Category Archives: Music

Canadian copyright quietly extended

As of December 30, 2022, Canadian copyright (one of the three elements of intellectual property; the other two: patents and trademarks) will be extended for another 20 years.

Mike Masnick in his November 29, 2022 posting on Techdirt explains why this is contrary to the intentions for establishing copyright in the first place, Note: Links have been removed,

… it cannot make sense to extend copyright terms retroactively. The entire point of copyright law is to provide a limited monopoly on making copies of the work as an incentive to get the work produced. Assuming the work was produced, that says that the bargain that was struck was clearly enough of an incentive for the creator. They were told they’d receive that period of exclusivity and thus they created the work.

Going back and retroactively extending copyright then serves no purpose. Creators need no incentive for works already created. The only thing it does is steal from the public. That’s because the “deal” setup by governments creating copyright terms is between the public (who is temporarily stripped of their right to share knowledge freely) and the creator. But if we extend copyright term retroactively, the public then has their end of the bargain (“you will be free to share these works freely after such-and-such a date”) changed, with no recourse or compensation.

Canada has quietly done it: extending copyrights on literary, dramatic or musical works and engravings from life of the author plus 50 years year to life of the author plus 70 years. [emphasis mine]

Masnick pointed to a November 23, 2022 posting by Andrea on the Internet Archive Canada blog for how this will affect the Canadian public,

… we now know that this date has been fixed as December 30, 2022, meaning that no new works will enter the Canadian public domain for the next 20 years.

A whole generation of creative works will remain under copyright. This might seem like a win for the estates of popular, internationally known authors, but what about more obscure Canadian works and creators? With circulation over time often being the indicator of ‘value’, many 20th century works are being deselected from physical library collections. …

Edward A. McCourt (1907-1972) is an example of just one of these Canadian creators. Raised in Alberta and a graduate of the University of Alberta, Edward went on to be a Rhodes Scholar in 1932. In 1980, Winnifred Bogaards wrote that:

“[H]e recorded over a period of thirty years his particular vision of the prairies, the region of Canada which had irrevocably shaped his own life. In that time he published five novels and forty-three short stories set (with some exceptions among the earliest stories) in Western Canada, three juvenile works based on the Riel Rebellion, a travel book on Saskatchewan, several radio plays adapted from his western stories, The Canadian West in Fiction (the first critical study of the literature of the prairies), and a biography of the 19th century English soldier and adventurer, Sir William F. Butler… “

In Bogaards’ analysis of his work, “Edward McCourt: A Reassessment” published in the journal Studies in Canadian Literature, she notes that while McCourt has suffered in obscurity, he is often cited along with his contemporaries Hugh MacLennan, Robertson Davies and Irving Layton; Canadian literary stars. Incidentally, we will also wait an additional 20 years for their works to enter the public domain. The work of Rebecca Giblin, Jacob Flynn, and Francois Petitjean, looking at ‘What Happens When Books Enter the Public Domain?’ is relevant here. Their study shows concretely and empirically that extending copyright has no benefit to the public at all, and only benefits a very few wealthy, well known estates and companies. This term extension will not encourage the publishers of McCourt’s works to invest in making his writing available to a new generation of readers.

This 20 year extension can trace its roots to the trade agreement between the US, Mexico, and Canada (USMCA) that replaced the previous North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), as of July 1, 2020. This is made clear in Michael Geist’s May 2, 2022 Law Bytes podcast where he discusses with Lucie Guibault the (then proposed) Canadian extension in the context of international standards,

Lucie Guibault is an internationally renowned expert on international copyright law, a Professor of Law and Associate Dean at Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, and the Associate Director of the school’s Law and Technology Institute.

It’s always good to get some context and in that spirit, here’s more from Michael Geist’s May 2, 2022 Law Bytes podcast,

… Despite recommendations from its own copyright review, students, teachers, librarians, and copyright experts to include a registration requirement [emphasis mine] for the additional 20 years of protection, the government chose to extend term without including protection to mitigate against the harms.

Geist’s podcast discussion with Guibault, where she explains what a ‘registration requirement’ is and how it would work plus more, runs for almost 27 mins. (May 2, 2022 Law Bytes podcast). One final comment, visual artists and musicians are also affected by copyright rules.

FrogHeart’s 2022 comes to an end as 2023 comes into view

I look forward to 2023 and hope it will be as stimulating as 2022 proved to be. Here’s an overview of the year that was on this blog:

Sounds of science

It seems 2022 was the year that science discovered the importance of sound and the possibilities of data sonification. Neither is new but this year seemed to signal a surge of interest or maybe I just happened to stumble onto more of the stories than usual.

This is not an exhaustive list, you can check out my ‘Music’ category for more here. I have tried to include audio files with the postings but it all depends on how accessible the researchers have made them.

Aliens on earth: machinic biology and/or biological machinery?

When I first started following stories in 2008 (?) about technology or machinery being integrated with the human body, it was mostly about assistive technologies such as neuroprosthetics. You’ll find most of this year’s material in the ‘Human Enhancement’ category or you can search the tag ‘machine/flesh’.

However, the line between biology and machine became a bit more blurry for me this year. You can see what’s happening in the titles listed below (you may recognize the zenobot story; there was an earlier version of xenobots featured here in 2021):

This was the story that shook me,

Are the aliens going to come from outer space or are we becoming the aliens?

Brains (biological and otherwise), AI, & our latest age of anxiety

As we integrate machines into our bodies, including our brains, there are new issues to consider:

  • Going blind when your neural implant company flirts with bankruptcy (long read) April 5, 2022 posting
  • US National Academies Sept. 22-23, 2022 workshop on techno, legal & ethical issues of brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) September 21, 2022 posting

I hope the US National Academies issues a report on their “Brain-Machine and Related Neural Interface Technologies: Scientific, Technical, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues – A Workshop” for 2023.

Meanwhile the race to create brainlike computers continues and I have a number of posts which can be found under the category of ‘neuromorphic engineering’ or you can use these search terms ‘brainlike computing’ and ‘memristors’.

On the artificial intelligence (AI) side of things, I finally broke down and added an ‘artificial intelligence (AI) category to this blog sometime between May and August 2021. Previously, I had used the ‘robots’ category as a catchall. There are other stories but these ones feature public engagement and policy (btw, it’s a Canadian Science Policy Centre event), respectively,

  • “The “We are AI” series gives citizens a primer on AI” March 23, 2022 posting
  • “Age of AI and Big Data – Impact on Justice, Human Rights and Privacy Zoom event on September 28, 2022 at 12 – 1:30 pm EDT” September 16, 2022 posting

These stories feature problems, which aren’t new but seem to be getting more attention,

While there have been issues over AI, the arts, and creativity previously, this year they sprang into high relief. The list starts with my two-part review of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s AI show; I share most of my concerns in part two. The third post covers intellectual property issues (mostly visual arts but literary arts get a nod too). The fourth post upends the discussion,

  • “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know? Artificial Intelligence at the Vancouver (Canada) Art Gallery (1 of 2): The Objects” July 28, 2022 posting
  • “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know? Artificial Intelligence at the Vancouver (Canada) Art Gallery (2 of 2): Meditations” July 28, 2022 posting
  • “AI (artificial intelligence) and art ethics: a debate + a Botto (AI artist) October 2022 exhibition in the Uk” October 24, 2022 posting
  • Should AI algorithms get patents for their inventions and is anyone talking about copyright for texts written by AI algorithms? August 30, 2022 posting

Interestingly, most of the concerns seem to be coming from the visual and literary arts communities; I haven’t come across major concerns from the music community. (The curious can check out Vancouver’s Metacreation Lab for Artificial Intelligence [located on a Simon Fraser University campus]. I haven’t seen any cautionary or warning essays there; it’s run by an AI and creativity enthusiast [professor Philippe Pasquier]. The dominant but not sole focus is art, i.e., music and AI.)

