Creative Process Discussion of lyrics Media and Technology

The surprising results of using a machine text generator

Generate your “Harry Potter” name – fun with fakery. (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Writers could encounter two problems specific to their profession: One is finding the right line or the right word, and the other is the threat of their work being replaced by machine-generated text. Luckily, machine-generated news stories and prose are still recognizably bad, because human language is irregular, illogical, idiosyncratic and almost impossible to dismantle and reduce to code. (I’ve done this – it’s a nightmare.)

Though there are fun sites that can, for instance, generate text for you that looks like something from a “Harry Potter” novel, as in the example from Bloomsbury Publishing, for the time being the jobs of human writers are safe. Let me not go into the psychology of what happens when you read or write something. The complex process is different in every human, one of the reasons why machine-generated language is practically impossible to get right. Developers and users have had more luck with machine generation of individual words, and rhyming and grammatical variants of single words or phrases. So how does this work?

These resources are aids for writers if they get stuck. However (there’s always a “however” in these things…) the human still has to make the call what to pick and how to use it. It’s pointless offering someone who doesn’t know the meaning or the spelling of a word a bunch of alternatives – they’ll just pick the wrong one, or they might not even realize that their auto-correct system has replaced one word with another one that’s wrong, but for a different reason.  (Which leads things like people writing that they are offering a “sneak peak”. Peak. Oh, lordy!)

Let a machine generate some lyrics for you

Now there is hope for poets and rappers who are prostrate with frustration and need an electronic muse to spark new ideas: www.song-lyrics-generator.org.uk., a.k.a. “Masterpiece Generator”. It’s not the only one of its kind, but it’s the only one I’ve had a good look at. Google “online lyrics generator” and a whole stack will pop up.

I’m writing this with my tongue firmly in my cheek. The whole thing is daft, like trying to make an “old master” painting out of your photo. What most people should do when they cannot get on with their writing is to just write down anything until that feeling goes away. The other alternative, to quote fantasy games writer and designer David J. Prokopetz, is to just go with whatever comes to mind;

“I think something a lot of writers struggle with, is that not every idea needs to be elaborately fleshed out to be worth sharing. If all your brain-gremlins are willing to give you is a few sentences of contextless dialogue, you can totally just write it up and post it and call it a day. It’s what I do, and folks seem to enjoy it!”

This website will produce the “few sentences of contextless dialogue” that Prokopetz refers to, that might lead you somewhere else.

What happens in programs of this type is that a well-known song by a particular artist or band, Adele, Drake, Abba etc., is deconstructed so that the sentences or lines remain, with the order of concepts, but the specific nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are replaced by the user’s choice of words. So it looks, smells and sounds like that artist’s lyrics, but it actually is nonsense. It does depend on what you put in – if you understand where your words will be inserted, you can make them rhyme, or you can actually write something that looks interesting.

In the case of a particular style of music, like rap or country, the typical features of the style becomes the framework, or else it is a combination of verses, bridges and choruses from famous  lyrics. What is interesting is how they analyze it and what those algorithms produce. I actually thought, hey, some of this stuff might be usable.

Below are the results of generating an original song, a rhyming song, a country song and a ballad. Any takers for setting my attempts to music? (Just kidding.)

The results are nothing the Rolling Stones – or any real band


A Slow Kinda Voodoo

By Pepinyourstep

An Original Song

 

 

 

 

 

 

They get on with life as a voodoo,
They’re a slow kinda type.
They like sitting and drying.
They like to contemplate cows.
But when they start to daydream,
Their mind turns straight to cogs.
Oh oh oh!

Sometimes I look at them and I look into their eyes,
I notice the way they think about cogs with a smile,
Curved lips they just can’t disguise.
But they think it’s cows making their life worthwhile.
Why is it so hard for them to decide which they love more?
Cows or…
Cogs?

They like to use words like ‘bop’ and ‘bip.’
They like to use words about cows.
But when they stop their talking,
Their mind turns straight to cogs.
Oh oh oh!

Sometimes I look at them and I look into their eyes,
I notice the way they think about cogs with a smile,
Curved lips they just can’t disguise.
But they think it’s cows making their life worthwhile.
Why is it so hard for them to decide which they love more?
Cows or…
Cogs?

They like to hang out with Jeezy and Mooh.
But when left alone,
Their mind turns straight to cogs.
They hate blues and beans.
But they just think back to cogs,
And they’re happy once again.
Oh oh oh!

Sometimes I look at them and I look into their eyes,
I notice the way they think about cogs with a smile,
Curved lips they just can’t disguise.
But they think it’s cows making their life worthwhile.
Why is it so hard for them to decide which they love more?
Cows or…
Cogs?


I love that this line: “Sometimes I look at them and I look into their eyes, I notice the way they think about cogs with a smile, Curved lips they just can’t disguise.”


The Way You Do
By Skipanoodle
A Rhyming Song

 

 

 

 

 

 

You find so many people are asleep
But you, you are mostly deep

I like the way you do.
You do it like an ingenue.
I like the way you don’t.
I like the way you won’t.
You find so many people are deep
But you, you I will keep

I love the way you wear your hair,
Spreading your style everywhere.
You’re like a style fountain.
Enough pizzazz for a whole mountain.

