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  • Writer's pictureKelly Warner

Firefly Island Radio: A human+AI collaboration in music and visuals

AI created music and visuals are showing up everywhere- and we all have a lot of questions about the practicality, ethics, and creativity of working with artificial intelligence. My objective with this project was to use AI to both generate new and modify existing material- with me playing the role of curator, art director, dj, dancer, and promoter.

Firefly Island Radio is a concept developed by me and my cousin Caleb Boyers, a deep-thinking physicist who provided excellent feedback and critique throughout the project.

What if an AI robot existed within a beautiful world trapped in an AI server somewhere? And what if it made music and communicated it to the outside world by djing and dancing around? And what if it as an hour long, shared to social media? Would it be art? Is it real music? Would people enjoy it? And can I actually dance like a robot in a tropical AI paradise?

The first step was to find a suitable AI engine for creating the music. turned out the be just the tool; compared to others now in May of 2024 it felt the most musical and did a great job with creating portions of songs which I could fairly quickly iterate and finalize. At this stage I used my experience as a DJ and music producer/sound designer to prompt the AI, using genre and concept specific terms, to create music I personally liked. Drum and bass seemed like a great genre for a computer to generate, and it's really energetic. Putting together ~25 songs that felt right took a couple of weeks, off and on (very casual), and I estimate 300-400 song/section options were created and sifted through to arrive at that final count.

Once the songs were completely finished, named, and organized into a DJ set, I realized that I loved the music itself enough to want to get it out there. Why not? This of course is when the questions started creeping in. Whose music is this? Did I really make anything? Do people want to hear this type of thing? And what's with the quasi-language scattered throughout?

The answers would have to wait, because the art couldn't wait. It was time to publish this Firefly Island Radio album to the various streaming platforms like Spotify. Here's the entire album of material you hear in this first DJ set. It's also on Youtube as individual songs:

Next up the live performance. Now, I'll be honest- especially for this first video, I had to act out the DJing live, and pre-DJ'd the music using Ableton Live. I honestly can DJ vinyl, I promise, having an actual DJ/performance background- but to dance like a robot for an hour was enough to keep me mentally occupied. Maybe 100% live for another set soon.

Live action shot on a green screen got me the necessary, relatively tidy input footage for TouchDesigner to put through StreamdiffusionTD. So serious:

With an hour long performance a wrap, and a pass of manual manipulation created interesting dynamics in the animated footage, it was time to edit and give this piece some context. Caleb felt strongly that the novelty of AI should be introduced to the viewer by transporting us into an AI world. I agreed, so it was off to Runway Gen 2 to create an introduction:

Lots of versions there too, eventually landing on the intro you see in the Youtube video. We start in a server room, head into the circuitry, and arrive at Firefly Island Radio.

Some closing thoughts from this experience:

  • AI doesn't prevent creative challenges. It can help solve them, but they still exist and artists need to be trained to identify them. Concept development, design sense, and sensitivity to medium/audience are a must.

  • It was a challenge to tweak the StableDiffusion AI robot visuals to be cohesive and watchable, yet abstractly "AI" enough to be interesting.

  • I felt a certain thrill, possibly a bit like gambling or digging for diamonds in Minecraft, while working through the generative portions of this project. As a musician it appealed to the curator/collector/crate digger in me.

  • Promotion via social and other media is a priority, especially with so many other listening/viewing options out there. Off we go!

Any questions, feel free to reach out!



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