photographers who don’t receive any AI licensing fees in a fast-growing field that will have negative effects on the industry.
For now, this video shows that the AI’s often otherworldly output is still limited: suitable for poetry and fiction, but not anything too literal. This seems to be the idea that prompted aidontknow to turn some of Ziggy Stardust’s songs into musical shows.
Aidontknow used the same methodology within Midjourney to create this rendition of “Starman”. The video description says it has minimal changes and influence from the author, which I found necessary when I tried to do the same thing using Midjourney on Discord.
Sometimes a verse will use the word it to refer to an object or person named earlier in the song, for example, so I had to change it back to the more specific name of the subject so AI could identify what “it” was.
I only tried a few strings per song to get an idea of how well it worked with different songs. But using Midjourney for the task was exciting: All I did was paste the texts and the images slowly materialized before my eyes without any other effort, like a genie emerging from a light bulb.
And indeed, I realized that there seems to be a clear correlation between beauty and surrealism. The visuals for Tom Waits’ “Alice” (results shown in this paragraph) were as magical as the song itself:
It’s dreamy weather
We are we [first image]
You wave your crooked stick
Across an icy pond
With a frozen moon [second image]
A silhouette murder
I saw crows [third image]
And the tears on my face
And skate on the pond
They spell Alice [fourth image]
I got similarly fantastic results for the Beatles’ “Across the Universe” and the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” which also have pretty visually evocative lyrics. The magic also worked for the poppy R&B riffs on Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”
Sometimes, AI made some mistakes in literal interpretation of words. As in Waits’ “Tom Traubert’s Blues,” the line “See you tomorrow, hey Frank can I borrow/ A few dollars from you?” turned money into real male deer. (I think a “buck”). As Bob Ross would say: “There are no mistakes. Just happy accidents.”