Everyone is talking about Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) these days. The debate rages on as to whether it enhances creativity or devalues it. Or the ethical considerations of manipulating famous works of art and writing for purposes not intended or authorized by their creator.
Recently, John Strauss, a mutual friend of some of the writers in this forum, posted on Facebook an A.I.-generated reimagining of a country song as it might have been composed by William Shakespeare. Here is a snippet of that composition:
“Beneath the moon, and stars above
I think of love, and those I do love
With whiskey’s warmth, and truck’s steady hum
I dream of life, and all that’s to come.”
Note the references to trucks and whiskey. The only thing missing is something about the country singer’s dog dying.
This got me thinking about other scenarios. How about Gordon Lightfoot’s iconic “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” as a haiku. It might read something like this:
“The lake speaks a story
Of a ship that had no chance
The Edmund Fitzgerald
Fatefully dark the night
All hands lost in the gales
The Edmund Fitzgerald
In the depths of the lake
Lies the wreckage and remains
The Edmund Fitzgerald.”
Or Robert Frost’s famous “The Road Not Taken” as a hard rock song:
“Two paths were in the wood, I knew I had to choose
I could feel the darkness, I had something to prove
I thought it’d be easy, but in the end I was blind
A journey ahead that was so hard to define”
“I took the road less traveled by
No going back, no turning back
I looked up above and saw a sky so high
No going back, no turning back.”
Or Thomas Payne trying to inspire colonial patriotism in “Common Sense” reimagined as a rap song. But wait, I guess that was kind of what Lin-Manuel Miranda did in Hamilton.
And that kind of reminds me of Bill Cosby before his misdeeds torched his reputation. He did this wonderful skit depicting the kick-off of the Revolutionary War as introduced by a football referee. Maybe you remember this:
“General Cornwallis of the British, this is General Washington of the Continental Army.”
“General Washington of the Continental Army, this is General Cornwallis of the British.”
“If you’d shake hands, gentlemen.”
“O.K., British call the toss.”
“British called heads, it is tails.”
“General Washington, what are you gonna do?”
“General Washington says his troops will dress however they wish, in any color, in buckskins and coonskin caps, and hide behind the rocks and trees and shoot out at random.”
“British, you will all wear bright red, all shoot at the same time, and march forward in a straight line.”
Speaking of comedians, I recall enjoying humorous skit. I can’t remember if it was Jonathan Winters or Steve Martin or someone else, but the gist of it was taking a piece of contemporary music and giving it a highly dramatic reading. The one I remember in particular was based on this piece of lyric eloquence by The Ohio Express:
I got love in my tummy.
and I feel like a lovin’ you;
you’re such a sweet thing,
good enough to eat thing
and that’s just a what I’m gonna do,”
I was so inspired by this idea that every year at our company Christmas party, I performed a dramatic reading of some piece of contemporary song lyrics. I continued that performance by popular demand from our staff for many years. Sadly, the show was cancelled when one of our employees slipped in a song with certain expletives and suggestive connotations not appropriate to mixed company.
Anyway, the opportunities for re-imaging are limitless. Can you imagine, a scene from Top Gun – Maverick being introduced by Rod Serling’s trademark, “Imagine if you will…” Or Bob Newhart stammering his way through the rapid-fire dialog of Aaron Sorkin in an episode of West Wing?
What this all says to me is that, for all of the iterations of A.I.-generated scenarios, maybe it really is another example of “everything old is really new again.”