Outsound Summit: When the Machines Take Over

Lasqo at the Meridian Gallery, SF. Source: Outsound

One of the performances I’ve been most anticipating at the Outsound New Music Summit comes Thursday night, July 25, when two artificial intelligence programs improvise together.

Joe Lasqo and Ritwik Banerji have each been working on electronic-music software that reacts to the surroundings. I wrote a bit about their efforts, and a performance of Lasqo’s, back in February.

They’ve spent a good part of this year refining their music-improvising software in advance of this performance — where one goal is to have the two musicbots play off of each other, to see where they’ll go without human intervention. Lasqo told me the idea was inspired by a Cornell experiment that squared two chatbots off each other; you can see those results here (and it’s embedded on the Outsound schedule page as well — nice touch).

The music here will be of the computer/laptop variety — meaning lots of interesting sounds and effects, as opposed to actual notes and chord changes, most likely.  Banerji’s research at the University of California does involve a jazz-improvising program, so the possibilities are lurking in the background.

He and Lasqo will be adding music to the performance as well — sax and piano, respectively — so some part of their set will have an acoustic influence. Video artist Warren Stringer will be accompanying them as well.

06_maxine in delhi_1
Banerji performing in Delhi. Source: Outsound

Strange results can occur when machines are left to think for themselves. One early experiment in genetic semiconductors — that is, chips that program themselves, tweaking the program over time — yielded a chip that had an unconnected bit of circuitry in the corner. Theoretically, this was extra baggage that could be cut, but when it was, the chip stopped working. I find myself wondering what the musical equivalent of that would be, and whether it’s anything we’d be able to spot aurally in Thursday’s performance.

The Banerji/Lasqo performance is one of five on Thursday night, a program titled “Vibration Hackers” and filled with computerized and synthesized sounds. Other performers include the CCRMA Ensemble, Ilya Rostovtsev, Fernando Lopez-Lezcano, and the ensemble #Max.

Some resources to prep you for the show:

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