There is a ‘new kid on the block’ which has been attracting a lot of attention this month. If you’re curious about the latest and greatest AI anxiety,

  • Peter Csathy’s December 21, 2022 Yahoo News article (originally published in The WRAP) makes this proclamation in the headline “Chat GPT Proves That AI Could Be a Major Threat to Hollywood Creatives – and Not Just Below the Line | PRO Insight”
  • Mouhamad Rachini’s December 15, 2022 article for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) online news overs a more generalized overview of the ‘new kid’ along with an embedded CBC Radio file which runs approximately 19 mins. 30 secs. It’s titled “ChatGPT a ‘landmark event’ for AI, but what does it mean for the future of human labour and disinformation?” The chat bot’s developer, OpenAI, has been mentioned here many times including the previously listed July 28, 2022 posting (part two of the VAG review) and the October 24, 2022 posting.

Opposite world (quantum physics in Canada)

Quantum computing made more of an impact here (my blog) than usual. it started in 2021 with the announcement of a National Quantum Strategy in the Canadian federal government budget for that year and gained some momentum in 2022:

  • “Quantum Mechanics & Gravity conference (August 15 – 19, 2022) launches Vancouver (Canada)-based Quantum Gravity Institute and more” July 26, 2022 posting Note: This turned into one of my ‘in depth’ pieces where I comment on the ‘Canadian quantum scene’ and highlight the appointment of an expert panel for the Council of Canada Academies’ report on Quantum Technologies.
  • “Bank of Canada and Multiverse Computing model complex networks & cryptocurrencies with quantum computing” July 25, 2022 posting
  • “Canada, quantum technology, and a public relations campaign?” December 29, 2022 posting

This one was a bit of a puzzle with regard to placement in this end-of-year review, it’s quantum but it’s also about brainlike computing

It’s getting hot in here

Fusion energy made some news this year.

There’s a Vancouver area company, General Fusion, highlighted in both postings and the October posting includes an embedded video of Canadian-born rapper Baba Brinkman’s “You Must LENR” [L ow E nergy N uclear R eactions or sometimes L attice E nabled N anoscale R eactions or Cold Fusion or CANR (C hemically A ssisted N uclear R eactions)].

BTW, fusion energy can generate temperatures up to 150 million degrees Celsius.

Ukraine, science, war, and unintended consequences

Here’s what you might expect,

These are the unintended consequences (from Rachel Kyte’s, Dean of the Fletcher School, Tufts University, December 26, 2022 essay on The Conversation [h/t December 27, 2022 news item on phys.org]), Note: Links have been removed,

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has reverberated through Europe and spread to other countries that have long been dependent on the region for natural gas. But while oil-producing countries and gas lobbyists are arguing for more drilling, global energy investments reflect a quickening transition to cleaner energy. [emphasis mine]

Call it the Putin effect – Russia’s war is speeding up the global shift away from fossil fuels.

In December [2022?], the International Energy Agency [IEA] published two important reports that point to the future of renewable energy.

First, the IEA revised its projection of renewable energy growth upward by 30%. It now expects the world to install as much solar and wind power in the next five years as it installed in the past 50 years.

The second report showed that energy use is becoming more efficient globally, with efficiency increasing by about 2% per year. As energy analyst Kingsmill Bond at the energy research group RMI noted, the two reports together suggest that fossil fuel demand may have peaked. While some low-income countries have been eager for deals to tap their fossil fuel resources, the IEA warns that new fossil fuel production risks becoming stranded, or uneconomic, in the next 20 years.

Kyte’s essay is not all ‘sweetness and light’ but it does provide a little optimism.

Kudos, nanotechnology, culture (pop & otherwise), fun, and a farewell in 2022

This one was a surprise for me,

Sometimes I like to know where the money comes from and I was delighted to learn of the Ărramăt Project funded through the federal government’s New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF). Here’s more about the Ărramăt Project from the February 14, 2022 posting,

“The Ărramăt Project is about respecting the inherent dignity and interconnectedness of peoples and Mother Earth, life and livelihood, identity and expression, biodiversity and sustainability, and stewardship and well-being. Arramăt is a word from the Tamasheq language spoken by the Tuareg people of the Sahel and Sahara regions which reflects this holistic worldview.” (Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine)

Over 150 Indigenous organizations, universities, and other partners will work together to highlight the complex problems of biodiversity loss and its implications for health and well-being. The project Team will take a broad approach and be inclusive of many different worldviews and methods for research (i.e., intersectionality, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary). Activities will occur in 70 different kinds of ecosystems that are also spiritually, culturally, and economically important to Indigenous Peoples.

The project is led by Indigenous scholars and activists …

Kudos to the federal government and all those involved in the Salmon science camps, the Ărramăt Project, and other NFRF projects.

There are many other nanotechnology posts here but this appeals to my need for something lighter at this point,

  • “Say goodbye to crunchy (ice crystal-laden) in ice cream thanks to cellulose nanocrystals (CNC)” August 22, 2022 posting

The following posts tend to be culture-related, high and/or low but always with a science/nanotechnology edge,

Sadly, it looks like 2022 is the last year that Ada Lovelace Day is to be celebrated.

… this year’s Ada Lovelace Day is the final such event due to lack of financial backing. Suw Charman-Anderson told the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] the reason it was now coming to an end was:

You can read more about it here:

In the rearview mirror

A few things that didn’t fit under the previous heads but stood out for me this year. Science podcasts, which were a big feature in 2021, also proliferated in 2022. I think they might have peaked and now (in 2023) we’ll see what survives.

Nanotechnology, the main subject on this blog, continues to be investigated and increasingly integrated into products. You can search the ‘nanotechnology’ category here for posts of interest something I just tried. It surprises even me (I should know better) how broadly nanotechnology is researched and applied.

If you want a nice tidy list, Hamish Johnston in a December 29, 2022 posting on the Physics World Materials blog has this “Materials and nanotechnology: our favourite research in 2022,” Note: Links have been removed,

“Inherited nanobionics” makes its debut

The integration of nanomaterials with living organisms is a hot topic, which is why this research on “inherited nanobionics” is on our list. Ardemis Boghossian at EPFL [École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne] in Switzerland and colleagues have shown that certain bacteria will take up single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs). What is more, when the bacteria cells split, the SWCNTs are distributed amongst the daughter cells. The team also found that bacteria containing SWCNTs produce a significantly more electricity when illuminated with light than do bacteria without nanotubes. As a result, the technique could be used to grow living solar cells, which as well as generating clean energy, also have a negative carbon footprint when it comes to manufacturing.

Getting to back to Canada, I’m finding Saskatchewan featured more prominently here. They do a good job of promoting their science, especially the folks at the Canadian Light Source (CLS), Canada’s synchrotron, in Saskatoon. Canadian live science outreach events seeming to be coming back (slowly). Cautious organizers (who have a few dollars to spare) are also enthusiastic about hybrid events which combine online and live outreach.

After what seems like a long pause, I’m stumbling across more international news, e.g. “Nigeria and its nanotechnology research” published December 19, 2022 and “China and nanotechnology” published September 6, 2022. I think there’s also an Iran piece here somewhere.

With that …

Making resolutions in the dark

Hopefully this year I will catch up with the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) output and finally review a few of their 2021 reports such as Leaps and Boundaries; a report on artificial intelligence applied to science inquiry and, perhaps, Powering Discovery; a report on research funding and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Given what appears to a renewed campaign to have germline editing (gene editing which affects all of your descendants) approved in Canada, I might even reach back to a late 2020 CCA report, Research to Reality; somatic gene and engineered cell therapies. it’s not the same as germline editing but gene editing exists on a continuum.

For anyone who wants to see the CCA reports for themselves they can be found here (both in progress and completed).

I’m also going to be paying more attention to how public relations and special interests influence what science is covered and how it’s covered. In doing this 2022 roundup, I noticed that I featured an overview of fusion energy not long before the breakthrough. Indirect influence on this blog?

