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Ballad of The Shadow

The double hat of experimenter of new technological tools and artist allowed risk taking: i had no commercial constraints, i could experiment new ways of composing and producing with Flow-Machines.

The path has been tortuous until the version of the album: Ballad of the Shadow is the first track of Hello World‘s album.

It all started with these six notes that hooked my ear :

It sounded like an ear worm to me. I was singing this melody all the time. The machine had analyzed a dataset of 429 scores of Jazz standards, so there was a lot of ‘music material’ to generate original melodies, millions of possibilities, even imposing constraints like notes length. Over the clicks (each click is a new proposal that must be kept or not), the song appeared with the center these few notes of music. The loop of 8 measures worked very well.

A good beginning but still a lot of work to do.

I was misled into dead ends for few days.

Among these impasses, a western cartoon version where I imagined Mr Shadow on a elastic horse in a weird desert.

Nintendo version

…and even a very improbable version in the style of Ruychi Sakamoto.

I had the title of my song, ‘The Ballad of the Shadow’. This title inspired me to find the good sound.


From the beginning of my experience with Flow Machines in 2015, I associated this project somewhat unconsciously with the story of Andersen, The Shadow. Inspired by the tale, I felt like playing with shadows of songs, composers of which I fed the machine. Every song needs a voice. I wanted to avoid a real voice, the song had to evoke the Shadow. I had to invent a production process to create this kind of voice.

I searched for a a capella vocal track on the net. I found a cowboy who was singing a western song. I cut out the vocal performance syllable by syllable that I stretched and pitched to force it to sing my melody. After a few hours, I had my new voice, verse, pre-chorus.

To compose the chorus, I began by lengthening a syllable of this voice, at most like a marshmallow. The vibrato waved in slow motion. I played a soft pad synth sound of notes in fourths. The path to go back to the verse was simple, with a bluesy chord (Db9).

Later, this process of transforming a voice will become a Flow Machines tool, generating one-click voices, Mashmelo.

To create the musical background of my shadow opera, I entered the machine a title of ambient music. This ambiant music forced me to slow down the tempo from 120 to 80 pbm. The atmosphere was very beautiful, a muted snare roll gave me the groove of the piece.

It was a revelation for me. I took contact with a part of my creativity that was hidden to myself, like a shadow. I would never have written such a piece without an AI. I had created my shadow, which turns out to be a space cowboy.

This song was very useful to convince the other musicians.

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