UCL Anthropology



Music and Artificial Intelligence: Building Critical Interdisciplinary Studies, or MusAI, is a five-year research program (2021-26) investigating the cultural implications of AI, which are examined through a group of critical interdisciplinary studies examining AI’s relationship with music. The ERC funding for MusAI enables coordinated research projects and encourages interdisciplinary and risk – both features of the program.

Recent years have seen escalating concern about the impacts of artificial intelligence. While growing academic and policy literatures address AI’s social and ethical implications, as yet no major research initiative examines its cultural implications. Music has long been a site of AI experimentation and commercial development; yet although considerable research resources are going to scientific and artistic projects in this area, critical research on music AI – despite the urgent need for such work – is at an early stage.

How AI affects our cultural lives – through the music recommendation systems of Spotify or Apple Music or their audio-visual equivalents in Netflix or YouTube, or in the use of music generation tools to produce ‘ubiquitous music’ for retail or television – is of enormous consequence.

The MusAI program addresses the absence of critical research on the cultural implications of AI through a group of coordinated studies examining the relationship between AI and music.

The project is groundbreaking in two ways. First, it takes music as the medium through which to create a field of critical interdisciplinary studies indicative of AI’s wider influence on culture. Second, a guiding principle embodied in the program structure is that, to address the complex challenges posed by AI, radically new approaches are required that cut across entrenched disciplinary, methodological and epistemological divisions.

The international research team, led by Georgina Born (Anthropology, University College London), a pioneer in the anthropology/sociology of music and digital media, integrates a large group of early career and leading researchers from digital anthropology and sociology, musicology, science and technology studies, digital/media studies, music composition, music information retrieval and computer science. Our Advisory Board brings a group of senior figures from these disciplines and from industry, along with musicians working critically with AI, into dialogue with the program and its component projects.

Find out more about the team.

MusAI is also fortunate to be in dialogue with several other ERC-funded research projects on music and AI, as well as with networks of researchers internationally. This is an exciting period in which to engage in research on AI and music.

For research related videos, visit the MusAI YouTube Channel.