My post was precipitated by an article by Alex Pasternak in Fast Company. I’m wondering what precipitated Alex Pasternack’s interest in fusion energy since his self-description on the Huffington Post website states this “… focus on the intersections of science, technology, media, politics, and culture. My writing about those and other topics—transportation, design, media, architecture, environment, psychology, art, music … .”

He might simply have received a press release that stimulated his imagination and/or been approached by a communications specialist or publicists with an idea. There’s a reason for why there are so many public relations/media relations jobs and agencies.

Que sera, sera (Whatever will be, will be)

I can confidently predict that 2023 has some surprises in store. I can also confidently predict that the European Union’s big research projects (1B Euros each in funding for the Graphene Flagship and Human Brain Project over a ten year period) will sunset in 2023, ten years after they were first announced in 2013. Unless, the powers that be extend the funding past 2023.

I expect the Canadian quantum community to provide more fodder for me in the form of a 2023 report on Quantum Technologies from the Council of Canadian academies, if nothing else otherwise.

I’ve already featured these 2023 science events but just in case you missed them,

  • 2023 Preview: Bill Nye the Science Guy’s live show and Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training And Tactical Intelligence Operative Network) coming to Vancouver (Canada) November 24, 2022 posting
  • September 2023: Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand set to welcome women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) November 15, 2022 posting

Getting back to this blog, it may not seem like a new year during the first few weeks of 2023 as I have quite the stockpile of draft posts. At this point I have drafts that are dated from June 2022 and expect to be burning through them so as not to fall further behind but will be interspersing them, occasionally, with more current posts.

Most importantly: a big thank you to everyone who drops by and reads (and sometimes even comments) on my posts!!! it’s very much appreciated and on that note: I wish you all the best for 2023.

World’s smallest record features Christmas classic “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”

Scientists like to have a little fun too as this December 23, 2022 news item on Nanowerk shows,

Measuring only 40 micrometres in diameter, researchers at DTU Physics have made the smallest record ever cut. Featuring the first 25 seconds of the Christmas classic “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” [sic], the single is cut using a new nano-sculpting machine – the Nanofrazor – recently acquired from Heidelberg Instruments. The Nanofrazor can engrave 3D patterns into surfaces with nanoscale resolution, allowing the researchers to create new nanostructures that may pave the way for novel technologies in fields such as quantum devices, magnetic sensors and electron optics.

”I have done lithography for 30 years, and although we’ve had this machine for a while, it still feels like science fiction. We’ve done many experiments, like making a copy of the Mona Lisa in a 12 by 16-micrometre area with a pixel size of ten nanometers. We’ve also printed an image of DTU’s founder – Hans Christian Ørsted – in an 8 by 12-micrometre size with a pixel size of 2.540.000 DPI. To get an idea of the scale we are working at, we could write our signatures on a red blood cell with this thing,” says Professor Peter Bøggild from DTU Physics.

“The most radical thing is that we can create free-form 3D landscapes at that crazy resolution – this grey-scale nanolithography is a true game-changer for our research”.

The scientists show how they inscribed the song onto the world’s smallest record (Note 1: You will not hear the song. Note 2: i don’t know how many times I’ve seen news releases about audio files (a recorded song, fish singing, etc.) that are not included … sigh),

A December 22, 2022 Technical University of Denmark press release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, provides detail about the work,

Nanoscale Christmas record – in stereo
The Nanofrazor is not like a printer adding material to a medium; instead, it works like a CNC (computer numerical controle) machine removing material at precise locations, leaving the desired shape behind. In the case of the miniature pictures of Mona Lisa and H.C. Ørsted, the final image is defined by the line-by-line removal of polymer until a perfect grey-scale image emerges. To Peter Bøggild, an amateur musician and vinyl record enthusiast, the idea of cutting a nanoscale record was obvious.

“We decided that we might as well try and print a record. We’ve taken a snippet of Rocking Around The Christmas Tree and have cut it just like you would cut a normal record—although, since we’re working on the nanoscale, this one isn’t playable on your average turntable. The Nanofrazor was put to work as a record-cutting lathe – converting an audio signal into a spiralled groove on the surface of the medium. In this case, the medium is a different polymer than vinyl. We even encoded the music in stereo – the lateral wriggles is the left channel, whereas the depth modulation contains the right channel. It may be too impractical and expensive to become a hit record. To read the groove, you need a rather costly atomic force microscope or the Nanofrazor, but it is definitely doable.”

High-speed, low-cost nanostructures

The NOVO Foundation grant BIOMAG, which made the Nanofrazor dream possible, is not about cutting Christmas records or printing images of famous people. Peter Bøggild and his colleagues, Tim Booth and Nolan Lassaline, have other plans. They expect that the Nanofrazor will allow them to sculpt 3D nanostructures in extremely precise detail and do so at high speed and low cost – something that is impossible with existing tools.

“We work with 2D materials, and when these ultrathin materials are carefully laid down on the 3D landscapes, they follow the contours of the surface. In short, they curve, and that is a powerful and entirely new way of “programming” materials to do things that no one would believe were possible just fifteen years ago. For instance, when curved in just the right way, graphene behaves as if there is a giant magnetic field when there is, in fact, none. And we can curve it just the right way with the Nanofrazor,” says Peter Bøggild.

Associate professor Tim Booth adds:

“The fact that we can now accurately shape the surfaces with nanoscale precision at pretty much the speed of imagination is a game changer for us. We have many ideas for what to do next and believe that this machine will significantly speed up the prototyping of new structures. Our main goal is to develop novel magnetic sensors for detecting currents in the living brain within the BIOMAG project. Still, we also look forward to creating precisely sculpted potential landscapes with which we can better control electron waves. There is much work to do.”

Postdoc Nolan Lassaline (who cut the Christmas record), was recently awarded a DKK 2 Mio. VILLUM EXPERIMENT grant to create “quantum soap bubbles” in graphene. He will use the grant – and the Nanofrazor – to explore new ways of structuring nanomaterials and develop novel ways of manipulating electrons in atomically thin materials.

“Quantum soap bubbles are smooth electronic potentials where we add artificially tailored disorders. By doing so, we can manipulate how electrons flow in graphene. We hope to understand how electrons move in engineered disordered potentials and explore if this could become a new platform for advanced neural networks and quantum information processing.”

The Nanofrazor system is now part of the DTU Physics NANOMADE’s unique fabrication facility for air-sensitive 2D materials and devices and part of E-MAT, a greater ecosystem for air-sensitive nanomaterials processing and fabrication led by Prof. Nini Pryds, DTU Energy.

While it’s not an audio file from the smallest record, this features Brenda Lee (who first recorded the song in 1958) in a ‘singalong’ version of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,”

Bøggild was last featured here in a December 24, 2021 posting “Season’s Greetings with the world’s thinnest Christmas tree.”

Have a lovely Christmas/Winter Solstice/Kwanzaa/Hannukah/Saturnalia/??? celebration!

Physics of a singing saw could lead to applications in sensing, nanoelectronics, photonics, etc.

I’d forgotten how haunting a musical saw can sound,

An April 22, 2022 news item on Nanowerk announces research into the possibilities of a singing saw,

The eerie, ethereal sound of the singing saw has been a part of folk music traditions around the globe, from China to Appalachia, since the proliferation of cheap, flexible steel in the early 19th century. Made from bending a metal hand saw and bowing it like a cello, the instrument reached its heyday on the vaudeville stages of the early 20th century and has seen a resurgence thanks, in part, to social media.

As it turns out, the unique mathematical physics of the singing saw may hold the key to designing high quality resonators for a range of applications.

In a new paper, a team of researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Department of Physics used the singing saw to demonstrate how the geometry of a curved sheet, like curved metal, could be tuned to create high-quality, long-lasting oscillations for applications in sensing, nanoelectronics, photonics and more.

