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Auto music mixing – Hemming’s ISE 2015 hoax

Audio consultant Roland Hemming demonstrated automatic music mixing technology in a session at ISE 2015 – then revealed it to be a hoax. Why?

Automatic music mixing could revolutionise the industry, saving time, saving space, but not saving jobs. Speech for conference systems is already mixed by computer, but live music is hugely more complex, which is why an ISE 2015 session on the next revolution in audio, presented by RH Consulting and the Korean Advanced Technology Research Group attracted considerable interest – and also laughter, as it emerged it was an elaborate hoax, designed to elicit an authentic reaction and discussion.

Consultant Roland Hemming of RH Consulting demonstrated the technology, with its ability to recognise instruments, where the chorus is in a song, proximity sensors in microphones to know how close you are to it, and Heisenberg pre-processing (to end the uncertainty principle), to illustrate just how powerful such technology might be. And audience voting showed that there was a general acceptance that such a technology could be useful (particularly as an aid to an engineer). Only 17% said they’d never buy it.

In order to get authentic reactions and for people to address the issues realistically, Hemming didn’t want the session to be hypothetical, believing an honest discussion could help shape the future. “We know it is coming. A number of companies are working on it,” he said. He wanted to see how the notion of automatic mixing would impact the business. For example, if there is no mixing desk, it would free up many seats in a theatre, which could be very lucrative.

It took a lot of work to create a convincing demonstration, writing custom software and coming up with plausible-seeming new inventions, like ‘Heisenberg pre-processing’. When Hemming talked about the topic last year it annoyed many engineers, who argued that it couldn’t happen because mixing was an art – half the ISE audience agreed mixing was 50% or more art. Hemming is making the results of the experiment available free.