Screaming Computer – “A duet with my AI Twin”

Have you ever wondered what it might sound like if a computer tried to speak, or sing, with its own version of your voice?

3 March 2022

Human (2022), Norrisette. EP cover artwork.

The Manchester-based singer-songwriter & electronic pop musician Norrisette launched her latest concept EP Human on 24 February 2022. The new EP features a collaboration with PRiSM SampleRNN, PRiSM’s flagship Artificial Intelligence software tool.

Dr Christopher Melen (RNCM PRiSM Research Software Engineer) trained the software on the digital recordings of Norrisette (amounted to around 1 hour of music), and developed several folders of audio files that the software ‘sang’ in response to what it had learned.

These original audio files include snatches of a ‘voice’, instruments, and any noises that the neural network had picked up from the training dataset and imitated, or organised, with its own logic.

This new EP has lyrics concerning fragile human emotion and identity and, along with sparse vocals, piano, and drum loops, includes music generated by PRiSM SampleRNN that emerge gradually through the album.

The final track, Whale House, has a main vocal provided by the AI which is punctuated by a simple refrain that Norrisette recorded last-minute on her phone in her Bed & Breakfast just before releasing the album. As soon as she had finished producing and mixing all four songs, she suddenly realised that she wanted some kind of duet with the AI voice. Her condenser microphones were far away in Manchester so she used what was available.

The EP is available for streaming online here, and it is on Bandcamp here.

The uncanny voice of PRiSM SampleRNN, or ‘Not-Norrisette’ as I call her, has a lo-fi quality so I matched this with my phone recording and the overall sound of the final track.

I wanted it to be raw edged as a contrast with the beginning of the EP which aims for smoothness and beauty.

Whale House is also a bit of light relief at the end of a melancholy set of songs: I had a running joke with German house and electronic producer Marc O’Rell that I would create some whale song for my next feature vocal with him, and then I realised that ‘Not-Norrisette’ often sounds a bit like a nightmarish electronic whale, so this track was born. — Norrisette

About Norrisette

Norrisette (the alter-ego of composer & RNCM PRiSM Doctoral Researcher Anna Appleby) is a singer-songwriter and producer based in Manchester, UK. She writes, performs, records, produces and designs concept EPs from scratch. Previous releases include Alien (a journey from outer space, 2020) and Paper (a journey into the second dimension, 2021). She also makes her own artwork and music videos.

Her debut gig was at Deaf Institute, Manchester on the 23 September 2021 supporting Sylvette. Together with Industries, Norrisette set up FLUFF, a regular gig night for queer electronic music producers in Manchester.

Norrisette is influenced by Kate Bush, TOKiMONSTA, Imogen Heap, James Blake, FKA Twigs, Laurie Anderson and Bjork. She has collaborated as a feature vocalist with producers from all over the world and is always looking for new noises and new ideas.