An April 21, 2022 Harvard University John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) news release by Leah Burrows (also on EurekAlert but published on April 22, 2022) delves further into physics of singing saws,

“Our research offers a robust principle to design high-quality resonators independent of scale and material, from macroscopic musical instruments to nanoscale devices, simply through a combination of geometry and topology,” said L Mahadevan, the Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and of Physics and senior author of the study.

While all musical instruments are acoustic resonators of a kind, none work quite like the singing saw.

“How the singing saw sings is based on a surprising effect,” said Petur Bryde, a graduate student at SEAS and co-first author of the paper. “When you strike a flat elastic sheet, such as a sheet of metal, the entire structure vibrates. The energy is quickly lost through the boundary where it is held, resulting in a dull sound that dissipates quickly. The same result is observed if you curve it into a J-shape. But, if you bend the sheet into an S-shape, you can make it vibrate in a very small area, which produces a clear, long-lasting tone.”

The geometry of the curved saw creates what musicians call the sweet spot and what physicists call localized vibrational modes — a confined area on the sheet which resonates without losing energy at the edges.

Importantly, the specific geometry of the S-curve doesn’t matter. It could be an S with a big curve at the top and a small curve at the bottom or visa versa. 

“Musicians and researchers have known about this robust effect of geometry for some time, but the underlying mechanisms have remained a mystery,” said Suraj Shankar, a Harvard Junior Fellow in Physics and SEAS and co-first author of the study.  “We found a mathematical argument that explains how and why this robust effect exists with any shape within this class, so that the details of the shape are unimportant, and the only fact that matters is that there is a reversal of curvature along the saw.”

Shankar, Bryde and Mahadevan found that explanation via an analogy to very different class of physical systems — topological insulators. Most often associated with quantum physics, topological insulators are materials that conduct electricity in their surface or edge but not in the middle and no matter how you cut these materials, they will always conduct on their edges.

“In this work, we drew a mathematical analogy between the acoustics of bent sheets and these quantum and electronic systems,” said Shankar.

By using the mathematics of topological systems, the researchers found that the localized vibrational modes in the sweet spot of singing saw were governed by a topological parameter that can be computed and which relies on nothing more than the existence of two opposite curves in the material. The sweet spot then behaves like an internal “edge” in the saw.

“By using experiments, theoretical and numerical analysis, we showed that the S-curvature in a thin shell can localize topologically-protected modes at the ‘sweet spot’ or inflection line, similar to exotic edge states in topological insulators,” said Bryde. “This phenomenon is material independent, meaning it will appear in steel, glass or even graphene.”

The researchers also found that they could tune the localization of the mode by changing the shape of the S-curve, which is important in applications such as sensing, where you need a resonator that is tuned to very specific frequencies.

Next, the researchers aim to explore localized modes in doubly curved structures, such as bells and other shapes.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Geometric control of topological dynamics in a singing saw by Suraj Shankar, Petur Bryde, and L. Mahadevan. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) April 21, 2022 | 119 (17) e2117241119 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2117241119

This paper is open (free) access.

AI & creativity events for August and September 2022 (mostly)

This information about these events and papers comes courtesy of the Metacreation Lab for Creative AI (artificial intelligence) at Simon Fraser University and, as usual for the lab, the emphasis is on music.

Music + AI Reading Group @ Mila x Vector Institute

Philippe Pasquier, Metacreation Lab director and professor, is giving a presentation on Friday, August 12, 2022 at 11 am PST (2 pm EST). Here’s more from the August 10, 2022 Metacreation Lab announcement (received via email),

Metacreaton Lab director Philippe Pasquier and PhD researcher Jeff Enns will be presenting next week [tomorrow on August 12 ,2022] at the Music + AI Reading Group hosted by Mila. The presentation will be available as a Zoom meeting. 

Mila is a community of more than 900 researchers specializing in machine learning and dedicated to scientific excellence and innovation. The institute is recognized for its expertise and significant contributions in areas such as modelling language, machine translation, object recognition and generative models.

I believe it’s also possible to view the presentation from the Music + AI Reading Group at MILA: presentation by Dr. Philippe Pasquier webpage on the Simon Fraser University website.

For anyone curious about Mila – Québec Artificial Intelligence Institute (based in Montréal) and the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence (based in Toronto), both are part of the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy (a Canadian federal government funding initiative).

Getting back to the Music + AI Reading Group @ Mila x Vector Institute, there is an invitation to join the group which meets every Friday at 2 pm EST, from the Google group page,

unread,Feb 24, 2022, 2:47:23 PMto Community Announcements🎹🧠🚨Online Music + AI Reading Group @ Mila x Vector Institute 🎹🧠🚨

Dear members of the ISMIR [International Society for Music Information Retrieval] Community,

Together with fellow researchers at Mila (the Québec AI Institute) in Montréal, canada [sic], we have the pleasure of inviting you to join the Music + AI Reading Group @ Mila x Vector Institute. Our reading group gathers every Friday at 2pm Eastern Time. Our purpose is to build an interdisciplinary forum of researchers, students and professors alike, across industry and academia, working at the intersection of Music and Machine Learning. 

During each meeting, a speaker presents a research paper of their choice during 45’, leaving 15 minutes for questions and discussion. The purpose of the reading group is to :
– Gather a group of Music+AI/HCI [human-computer interface]/others people to share their research, build collaborations, and meet peer students. We are not constrained to any specific research directions, and all people are welcome to contribute.
– People share research ideas and brainstorm with others.
– Researchers not actively working on music-related topics but interested in the field can join and keep up with the latest research in the area, sharing their thoughts and bringing in their own backgrounds.

Our topics of interest cover (beware : the list is not exhaustive !) :
🎹 Music Generation
🧠 Music Understanding
📇 Music Recommendation
🗣  Source Separation and Instrument Recognition
🎛  Acoustics
🗿 Digital Humanities …
🙌  … and more (we are waiting for you :]) !


If you wish to attend one of our upcoming meetings, simply join our Google Group : https://groups.google.com/g/music_reading_group. You will automatically subscribe to our weekly mailing list and be able to contact other members of the group.

Here is the link to our Youtube Channel where you’ll find recordings of our past meetings : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdrzCFRsIFGw2fiItAk5_Og.
Here are general information about the reading group (presentation slides) : https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1zkqooIksXDuD4rI2wVXiXZQmXXiAedtsAqcicgiNYLY/edit?usp=sharing.

Finally, if you would like to contribute and give a talk about your own research, feel free to fill in the following spreadhseet in the slot of your choice ! —> https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1skb83P8I30XHmjnmyEbPAboy3Lrtavt_jHrD-9Q5U44/edit?usp=sharing

Bravo to the two student organizers for putting this together!

Calliope Composition Environment for music makers

From the August 10, 2022 Metacreation Lab announcement,

Calling all music makers! We’d like to share some exciting news on one of the latest music creation tools from its creators, and   .

Calliope is an interactive environment based on MMM for symbolic music generation in computer-assisted composition. Using this environment, the user can generate or regenerate symbolic music from a “seed” MIDI file by using a practical and easy-to-use graphical user interface (GUI). Through MIDI streaming, the  system can interface with your favourite DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) such as Ableton Live, allowing creators to combine the possibilities of generative composition with their preferred virtual instruments sound design environments.

The project has now entered an open beta-testing phase, and inviting music creators to try the compositional system on their own! Head to the metacreation website to learn more and register for the beta testing.

Learn More About Calliope Here

You can also listen to a Calliope piece “the synthrider,” an Italo-disco fantasy of a machine, by Philippe Pasquier and Renaud Bougueng Tchemeube for the 2022 AI Song Contest.

3rd Conference on AI Music Creativity (AIMC 2022)

This in an online conference and it’s free but you do have to register. From the August 10, 2022 Metacreation Lab announcement,

Registration has opened  for the 3rd Conference on AI Music Creativity (AIMC 2022), which will be held 13-15 September, 2022. The conference features 22 accepted papers, 14 music works, and 2 workshops. Registered participants will get full access to the scientific and artistic program, as well as conference workshops and virtual social events. 

