AI Revives The Beatles: The Making of 'Now and Then'

NNicholas November 2, 2023 12:33 PM

Artificial intelligence has played a pivotal role in the creation of a new record by The Beatles, over 40 years since the original vocals for 'Now and Then' were recorded by John Lennon. With the help of AI, the bandmates and production team have been able to clean up and enhance the audio quality of the original demo, releasing a song that feels as if created in the present day.

The long road to 'Now and Then'

The journey of 'Now and Then' has been a long one. The original vocals were recorded by John Lennon back in the 1970s during an impromptu session at his New York City apartment. The song's production began nearly two decades later when Yoko Ono, Lennon's widow, handed over three of Lennon's demos to Paul McCartney. However, the project hit a roadblock when Lennon's powerful piano accompaniment started to overshadow his own vocals. The production team decided to put the song on hold until they had the right technology to enhance and clean up the grainy mono track.

Technology unlocks 'Now and Then'

The key to unlocking 'Now and Then' came in the form of cutting-edge audio technology, the same used by director Peter Jackson in his 2021 Beatles docuseries 'Get Back'. This innovative tech could dissect the song's mono soundtrack into its individual elements, separating vocals from accompanying music and conversation from background noise. It allowed the production team to isolate Lennon's vocals, clean them up, and then harmoniously blend them with the other elements of the song.

While the technology used to produce 'Now and Then' has been hailed as revolutionary, it has also sparked concerns about potential misuse in the music industry. Critics worry that the ability to isolate and clean up vocals could lead to the creation of 'fake' versions of artists, essentially piecing together performances that never really happened. This controversy raises important questions about authenticity in music and highlights the fine line between artistic innovation and exploitation.

AI as a tool for musical preservation

On the flip side, the use of AI in music production isn't all doom and gloom. As shown with 'Now and Then', this technology can be a powerful tool for preserving and restoring old recordings. It offers the chance to breathe new life into forgotten or overlooked tracks, ensuring that the artistic contributions of past musicians are not lost to time. Additionally, it could help unearth and give recognition to 'lost' artists, whose work might have been overlooked or underappreciated in their lifetime.

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