What Would Bird Do?

     O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart cannot conceive nor name thee! Confusion now hath made his masterpiece.
     The Pentagon’s super secret tech agency, DARPA, has given scientists $2 million to develop a computer that can impersonate a jazz musician.
     The universities of Arizona and Illinois and Oberlin College will collaborate on this, overseen by the head of DARPA’s information innovation office, Paul Cohen.
     I know a sax player named Paul Cohen, but that’s a different guy.
     DARPA – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – helped create the Internet, ballistic missile systems, submarine warfare technology, night vision goggles, sniper scopes, molten penetrating ammunition and hundreds of other ways to kill us. To kill the enemy, I mean. To kill the enemy.
     As a jazz musician myself, I think we’ve had about enough of this.
     I’m not surprised, though, that the Pentagon dished out $2 million for a program it can buy online for $99. Band in a Box has been selling one for 25 years.
     The Guardian newspaper blew the cover on the robojazz moles this week in a story I sent around to members of my underground jazz cell. I’m blowing their cover today, in hopes that if DARPA decides to prosecute, it goes after them instead of me, the Pentagon’s useful fool.
     My pal Seth Wittner, a dynamite pianist in an undisclosed city, wrote: “Any fool could program in two-beat to two-bar licks on a chord and then move on to another programmed lick that works on the next chord change. Note that the dude who allocated the money to this project used to be part of the same university as the grant recipient. An inside job.”
     Oh, Seth, you conspiracy-seeking fool! Can’t you see this is for your own good?
     My pal Peter Hurley, a Chicago muralist and singer, has done a series of paintings of jazz musicians. “Sad, stupid, and pointless,” Peter wrote.
     “All ‘art’ will be virtual eventually, all craft and architecture will be 3D printable, all human hands eliminated. Our species will evolve to having 10 fingers for texting at the end of each arm, with no opposable thumbs. We’ll have long straws protruding from our lips for sucking water sources from neighboring states and trophy walls for big game in every pod.”
     We’re working on it, Pete. We’re working on it.
     “There’s no way a robot could play jazz creatively or with real feeling,” wrote Kenny Goldberg, a master saxophonist, composer and arranger. “But what’s the point? Who would want to listen to a robot? I once played with a singer whose big band arrangements sounded like shit. No swing, no feeling, no nothing. I would imagine that’s how a robot would write.”
     Kenny, Kenny. Your subversive views have been forwarded to The Committee. They will be calling you soon. Remember, as a musician, you must enter through the service door.
     “It’s DARPA-funded, so someone must see potential for some cool military applications,” wrote Peter Spitzer, who, oh, so long ago, blew tenor beside my baritone sax in The Clouds of Joy.
     Peter’s co-conspirator Tom Simpson, a bass player, deciphered the intent of the Pentagon program: “It is no surprise that DARPA is interested in funding such research. It has been known for some time that the Pentagon has been seeking a way to generate jazz solos that truly go on forever. Preliminary tests of solos up to several minutes in length performed by human musicians have been shown to cause disorientation and even loss of consciousness among listeners. It is believed that by extending solos ad infinitum, an effective battlefield technology can be delivered, wherein enemy combatants can be easily subdued.”
     Jazz musicians of the world, resist! It’s not too late to ERROR 504

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