Following many threshing– and a quarter century of work – “Now and Then,” probably the last song to feature the four original Beatles, is here. The track was released on Thursday and the music video, directed by Peter Jackson, was released on YouTube on Friday. Soft and haunting, it’s full of piano and strings, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the machine learning technology Jackson used in the docuseries. To come back.
How AI technology became what saved the song is a bit of a journey. Years after John Lennon’s death in 1980, his wife, musician and multimedia artist Yoko Ono, told bandmate Paul McCartney that she had a demo that Lennon had recorded in their Dakota apartment in New York.
In the 1990s, when the three remaining Beatles – McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison – were working on recordings for their Anthology records, they tried to salvage “Now and Then” from an old cassette. At the time, Lennon’s voice was too flooded with the sounds of the piano he played on, and the technology to extract them didn’t exist. “‘Now and Then’ has just languished a bit,” McCartney says in a new short documentary about the song.
Harrison died in 2001 and it seemed like the song might languish forever. Then, in 2022, while Jackson was working on To come backa documentary created from 1969 footage of the band making the album/concert/film that would become So be it, he and his team developed AI technology that allowed him to separate all the different instruments and vocals in recordings. “We thought, ‘Well, we’d better send them John’s voice, from the original tape,'” McCartney says.