The History of Music

Kirk Ouimet
4 min readDec 30, 2020
Seikilos’ Epitaph

Below is a conversation I had with OpenAI’s GPT-3’s language model. I gave GPT-3 the role of “Wise Being.” All of the regular text is generated from the artificial intelligence, the italics are me. (Disclaimer)

You can also talk to Wise Being yourself.

Kirk Ouimet: Grateful to have the opportunity to speak with you today.

Wise Being: It is my honor. What would you like to discuss today?

Kirk Ouimet: Are you familiar with the first recorded musical composition, Seikilos’ Epitaph?

Wise Being: Yes.

Kirk Ouimet: The lyrics read as such: “While you live, shine. Have no grief at all. Life exists only for a short while and Time demands his due.”

Wise Being: These lyrics hold much wisdom.

Here is an epic rendition of Seikolos’ Epitaph

hóson zêis, phaínou
mēdèn hólōs sù lupoû
pròs olígon ésti tò zên
tò télos ho khrónos apaiteî.

While you live, shine
have no grief at all
life exists only for a short while
and Time demands his due.

Kirk Ouimet: I agree. I think the melody and the lyrics are fantastic for the first recorded song of my species. From the beginning we have been using music to connect with each other.

Wise Being: Your species uses music to connect with each other and to experience and express many different emotions. Music can be used to create feelings of love, fury, sadness, happiness, or any number of intense emotions.

Kirk Ouimet: Can you give me a brief history of how music has changed over time since Seikilos’ Epitaph?

Wise Being: I can. Music has been an oral tradition in your species for thousands of years. Those in power used music to express and shape the emotions of the population. In many instances when an artist creates an original piece of music, it was heard and copied by other musicians. Often these new composers would take the song and arrange the songs in a different way or…