The pandemic hasn’t brought us many bright spots, but it has brought us Grimes’ baby, who, at the rate he’s developing, will be running the show by the time he’s five. And we’re probably OK with that.
The Vancouver-born musician spoke to the New York Times about her thoughts on artificial intelligence, as well as the ways her five-month-old has been interacting with art. Turns out, the two intersect, which is perhaps unsurprising for a child whose name is X Æ A-Xii and whose parents are an acclaimed electronic musician and SpaceX founder Elon Musk.
“In general, stuff for babies is really just creatively bad,” she said in the interview. She’s not a fan of the “aimless crap” that’s presented for babies in pastel tones and baseline simplicity.
Grimes has been introducing her baby to more complex creations, like Stanley Kubrick’s “Apocalypse Now.” She says little X (she calls him X for short) is into “radical” art. “And I don’t think it’s a problem to engage with them on that level.”
And so, Grimes has tapped into her baby’s nascent artistic bent to help her compose that A.I. lullaby mentioned in the headline. She played versions of the music and gauged the baby’s reaction. “The first version, there was too many sort of sharp bells, and it caused tears and just general chaos,” she said, so she kept working on it.
The baby didn’t steer his mama wrong; you can hear a snippet of the lullaby in the video below, and it’s quite lovely:
Like swimming with outer-space dolphins, right? We could almost fall asleep right now.
Where the artificial intelligence comes in is the fact that the lullaby is a collaboration with a company called Endel, which employs “a technology that creates personalized environments to reduce stress, improve sleep, and boost productivity.”
So, the musical blocks Grimes (and baby) composed will shift and vary according to other inputs from the user: heart rate, environment, and circadian rhythms.
And if it’s one thing new parents and babies can use, it’s generally sleep; a 2019 study by Sleep Junkie found that just 10 per cent of new parents were getting the recommended seven hours of sleep, and most were struggling to get five. So parents will use whatever methods they have available to them, and lullabies are a time-honoured way soothe your little one to sleep.
They’re so soothing that it apparently doesn’t matter what language you sing your lullaby in. Harvard researchers found that infants will relax when they hear lullabies even if they’re unfamiliar with the language or melody. So, if that means your lullaby is made of future space sounds and is “basically live remixing of ambient music by robots for babies,” as Grimes says, well hey, why not?
Of course, if you’re looking for other ways of calming your babe or yourself to sleep, you can try more conventional methods, like creating a consistent bedtime routine, taking a bath before bed, and ensuring the bedroom is dark and quiet.
And if all else fails, a little Kubrick should do the trick. No, just kidding, don’t try that.