You find so many people are cheap
But you, you are mostly steep
You’re the perfect person.
You could meet a worse one.
You find so many people are deep
But you, you mostly reap

Deep, weep and steep,
Kneedeep and reap too,
Are the qualities of you
You find so many people are asleep
But you, you are mostly deep


This is what happens when the focus on getting end rhymes. It gets pretty silly, except for that line “You’re like a style fountain. Enough pizzazz for a whole mountain.” Yep. That works.


Always Stay Cool

By Heroics

A Country Song

 

 

 

 

I grew up overshadowed by high mountains
Couldn’t catch the eye of no city boy
Here I am devoted to my man
How I love the way you look in your blue jeans
Can’t believe I let the smog cloud my eye.

Where the high mountains stand
And the frozen crags surround
I’ll ride my slow truck with you by my side.

There’s a whisper
in the hemlock trees
Reminding me of snow

That whisper builds
That whisper cries
Snow in the morning skies

You appear on the horizon
Brushing that lank hair from your eyes

The city folk with their fancy gadgets
Cement mountains like grey tombs
Don’t have nothin’ on our way of life
Just listen to the tweets.

That whisper builds
That whisper cries
Snow in the morning skies


This actually works – it makes sense. By this time I was trying a bit harder to outwit the algorithm, and it shows. Good refrain: “There’s a whisper in the hemlock trees, Reminding me of snow. That whisper builds, That whisper cries, Snow in the morning skies.”


The Tale of My Kind Geologist Husband
By Yowzer
A Ballad

 

 

 

 

It began on a bad February morning:
I was the most weird writer around,
He was the most kind geologist.

He was my husband,
My kind husband,
My geologist.

We used to scribble so well together,
Back then.
We wanted to scribble together,
around the world,
We wanted it all.

But one morning, one bad morning,
We decided to scribble too much.
Together we ran into a mental block.
It was mad, so mad.

From that moment our relationship changed.
He grew so degenerate.

And then it happened:
Oh no! Oh no!
He found a Mrs Fabulous.
Alas, a Mrs Fabulous!
My husband found a Mrs Fabulous.
It was sad, so sad.

The next day I thought my nose had broken,
I thought my toes had burst into flames,
(But I was actually overreacting a little.)

But still, he is in my thoughts.
I think about how it all changed that morning,
That bad February morning.

My toes… ouch!
When I think of that kind geologist,
That kind geologist and me.


Aw, that’s sad, hey – what with the toes bursting into flames and all?! Darn that Mrs. Fabulous who stole the poor writer’s geologist husband.


Text generation – not quite fiction

The same site has many text generators, from love letters to mystery novel texts. For the fictional text you could theoretically generate one chapter at a time, so long as you keep your nouns, verbs, etc., the same each time – and end up with a short story or a novelette. It could actually be used to produce a summary or blurb of your book.

Here is the result of my input into the mystery novel generator:

The Shiny Stiletto
A Mystery by Herlock Shomes

“The dry, dusty town of Figura holds a secret. Jeeves Pompous has the perfect life working as a doctor in the city and skipping with his sweet boyfriend, Desire Desire. However, when he finds a shiny stiletto in his cellar, he begins to realise that things are not quite as they seem in the Pompous family. A Christmas leaves Jeeves with some startling questions about his past, and he sets off to doleful Figura to find some answers. At first the people of Figura are brave and clever. He is intrigued by the curiously noble valet, Lusty Lust. However, after he introduces him to hard coffee, Jeeves slowly finds himself drawn into a web of murder, sloth and perhaps, even …lust.
Can Jeeves resist the charms of Lusty Lust and uncover the secret of the shiny stiletto before it’s too late, or will his demise become yet another Figura legend?”

Auto Praise for The Shiny Stiletto

“Who wouldn’t give up a life of skipping with their sweet boyfriend to spend a little time with a curiously noble valet?” – The Daily Tale
“About as mysterious as finding a poo in a public toilet. However, The Shiny Stiletto does offer a valuable lesson about not getting into hard coffee.” – Enid Kibbler
“The only mystery, is why did I keep reading after page one?” – Hit the Spoof
“I could do better.”- Zob Gloop


One way to spark inspiration

It’s not exactly a masterpiece, though I like the fake reviews, but what this kind of thing does is spark some alternative ideas – I found that after a couple of hours of doing this that I could come up with much better lyrics, even just by challenging myself to find alternatives to the spoof lyrics generated on the site.

The blog on www.song-lyrics-generator.org.uk is out of date since Oct. 2018, but their Twitter feed is up to date. The site exists to harvest the data about users’ habits on the site, and they sell a card game and advertising. It’s not an academic wonder, I see no great works of art being produced, so in a couple of years’ time it will probably cease to exist. But in the meantime, have fun I say! You’re stuck indoors, so why not?


About the header

The figure is by Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849) of Hotei, the Japanese god of joy and/or good fortune, one of the seven lucky gods.

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