Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Wednesday, July 1, 1998 Published at 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK


To the beat of the byte

Philippa Forrester meets Gershwyn in the flesh

It may not have the pin-up style good looks to sell a million records, nor does it have the personal charm to entice thousands of teeny-boppers.

But when it comes to making music, Gershwyn could have what it takes to be the latest of pop sensations.

Hear the excerpts from the two versions of Star - the human one first
This is the codename for a robot record producer that can mix pop songs and - it is hoped - turn them into hits. Its inventors at the University of Reading believe it is the first of its kind for the music industry.

And Gershwyn already has one project to its name. The London-based group, Manus, which is made up of the four younger brothers of pop star Elvis Costello, have volunteered to give Gershwyn a go at mixing their new single, Star.

The musical-minded robot's version of Star will be put to test alongside a mix done by human record producer, Patrick Moore.

[ image: Manus's new single, Star, is Gershwyn's big break]
Manus's new single, Star, is Gershwyn's big break
Viewers of the BBC ONE programme Tomorrow's World are becoming a juke box jury for the night, judging between the two in a special telephone poll.

Gershwyn's creator, Professor Kevin Warwick, said: "The experiment with Gershwyn and Manus has shown that machines can be creative. They can offer us different ideas from humans, and this is something not everyone understands."

Human touch

However, Gershwyn is said to work in a similar way to a human record producer, "learning" what makes a hit record by "listening" to examples of previous hit songs, which are then stored in its memory.

And to avoid every pop singer's fear - being accused of having singles that all sound the same - Gershwyn is able to judge which type of mix best suits a particular track.

Tomorrow's World presenter Philippa Forrester, said she was taken aback at the idea of Gershwyn producing a pop song: "You'd think that it couldn't be possible for a robot to produce a pop single - surely that relies on subjectivity and feelings."

[ image: Ronan MacManus, lead vocalist of Manus]
Ronan MacManus, lead vocalist of Manus
Manus were keen to give Gershwyn its big break. Vocalist Ronan MacManus said the band was not too worried about the repercussions.

"I think it's going to be a matter of taste between the two of them. I don't think one is ever going to replace the other completely," he said.

But to be on the safe side, Manus are releasing the CD single of Star to include both theirs and Gershwyn's versions of the song.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage |

Entertainment Contents

TV and Radio
New Media
Internet Links

Cybernetics Department, University of Reading

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.