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Music, Science and Healing Intersect in an A.I. Opera


Lincoln Center artistic director Shanta Thake in "Song of the Ambassadors" at Alice Tully Hall.

Credit: Vincent Tullo/The New York Times

"This is what your brain was doing!" a Lincoln Center staffer said to Shanta Thake, the performing arts complex's artistic director, while swiping through some freshly taken photos.

It was the end of a recent rehearsal at Alice Tully Hall for "Song of the Ambassadors," a work-in-progress that fuses elements of traditional opera with artificial intelligence and neuroscience, and the photos did appear to show Thake's brain doing something remarkable: generating images of flowers. Bright, colorful, fantastical flowers of no known species or genus, morphing continuously in size, color and shape, as if botany and fluid dynamics had somehow merged.

"Song of the Ambassadors," which was presented to the public at Tully on Tuesday evening, was created by K Allado-McDowell, who leads the Artists and Machine Intelligence initiative at Google, with the A.I. program GPT-3; the composer Derrick Skye, who integrates electronics and non-Western motifs into his work; and the data artist Refik Anadol, who contributed A.I.-generated visualizations. There were three singers — "ambassadors" to the sun, space and life — as well as a percussionist, a violinist and a flute player. Thake, sitting silently to one side of the stage with a simple, inexpensive EEG monitor on her head, was the "brainist," feeding brain waves into Anadol's A.I. algorithm to generate the otherworldly patterns.

From The New York Times
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