The full conference program is now available online

Registration, free but mandatory, is available here:

Free Registration for AIMC 2022 

The conference theme is “The Sound of Future Past — Colliding AI with Music Tradition” and I noticed that a number of the organizers are based in Japan. Often, the organizers’ home country gets some extra time in the spotlight, which is what makes these international conferences so interesting and valuable.

Autolume Live

This concerns generative adversarial networks (GANs) and a paper proposing “… Autolume-Live, the first GAN-based live VJing-system for controllable video generation.”

Here’s more from the August 10, 2022 Metacreation Lab announcement,

Jonas Kraasch & Phiippe Pasquier recently presented their latest work on the Autolume system at xCoAx, the 10th annual Conference on Computation, Communication, Aesthetics & X. Their paper is an in-depth exploration of the ways that creative artificial intelligence is increasingly used to generate static and animated visuals. 

While there are a host of systems to generate images, videos and music videos, there is a lack of real-time video synthesisers for live music performances. To address this gap, Kraasch and Pasquier propose Autolume-Live, the first GAN-based live VJing-system for controllable video generation.

Autolume Live on xCoAx proceedings  

As these things go, the paper is readable even by nonexperts (assuming you have some tolerance for being out of your depth from time to time). Here’s an example of the text and an installation (in Kelowna, BC) from the paper, Autolume-Live: Turning GANsinto a Live VJing tool,

Due to the 2020-2022 situation surrounding COVID-19, we were unable to use
our system to accompany live performances. We have used different iterations
of Autolume-Live to create two installations. We recorded some curated sessions
and displayed them at the Distopya sound art festival in Istanbul 2021 (Dystopia
Sound and Art Festival 2021) and Light-Up Kelowna 2022 (ARTSCO 2022) [emphasis mine]. In both iterations, we let the audio mapping automatically generate the video without using any of the additional image manipulations. These installations show
that the system on its own is already able to generate interesting and responsive
visuals for a musical piece.

For the installation at the Distopya sound art festival we trained a Style-GAN2 (-ada) model on abstract paintings and rendered a video using the de-scribed Latent Space Traversal mapping. For this particular piece we ran a super-resolution model on the final video as the original video output was in 512×512 and the wanted resolution was 4k. For our piece at Light-Up Kelowna [emphasis mine] we ran Autolume-Live with the Latent Space Interpolation mapping. The display included three urban screens, which allowed us to showcase three renders at the same time. We composed a video triptych using a dataset of figure drawings, a dataset of medical sketches and to tie the two videos together a model trained on a mixture of both datasets.

I found some additional information about the installation in Kelowna (from a February 7, 2022 article in The Daily Courier),

The artwork is called ‘Autolume Acedia’.

“(It) is a hallucinatory meditation on the ancient emotion called acedia. Acedia describes a mixture of contemplative apathy, nervous nostalgia, and paralyzed angst,” the release states. “Greek monks first described this emotion two millennia ago, and it captures the paradoxical state of being simultaneously bored and anxious.”

Algorithms created the set-to-music artwork but a team of humans associated with Simon Fraser University, including Jonas Kraasch and Philippe Pasquier, was behind the project.

These are among the artistic images generated by a form of artificial intelligence now showing nightly on the exterior of the Rotary Centre for the Arts in downtown Kelowna. [downloaded from https://www.kelownadailycourier.ca/news/article_6f3cefea-886c-11ec-b239-db72e804c7d6.html]

You can find the videos used in the installation and more information on the Metacreation Lab’s Autolume Acedia webpage.

Movement and the Metacreation Lab

Here’s a walk down memory lane: Tom Calvert, a professor at Simon Fraser University (SFU) and deceased September 28, 2021, laid the groundwork for SFU’s School of Interactive Arts & Technology (SIAT) and, in particular studies in movement. From SFU’s In memory of Tom Calvert webpage,

As a researcher, Tom was most interested in computer-based tools for user interaction with multimedia systems, human figure animation, software for dance, and human-computer interaction. He made significant contributions to research in these areas resulting in the Life Forms system for human figure animation and the DanceForms system for dance choreography. These are now developed and marketed by Credo Interactive Inc., a software company of which he was CEO.

While the Metacreation Lab is largely focused on music, other fields of creativity are also studied, from the August 10, 2022 Metacreation Lab announcement,

MITACS Accelerate award – partnership with Kinetyx

We are excited to announce that the Metacreation Lab researchers will be expanding their work on motion capture and movement data thanks to a new MITACS Accelerate research award. 

The project will focus on ​​body pose estimation using Motion Capture data acquisition through a partnership with Kinetyx, a Calgary-based innovative technology firm that develops in-shoe sensor-based solutions for a broad range of sports and performance applications.

Movement Database – MoDa

On the subject of motion data and its many uses in conjunction with machine learning and AI, we invite you to check out the extensive Movement Database (MoDa), led by transdisciplinary artist and scholar Shannon Cyukendall, and AI Researcher Omid Alemi. 

Spanning a wide range of categories such as dance, affect-expressive movements, gestures, eye movements, and more, this database offers a wealth of experiments and captured data available in a variety of formats.

Explore the MoDa Database

MITACS (originally a federal government mathematics-focused Network Centre for Excellence) is now a funding agency (most of the funds they distribute come from the federal government) for innovation.

As for the Calgary-based company (in the province of Alberta for those unfamiliar with Canadian geography), here they are in their own words (from the Kinetyx About webpage),

Kinetyx® is a diverse group of talented engineers, designers, scientists, biomechanists, communicators, and creators, along with an energy trader, and a medical doctor that all bring a unique perspective to our team. A love of movement and the science within is the norm for the team, and we’re encouraged to put our sensory insoles to good use. We work closely together to make movement mean something.

We’re working towards a future where movement is imperceptibly quantified and indispensably communicated with insights that inspire action. We’re developing sensory insoles that collect high-fidelity data where the foot and ground intersect. Capturing laboratory quality data, out in the real world, unlocking entirely new ways to train, study, compete, and play. The insights we provide will unlock unparalleled performance, increase athletic longevity, and provide a clear path to return from injury. We transform lives by empowering our growing community to remain moved.

We believe that high quality data is essential for us to have a meaningful place in the Movement Metaverse [1]. Our team of engineers, sport scientists, and developers work incredibly hard to ensure that our insoles and the insights we gather from them will meet or exceed customer expectations. The forces that are created and experienced while standing, walking, running, and jumping are inferred by many wearables, but our sensory insoles allow us to measure, in real-time, what’s happening at the foot-ground intersection. Measurements of force and power in addition to other traditional gait metrics, will provide a clear picture of a part of the Kinesome [2] that has been inaccessible for too long. Our user interface will distill enormous amounts of data into meaningful insights that will lead to positive behavioral change. 

[1] The Movement Metaverse is the collection of ever-evolving immersive experiences that seamlessly span both the physical and virtual worlds with unprecedented interoperability.

[2] Kinesome is the dynamic characterization and quantification encoded in an individual’s movement and activity. Broadly; an individual’s unique and dynamic movement profile. View the kinesome nft. [Note: Was not able to successfully open link as of August 11, 2022)

“… make movement mean something … .” Really?

The reference to “… energy trader …” had me puzzled but an August 11, 2022 Google search at 11:53 am PST unearthed this,

An energy trader is a finance professional who manages the sales of valuable energy resources like gas, oil, or petroleum. An energy trader is expected to handle energy production and financial matters in such a fast-paced workplace.May 16, 2022

Perhaps a new meaning for the term is emerging?

AI and visual art show in Vancouver (Canada)

The Vancouver Art Gallery’s (VAG) latest exhibition, “The Imitation Game: Visual Culture in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” is running March 5, 2022 – October 23, 2022. Should you be interested in an exhaustive examination of the exhibit and more, I have a two-part commentary: Mad, bad, and dangerous to know? Artificial Intelligence at the Vancouver (Canada) Art Gallery (1 of 2): The Objects and Mad, bad, and dangerous to know? Artificial Intelligence at the Vancouver (Canada) Art Gallery (2 of 2): Meditations.

