Dr. Henry Adam Svec is a difficult man to write about, mostly because he writes about his own projects so well. Part of his ability to write so convincingly about his projects is his ability to distance his own name from the works.
Over the last decade or so he has played in a band called Peter Mansbridge and the CBCs, performed as “The Boy From ET” and “discovered” the CFL Sessions, a series of lost recordings made by CFL players in the 70s. While Svec has seemingly tried to diminish his role in these ventures his involvement has likely been underplayed.
Svec’s perceived distance from these projects means he is able to write about their importance in a way that the self-inflating, narcissistic press quotes of his peers fall short of. And so when Dr. Henry Adam Svec boldly claims that his newest folkloric project is “hyper-authentic”, I buy it, mostly because it is not Svec’s name that is on the album cover, but that of an artificially intelligent songwriter named LIVINGSTON.
In an era of musical glut, the claim to authenticity is an important one that separates musicians, and especially folksingers, from their endless contemporaries. Svec brilliantly steps out of the spotlight to paradoxically shout from off stage that this album is an achievement of epic proportions. Whether or not Svec actually created A.I. capable of writing folk songs is not the point; the point is that he makes you believe that a record comprised of six strange originals and an Eagles` cover is the biggest development in folk music in decades.
It is clear that Svec understands that music critics and listeners love a good story. Almost every new record is accompanied by a press quote that includes some romantic narrative about the record being inspired by the death of a loved one or a spontaneous burst of creativity in the studio late at night. Heck, the reason I paid attention to Svec’s record in the first place was because of his enthralling narratives.
That being said the music of Artificially Intelligent Folk Songs of Canada, Vol. 1 also speaks for itself. While an album about artificial intelligence understandably runs the risk of coming across as lifeless and robotic Svec’s quirky songwriting style and wild instrumentation (aided by Misha Bower of Bruce Peninsula and Andrew Penner of Sunparlour Players ) brings these academic subjects into an accessible realm.
The result is that Dr. Henry Adam Svec has made a record about Artificial Intelligence that might, dare I say, be fun.
Here`s an interview I did with Henry back when the album was released:
You can also download Artificially Intelligent Folk Songs of Canada Vol. 1& 2 for free: