Proto (stylized in all caps) is the third studio album by American electronic musician Holly Herndon. It was released on May 10, 2019, via 4AD. It includes the singles "Godmother" and "Eternal", with the video of the latter accompanying the album announcement. The album was called a collaboration with an AI named "Spawn" co-created by Herndon and Mat Dryhurst.
Though PROTO’s vocal treatments sound futuristic, the album builds on a 50-year history of humans singing through computers.
PROTO is already one-of-a-kind, but there are times when Herndon could’ve stood to push the envelope just a bit more. But she’s in a class of her own when it comes to this sort of electronic pioneering. Four years later, she recurs in this approach with her new audacious album called "Proto". Holly Herndon created an artificial intelligence called Spawn designed to react to human singing and to mix the voice of the choir with its own digital singing. It's science fiction!
There were armies of these proto-metal teenage noiseniks out there with fire and steel names like Pentagram, Warhorse, Night Sun, Hard Stuff, Bedemon, Tear Gas, Atomic Rooster and Iron Claw all hooked on speed and Satan, huffing napalm and sinking slowly into their couches of woe with Iron Butterfly blaring endlessly on their headphones. While we’re at it, there’s no way to have a discussion about metal’s big bang without discussing this album. It was, by far, the heaviest record of 1968. Heavy rock had only existed as a concept since ‘67 and along with Vanilla Fudge, Blue Cheer were one of the very first pioneers of the stuff.
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PROTO is the latest example of AI’s increasing use in the music industry. In March, the music app Endel, which uses an algorithm to create mood-based compositions, signed a distribution deal with Warner Music Group. In 2017, the singer Taryn Southern released I AM AI, an album composed and produced entirely by Amper, an AI software. Read the full lyrics to Eternal and the rest of Holly Herndon’s discography on Genius now. Next Up.
What makes PROTO so interesting and unique is Spawn, an AI created by Herndon and her partner Mat Dryhurst. Spawn is two years old now and has been learning a lot in that time. This works in a similar way to a chess engine being fed several games from a database and improving with each subsequent performance. In a way, listening to PROTO is like hearing James Blake’s self-titled album for the first time. Despite PROTO being far more abstract, both illustrate how you can utilize machines to produce something intimately human-sounding, despite all the contradictions. The stark contrast, however, is in the application.
CreditsProto - Primary Artist
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