Did I mention I am backing the Bela Gliss touch controller module? It’s like a vastly upgraded version of the Soundmachines LS-1 Lightstrip. Nicer sensors, nicer (color) lighting, and some smart processing. It can act as a level meter that can also scale, offset and clip the input signal; as an LFO; as a 5-key pressure keyboard; its recording mode can loop, one-shot or scrub (making it effectively a waveshaper) and overwrite on the fly. Nice.

I’m back in the groove after ∞↺ (which you can pronounce as “infinite loop” or “infinite feedback” if you like). I spent a few hours Sunday morning making a new track that I’m quite happy with, without restricting myself to no-input feedback loops. Once more Strega is really kicking butt, as is the combination of Rings and Koszalin, and the new Just Friends firmware is pretty great.

I’ve also been playing with Stable Diffusion a bit, where before I had exclusively been using Wombo. SD I think works a bit better getting as specific as possible, although it still won’t necessarily do exactly what you want. Wombo sometimes generates more interesting abstract images with less effort, though it seems to be somewhat flakier about random failures. In either case it’s just sort of… try things and get basically randomized variations that you can maybe use or maybe not.

At the same time I’ve seen several more articles recently on how horrible it is that these tools (or toys) exist, how it’s not real art, it’s a threat to artists, and so on. I have mixed feelings.

I’m not a trained or particularly talented visual artist, but I’ve made 6 album covers using these things… and 23 others without AI assistance, using Creative Commons images and/or my own photography. (Plus older ones for pre-Starthief releases.) Is it somehow more “cheating” to use an AI tool in the process, than it is to Google for copyright-free images I can manipulate?

I’m not willing to say that what comes out of these tools is not art — that question (besides usually being tiresome, and so often used to describe art that a person just doesn’t like) depends on context and intent. While my fumbling with prompts and curating the results and editing and compositing afterward require less skill than a painter or professional illustrator, it is still not a fully automated process that lacks in artistic intent, by any means.

Can these tools be used nefariously? They certainly can! But so can Photoshop, or a pencil. Faking photographs is nearly as old as photography. Imitating other artists’ styles and infringing on other peoples’ IP are older than copyright law. You can’t tell me that professional illustrators are not asked on a regular basis to mimic some other artist’s style. I’m in favor of trying to reign in the tools a bit to protect artists as much as possible, and maybe don’t permit the likenesses of specific people by name to be used either. But art itself is not inherently safe and polite — the ability to use art in protest and parody is important. It’s just that machines are even less trustworthy than humans where it comes to making some kinds of judgement calls, I guess.