BSC explores the musical history of 30 years of Sónar through ChatGPT

07 June 2023

Researchers from the Barcelona Supercomputing Center's Data Analysis and Visualisation group open the black box of artificial intelligence to better understand how it works.

The project, which will be presented at the 30th anniversary of Sónar on 15, 16 and 17 June, analyses the lyrics of artists who have performed at the festival to detect patterns and discover their evolution over time

The BSC will also be represented at Sónar+D 2023, Sónar's 11th art, science and digital culture congress, by oceanographer Joan Llort, who will explain his experience in art and science hybridisation projects

The irruption of ChatGPT has placed artificial intelligence (AI) at the centre of the world scene. With as many applications as controversies due to its capacity to generate fake videos and images that are indistinguishable from real ones, known as deepfakes, the initial enthusiasm with which society had received this technology has turned into concern and fear due to its potential for launching disinformation campaigns, as well as for appropriating the work of artists or computer programmers to train their models without recognising or remunerating their creators.

Some of the underlying fears about AI arise from the difficulty of understanding how these data-driven systems arrive at their results. Techniques are needed to visualise the inside of AI systems, identifying patterns that help decipher how their black box works. This is the aim of the 'EXPLAIN,' project, which the Data Analysis and Visualisation group of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS) will present at the 30th edition of the Sónar festival, as part of the Sónar+D programme, which is being held in Barcelona between 15 and 17 June.

To try to show how AI works from the inside, the BSC team led by researcher Fernando Cucchietti has taken the Sónar festival itself as a reference. The scientists have collected lyrics from artists who have performed during the festival's three-decade history and introduced them into GPT-4, the latest version of OpenAI's popular chatbot, in order to visualise patterns in the data and cross-reference them with other artists and other editions of the event to discover how they have evolved over time.

"Our goal is to show how AI works from the inside. We have taken 30 years of Sónar songs and introduced them into GPT-4 to analyse how this system sees the artists' work. We opened up the black box of AI to better understand how it picks up patterns and trends in song lyrics. By exploring the result, we can understand more about how GPT-4 works, but also about Sónar and the artists who have performed in its history," says Cucchietti.

Despite their name, AI systems are not intelligent, they simply reproduce statistical patterns that are not based on knowledge, without any representation of narratives or emotional states. They are tools with high computational power and access to a huge amount of data that, once they have detected patterns, can fill in other patterns or generate variations on them.

"So to understand such an AI system, you have to figure out what patterns it has found and how it uses them. This is not easy because the patterns are encoded as parameters in a huge network. The best way to do this is to create visual representations of these patterns to expose trends in the data and see how they have changed over time," adds Cucchietti.

The project has collected and analysed lyrics from around 40,000 songs by more than a thousand artists, and has been able to identify distinct patterns for the different musical and lyrical styles of many of them, their variation over time, and the similarity or differences between the artists who have performed on the Barcelona festival's stages.

The visual representations of these patterns will be what those attending Sónar+D will be able to explore, whose main theme this year is precisely the impact of AI on the arts. In addition to the Data Analysis and Visualisation group's project, which has a long history at the festival with various projects focused on the intersection of science and art, the BSC will also be represented by researcher Joan Llort, from the Department of Earth Sciences.

Llort, an oceanographer involved in projects of hybridisation between art and science, will participate in Sónar+D to explain his experience in co-creation processes with artists to rethink oceanographic observations from an aesthetic and conceptual point of view. This particular approach, between artistic residency and scientific communication, proposes blurring disciplines to give new readings to scientific data.


About Sónar+D

Sónar+D is the international meeting of art, science and digital culture that explores how creativity changes the present and imagines new futures. Since 2013, this anti-disciplinary event brings together leading artists, technologists, creatives, musicians, designers, thinkers, scientists and entrepreneurs in Barcelona to participate in a carefully curated programme of talks, masterclasses and tech-shows with a focus on inspiration and networking.

For thousands of professionals and curious audiences from over 100 countries, Sónar+D offers a unique, open and relaxed environment in which to discover groundbreaking new work and opportunities, learn new skills and showcase initiatives. Three fruitful days of talks, demos and workshops, shows, live concerts, exhibitions, immersive and interactive experiences and encounters with different communities.