The Japan premiere of the innovative android opera Scary Beauty by Keiichiro Shibuya, Osaka University's Hiroshi Ishiguro, and University of Tokyo's Takashi Ikegami took place in July ’18 at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo.
In Scary Beauty, Shibuya and a human orchestra played music under the baton of the "lifelike" humanoid robot "Alter 2," which generates motion patterns based on its internal state and external stimuli. Only the lyrics, melody and number of bars were input into Alter 2 beforehand. The android leads tempo and volume of music in the performance, and Human can only follow it. Thus the audience witnessed music being created in real time by human musicians being conducted by artificial intelligence.
The sight of Alter 2 picking up the tempo during the performance with a seemingly ecstatic expression on its face was somehow beautiful but also chilling. The audience probably felt a strange sensation when the music which was set up prior to the actual performance sounded so beautiful.
Ishiguro said in the interview that the android's performance was an eye-opening experience for him. "Watching the android conduct made me aware of the significance of (human) conductors. We can learn many things by replacing people with androids."
Shibuya also said that the project was meant to break new ground in music by showing audiences a world that couldn't be seen with only human performers. "I wanted to try to move people with something created by a non-human being.” It'll be fascinating to witness how people will react to future performances as the interaction between human beings and technology evolves.
Article and photos by David Namba
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