Enjoy the show and/or the commentary, as well as, any other of the events and opportunities listed in this post.

Mad, bad, and dangerous to know? Artificial Intelligence at the Vancouver (Canada) Art Gallery (2 of 2): Meditations

Dear friend,

I thought it best to break this up a bit. There are a couple of ‘objects’ still to be discussed but this is mostly the commentary part of this letter to you. (Here’s a link for anyone who stumbled here but missed Part 1.)

Ethics, the natural world, social justice, eeek, and AI

Dorothy Woodend in her March 10, 2022 review for The Tyee) suggests some ethical issues in her critique of the ‘bee/AI collaboration’ and she’s not the only one with concerns. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has produced global recommendations for ethical AI (see my March 18, 2022 posting). More recently, there’s “Racist and sexist robots have flawed AI,” a June 23, 2022 posting, where researchers prepared a conference presentation and paper about deeply flawed AI still being used in robots.

Ultimately, the focus is always on humans and Woodend has extended the ethical AI conversation to include insects and the natural world. In short, something less human-centric.

My friend, this reference to the de Young exhibit may seem off topic but I promise it isn’t in more ways than one. The de Young Museum in San Francisco (February 22, 2020 – June 27, 2021) also held and AI and art show called, “Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI”), from the exhibitions page,

In today’s AI-driven world, increasingly organized and shaped by algorithms that track, collect, and evaluate our data, the question of what it means to be human [emphasis mine] has shifted. Uncanny Valley is the first major exhibition to unpack this question through a lens of contemporary art and propose new ways of thinking about intelligence, nature, and artifice. [emphasis mine]

Courtesy: de Young Museum [downloaded from https://deyoung.famsf.org/exhibitions/uncanny-valley]

As you can see, it hinted (perhaps?) at an attempt to see beyond human-centric AI. (BTW, I featured this ‘Uncanny Valley’ show in my February 25, 2020 posting where I mentioned Stephanie Dinkins [featured below] and other artists.)

Social justice

While the VAG show doesn’t see much past humans and AI, it does touch on social justice. In particular there’s Pod 15 featuring the Algorithmic Justice League (AJL). The group “combine[s] art and research to illuminate the social implications and harms of AI” as per their website’s homepage.

In Pod 9, Stephanie Dinkins’ video work with a robot (Bina48), which was also part of the de Young Museum ‘Uncanny Valley’ show, addresses some of the same issues.

Still of Stephanie Dinkins, “Conversations with Bina48,” 2014–present. Courtesy of the artist [downloaded from https://deyoung.famsf.org/stephanie-dinkins-conversations-bina48-0]

From the the de Young Museum’s Stephanie Dinkins “Conversations with Bina48” April 23, 2020 article by Janna Keegan (Dinkins submitted the same work you see at the VAG show), Note: Links have been removed,

Transdisciplinary artist and educator Stephanie Dinkins is concerned with fostering AI literacy. The central thesis of her social practice is that AI, the internet, and other data-based technologies disproportionately impact people of color, LGBTQ+ people, women, and disabled and economically disadvantaged communities—groups rarely given a voice in tech’s creation. Dinkins strives to forge a more equitable techno-future by generating AI that includes the voices of multiple constituencies …

The artist’s ongoing Conversations with Bina48 takes the form of a series of interactions with the social robot Bina48 (Breakthrough Intelligence via Neural Architecture, 48 exaflops per second). The machine is the brainchild of Martine Rothblatt, an entrepreneur in the field of biopharmaceuticals who, with her wife, Bina, cofounded the Terasem Movement, an organization that seeks to extend human life through cybernetic means. In 2007 Martine commissioned Hanson Robotics to create a robot whose appearance and consciousness simulate Bina’s. The robot was released in 2010, and Dinkins began her work with it in 2014.

Part psychoanalytical discourse, part Turing test, Conversations with Bina48 also participates in a larger dialogue regarding bias and representation in technology. Although Bina Rothblatt is a Black woman, Bina48 was not programmed with an understanding of its Black female identity or with knowledge of Black history. Dinkins’s work situates this omission amid the larger tech industry’s lack of diversity, drawing attention to the problems that arise when a roughly homogenous population creates technologies deployed globally. When this occurs, writes art critic Tess Thackara, “the unconscious biases of white developers proliferate on the internet, mapping our social structures and behaviors onto code and repeating imbalances and injustices that exist in the real world.” One of the most appalling and public of these instances occurred when a Google Photos image-recognition algorithm mislabeled the faces of Black people as “gorillas.”

Eeek

You will find as you go through the ‘imitation game’ a pod with a screen showing your movements through the rooms in realtime on a screen. The installation is called “Creepers” (2021-22). The student team from Vancouver’s Centre for Digital Media (CDM) describes their project this way, from the CDM’s AI-driven Installation Piece for the Vancouver Art Gallery webpage,

Project Description

Kaleidoscope [team name] is designing an installation piece that harnesses AI to collect and visualize exhibit visitor behaviours, and interactions with art, in an impactful and thought-provoking way.

There’s no warning that you’re being tracked and you can see they’ve used facial recognition software to track your movements through the show. It’s claimed on the pod’s signage that they are deleting the data once you’ve left.

‘Creepers’ is an interesting approach to the ethics of AI. The name suggests that even the student designers were aware it was problematic.

For the curious, there’s a description of the other VAG ‘imitation game’ installations provided by CDM students on the ‘Master of Digital Media Students Develop Revolutionary Installations for Vancouver Art Gallery AI Exhibition‘ webpage.

In recovery from an existential crisis (meditations)

There’s something greatly ambitious about “The Imitation Game: Visual Culture in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” and walking up the VAG’s grand staircase affirms that ambition. Bravo to the two curators, Grenville and Entis for an exhibition.that presents a survey (or overview) of artificial intelligence, and its use in and impact on creative visual culture.

I’ve already enthused over the history (specifically Turing, Lovelace, Ovid), admitted to being mesmerized by Scott Eaton’s sculpture/AI videos, and confessed to a fascination (and mild repulsion) regarding Oxman’s honeycombs.

It’s hard to remember all of the ‘objects’ as the curators have offered a jumble of work, almost all of them on screens. Already noted, there’s Norbert Wiener’s The Moth (1949) and there are also a number of other computer-based artworks from the 1960s and 1970s. Plus, you’ll find works utilizing a GAN (generative adversarial network), an AI agent that is explained in the exhibit.

It’s worth going more than once to the show as there is so much to experience.

Why did they do that?

Dear friend, I’ve already commented on the poor flow through the show and It’s hard to tell if the curators intended the experience to be disorienting but this is to the point of chaos, especially when the exhibition is crowded.

I’ve seen Grenville’s shows before. In particular there was “MashUp: The Birth of Modern Culture, a massive survey documenting the emergence of a mode of creativity that materialized in the late 1800s and has grown to become the dominant model of cultural production in the 21st century” and there was “KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games + Art.” As you can see from the description, he pulls together disparate works and ideas into a show for you to ‘make sense’ of them.

One of the differences between those shows and the “imitation Game: …” is that most of us have some familiarity, whether we like it or not, with modern art/culture and anime/manga/etc. and can try to ‘make sense’ of it.

By contrast, artificial intelligence (which even experts have difficulty defining) occupies an entirely different set of categories; all of them associated with science/technology. This makes for a different kind of show so the curators cannot rely on the audience’s understanding of basics. It’s effectively an art/sci or art/tech show and, I believe, the first of its kind at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Unfortunately, the curators don’t seem to have changed their approach to accommodate that difference.

AI is also at the centre of a current panic over job loss, loss of personal agency, automated racism and sexism, etc. which makes the experience of viewing the show a little tense. In this context, their decision to commission and use ‘Creepers’ seems odd.

