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The University of Southampton

Music and AI combine for quirky performance

Published: 18 July 2023
Man sat at front of dark theatre
Dr Ben Oliver

Can a robot write a love letter? A project by the University of Southampton has demonstrated that it can – and the resulting quirky computer-generated love letters have now been set to music.

Academics in Music, English and Computer Science have joined forces to create a love text generator and set its outputs to music. The result is Love Letters, which was premiered in Southampton on Monday 17 July 2023.

Dr Ben Oliver, Associate Professor in Composition, wrote the music. He worked with Will May, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature, to build a large body of quotations from thousands of love poems and lyrics to enter into the generator, called LovelaceGPT. It was built by student intern Yaseen Mohammed Osman, mentored by Lecturer in Computer Science Dr Shoaib Jameel.

Dr Oliver explained: “The project has been super fun. One of the hardest things I find in writing songs is finding suitable words to set to music. When ChatGPT came rushing into public consciousness last autumn I thought this could help. But I found the generic quality of the content generated by ChatGPT frustrating, so we ended up developing LovelaceGPT with funding from the university’s Web Science Institute.”

LovelaceGPT has written lyrics such as: “There is the answer of my life, And you’re my biohazard baby!”

“The words generated by LovelaceGPT are often strange but also wonderful and evocative,” added Dr Oliver. “There is something liberating about developing creative texts using a text generator because you don’t owe the machine anything and it doesn’t care if you undertake brutal edits. It also never stops producing when asked!”

Love Letters is a collection of seven songs that runs for about 25 minutes. The songs were written for singer and University of Southampton vocal coach Hannah Williams, from Winchester, to perform. She will be joined for the performance by two pianists and two percussionists from Riot Ensemble, a contemporary classical music group based in London.

Love Letters will also be performed in London, at Kings Place, on Wednesday 19 July at 8pm.

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