Where were Ai-Da and Dall-E-2 and the others?

Oh friend, I was hoping for a robot. Those roomba paintbots didn’t do much for me. All they did was lie there on the floor

To be blunt I wanted some fun and perhaps a bit of wonder and maybe a little vitality. I wasn’t necessarily expecting Ai-Da, an artisitic robot, but something three dimensional and fun in this very flat, screen-oriented show would have been nice.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-asset.jpeg
Ai-Da was at the Glastonbury Festival in the U from 23-26th June 2022. Here’s Ai-Da and her Billie Eilish (one of the Glastonbury 2022 headliners) portrait. [downloaded from https://www.ai-darobot.com/exhibition]

Ai-Da was first featured here in a December 17, 2021 posting about performing poetry that she had written in honour of the 700th anniversary of poet Dante Alighieri’s death.

Named in honour of Ada Lovelace, Ai-Da visited the 2022 Venice Biennale as Leah Henrickson and Simone Natale describe in their May 12, 2022 article for Fast Company (Note: Links have been removed),

Ai-Da sits behind a desk, paintbrush in hand. She looks up at the person posing for her, and then back down as she dabs another blob of paint onto the canvas. A lifelike portrait is taking shape. If you didn’t know a robot produced it, this portrait could pass as the work of a human artist.

Ai-Da is touted as the “first robot to paint like an artist,” and an exhibition of her work, called Leaping into the Metaverse, opened at the Venice Biennale.

Ai-Da produces portraits of sitting subjects using a robotic hand attached to her lifelike feminine figure. She’s also able to talk, giving detailed answers to questions about her artistic process and attitudes toward technology. She even gave a TEDx talk about “The Intersection of Art and AI” in Oxford a few years ago. While the words she speaks are programmed, Ai-Da’s creators have also been experimenting with having her write and perform her own poetry.

She has her own website.

If not Ai-Da, what about Dall-E-2? Aaron Hertzmann’s June 20, 2022 commentary, “Give this AI a few words of description and it produces a stunning image – but is it art?” investigates for Salon (Note: Links have been removed),

DALL-E 2 is a new neural network [AI] algorithm that creates a picture from a short phrase or sentence that you provide. The program, which was announced by the artificial intelligence research laboratory OpenAI in April 2022, hasn’t been released to the public. But a small and growing number of people – myself included – have been given access to experiment with it.

As a researcher studying the nexus of technology and art, I was keen to see how well the program worked. After hours of experimentation, it’s clear that DALL-E – while not without shortcomings – is leaps and bounds ahead of existing image generation technology. It raises immediate questions about how these technologies will change how art is made and consumed. It also raises questions about what it means to be creative when DALL-E 2 seems to automate so much of the creative process itself.

A July 4, 2022 article “DALL-E, Make Me Another Picasso, Please” by Laura Lane for The New Yorker has a rebuttal to Ada Lovelace’s contention that creativity is uniquely human (Note: A link has been removed),

“There was this belief that creativity is this deeply special, only-human thing,” Sam Altman, OpenAI’s C.E.O., explained the other day. Maybe not so true anymore, he said. Altman, who wore a gray sweater and had tousled brown hair, was videoconferencing from the company’s headquarters, in San Francisco. DALL-E is still in a testing phase. So far, OpenAI has granted access to a select group of people—researchers, artists, developers—who have used it to produce a wide array of images: photorealistic animals, bizarre mashups, punny collages. Asked by a user to generate “a plate of various alien fruits from another planet photograph,” DALL-E returned something kind of like rambutans. “The rest of mona lisa” is, according to DALL-E, mostly just one big cliff. Altman described DALL-E as “an extension of your own creativity.”

There are other AI artists, in my August 16, 2019 posting, I had this,

AI artists first hit my radar in August 2018 when Christie’s Auction House advertised an art auction of a ‘painting’ by an algorithm (artificial intelligence). There’s more in my August 31, 2018 posting but, briefly, a French art collective, Obvious, submitted a painting, “Portrait of Edmond de Belamy,” that was created by an artificial intelligence agent to be sold for an estimated to $7000 – $10,000. They weren’t even close. According to Ian Bogost’s March 6, 2019 article for The Atlantic, the painting sold for $432,500 In October 2018.

That posting also included AI artist, AICAN. Both artist-AI agents (Obvious and AICAN) are based on GANs (generative adversarial networks) for learning and eventual output. Both artist-AI agents work independently or with human collaborators on art works that are available for purchase.

As might be expected not everyone is excited about AI and visual art. Sonja Drimmer, Professor of Medieval Art, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, provides another perspective on AI, visual art, and, her specialty, art history in her November 1, 2021 essay for The Conversation (Note: Links have been removed),

Over the past year alone, I’ve come across articles highlighting how artificial intelligence recovered a “secret” painting of a “lost lover” of Italian painter Modigliani, “brought to life” a “hidden Picasso nude”, “resurrected” Austrian painter Gustav Klimt’s destroyed works and “restored” portions of Rembrandt’s 1642 painting “The Night Watch.” The list goes on.

As an art historian, I’ve become increasingly concerned about the coverage and circulation of these projects.

They have not, in actuality, revealed one secret or solved a single mystery.

What they have done is generate feel-good stories about AI.

Take the reports about the Modigliani and Picasso paintings.

These were projects executed by the same company, Oxia Palus, which was founded not by art historians but by doctoral students in machine learning.

In both cases, Oxia Palus relied upon traditional X-rays, X-ray fluorescence and infrared imaging that had already been carried out and published years prior – work that had revealed preliminary paintings beneath the visible layer on the artists’ canvases.

The company edited these X-rays and reconstituted them as new works of art by applying a technique called “neural style transfer.” This is a sophisticated-sounding term for a program that breaks works of art down into extremely small units, extrapolates a style from them and then promises to recreate images of other content in that same style.

As you can ‘see’ my friend, the topic of AI and visual art is a juicy one. In fact, I have another example in my June 27, 2022 posting, which is titled, “Art appraised by algorithm.” So, Grenville’s and Entis’ decision to focus on AI and its impact on visual culture is quite timely.

Visual culture: seeing into the future

The VAG Imitation Game webpage lists these categories of visual culture “animation, architecture, art, fashion, graphic design, urban design and video games …” as being represented in the show. Movies and visual art, not mentioned in the write up, are represented while theatre and other performing arts are not mentioned or represented. That’ s not a surprise.

In addition to an area of science/technology that’s not well understood even by experts, the curators took on the truly amorphous (and overwhelming) topic of visual culture. Given that even writing this commentary has been a challenge, I imagine pulling the show together was quite the task.

Grenville often grounds his shows in a history of the subject and, this time, it seems especially striking. You’re in a building that is effectively a 19th century construct and in galleries that reflect a 20th century ‘white cube’ aesthetic, while looking for clues into the 21st century future of visual culture employing technology that has its roots in the 19th century and, to some extent, began to flower in the mid-20th century.

Chung’s collaboration is one of the only ‘optimistic’ notes about the future and, as noted earlier, it bears a resemblance to Wiener’s 1949 ‘Moth’

Overall, it seems we are being cautioned about the future. For example, Oxman’s work seems bleak (bees with no flowers to pollinate and living in an eternal spring). Adding in ‘Creepers’ and surveillance along with issues of bias and social injustice reflects hesitation and concern about what we will see, who sees it, and how it will be represented visually.

Learning about robots, automatons, artificial intelligence, and more

I wish the Vancouver Art Gallery (and Vancouver’s other art galleries) would invest a little more in audience education. A couple of tours, by someone who may or may not know what they’re talking, about during the week do not suffice. The extra material about Stephanie Dinkins and her work (“Conversations with Bina48,” 2014–present) came from the de Young Museum’s website. In my July 26, 2021 commentary on North Vancouver’s Polygon Gallery 2021 show “Interior Infinite,” I found background information for artist Zanele Muholi on the Tate Modern’s website. There is nothing on the VAG website that helps you to gain some perspective on the artists’ works.

It seems to me that if the VAG wants to be considered world class, it should conduct itself accordingly and beefing up its website with background information about their current shows would be a good place to start.

Robots, automata, and artificial intelligence

Prior to 1921, robots were known exclusively as automatons. These days, the word ‘automaton’ (or ‘automata’ in the plural) seems to be used to describe purely mechanical representations of humans from over 100 years ago whereas the word ‘robot’ can be either ‘humanlike’ or purely machine, e.g. a mechanical arm that performs the same function over and over. I have a good February 24, 2017 essay on automatons by Miguel Barral for OpenMind BBVA*, which provides some insight into the matter,

The concept of robot is relatively recent. The idea was introduced in 1921 by the Czech writer Karel Capek in his work R.U.R to designate a machine that performs tasks in place of man. But their predecessors, the automatons (from the Greek automata, or “mechanical device that works by itself”), have been the object of desire and fascination since antiquity. Some of the greatest inventors in history, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, have contributed to our fascination with these fabulous creations:

The Al-Jazari automatons

The earliest examples of known automatons appeared in the Islamic world in the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1206, the Arab polymath Al-Jazari, whose creations were known for their sophistication, described some of his most notable automatons: an automatic wine dispenser, a soap and towels dispenser and an orchestra-automaton that operated by the force of water. This latter invention was meant to liven up parties and banquets with music while floating on a pond, lake or fountain.

As the water flowed, it started a rotating drum with pegs that, in turn, moved levers whose movement produced different sounds and movements. As the pegs responsible for the musical notes could be exchanged for different ones in order to interpret another melody, it is considered one of the first programmable machines in history.

If you’re curious about automata, my friend, I found this Sept. 26, 2016 ABC news radio news item about singer Roger Daltrey’s and his wife, Heather’s auction of their collection of 19th century French automata (there’s an embedded video showcasing these extraordinary works of art). For more about automata, robots, and androids, there’s an excellent May 4, 2022 article by James Vincent, ‘A visit to the human factory; How to build the world’s most realistic robot‘ for The Verge; Vincent’s article is about Engineered Arts, the UK-based company that built Ai-Da.

AI is often used interchangeably with ‘robot’ but they aren’t the same. Not all robots have AI integrated into their processes. At its simplest AI is an algorithm or set of algorithms, which may ‘live’ in a CPU and be effectively invisible or ‘live’ in or make use of some kind of machine and/or humanlike body. As the experts have noted, the concept of artificial intelligence is a slippery concept.

*OpenMind BBVA is a Spanish multinational financial services company, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), which runs the non-profit project, OpenMind (About us page) to disseminate information on robotics and so much more.*

You can’t always get what you want

My friend,

I expect many of the show’s shortcomings (as perceived by me) are due to money and/or scheduling issues. For example, Ai-Da was at the Venice Biennale and if there was a choice between the VAG and Biennale, I know where I’d be.

Even with those caveats in mind, It is a bit surprising that there were no examples of wearable technology. For example, Toronto’s Tapestry Opera recently performed R.U.R. A Torrent of Light (based on the word ‘robot’ from Karel Čapek’s play, R.U.R., ‘Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti’), from my May 24, 2022 posting,

I have more about tickets prices, dates, and location later in this post but first, here’s more about the opera and the people who’ve created it from the Tapestry Opera’s ‘R.U.R. A Torrent of Light’ performance webpage,

“This stunning new opera combines dance, beautiful multimedia design, a chamber orchestra including 100 instruments creating a unique electronica-classical sound, and wearable technology [emphasis mine] created with OCAD University’s Social Body Lab, to create an immersive and unforgettable science-fiction experience.”

And, from later in my posting,

“Despite current stereotypes, opera was historically a launchpad for all kinds of applied design technologies. [emphasis mine] Having the opportunity to collaborate with OCAD U faculty is an invigorating way to reconnect to that tradition and foster connections between art, music and design, [emphasis mine]” comments the production’s Director Michael Hidetoshi Mori, who is also Tapestry Opera’s Artistic Director. 

That last quote brings me back to the my comment about theatre and performing arts not being part of the show. Of course, the curators couldn’t do it all but a website with my hoped for background and additional information could have helped to solve the problem.

The absence of the theatrical and performing arts in the VAG’s ‘Imitation Game’ is a bit surprising as the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) in their third assessment, “Competing in a Global Innovation Economy: The Current State of R&D in Canada” released in 2018 noted this (from my April 12, 2018 posting),

Canada, relative to the world, specializes in subjects generally referred to as the
humanities and social sciences (plus health and the environment), and does
not specialize as much as others in areas traditionally referred to as the physical
sciences and engineering. Specifically, Canada has comparatively high levels
of research output in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, Public Health and
Health Services, Philosophy and Theology, Earth and Environmental Sciences,
and Visual and Performing Arts. [emphasis mine] It accounts for more than 5% of world research in these fields. Conversely, Canada has lower research output than expected in Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy, Enabling and Strategic Technologies,
Engineering, and Mathematics and Statistics. The comparatively low research
output in core areas of the natural sciences and engineering is concerning,
and could impair the flexibility of Canada’s research base, preventing research
institutions and researchers from being able to pivot to tomorrow’s emerging
research areas. [p. xix Print; p. 21 PDF]

US-centric

My friend,

I was a little surprised that the show was so centered on work from the US given that Grenville has curated ate least one show where there was significant input from artists based in Asia. Both Japan and Korea are very active with regard to artificial intelligence and it’s hard to believe that their artists haven’t kept pace. (I’m not as familiar with China and its AI efforts, other than in the field of facial recognition, but it’s hard to believe their artists aren’t experimenting.)

The Americans, of course, are very important developers in the field of AI but they are not alone and it would have been nice to have seen something from Asia and/or Africa and/or something from one of the other Americas. In fact, anything which takes us out of the same old, same old. (Luba Elliott wrote this (2019/2020/2021?) essay, “Artificial Intelligence Art from Africa and Black Communities Worldwide” on Aya Data if you want to get a sense of some of the activity on the African continent. Elliott does seem to conflate Africa and Black Communities, for some clarity you may want to check out the Wikipedia entry on Africanfuturism, which contrasts with this August 12, 2020 essay by Donald Maloba, “What is Afrofuturism? A Beginner’s Guide.” Maloba also conflates the two.)

As it turns out, Luba Elliott presented at the 2019 Montréal Digital Spring event, which brings me to Canada’s artificial intelligence and arts scene.

I promise I haven’t turned into a flag waving zealot, my friend. It’s just odd there isn’t a bit more given that machine learning was pioneered at the University of Toronto. Here’s more about that (from Wikipedia entry for Geoffrey Hinston),

Geoffrey Everest HintonCCFRSFRSC[11] (born 6 December 1947) is a British-Canadian cognitive psychologist and computer scientist, most noted for his work on artificial neural networks.

Hinton received the 2018 Turing Award, together with Yoshua Bengio [Canadian scientist] and Yann LeCun, for their work on deep learning.[24] They are sometimes referred to as the “Godfathers of AI” and “Godfathers of Deep Learning“,[25][26] and have continued to give public talks together.[27][28]

Some of Hinton’s work was started in the US but since 1987, he has pursued his interests at the University of Toronto. He wasn’t proven right until 2012. Katrina Onstad’s February 29, 2018 article (Mr. Robot) for Toronto Life is a gripping read about Hinton and his work on neural networks. BTW, Yoshua Bengio (co-Godfather) is a Canadian scientist at the Université de Montréal and Yann LeCun (co-Godfather) is a French scientist at New York University.

Then, there’s another contribution, our government was the first in the world to develop a national artificial intelligence strategy. Adding those developments to the CCA ‘State of Science’ report findings about visual arts and performing arts, is there another word besides ‘odd’ to describe the lack of Canadian voices?

You’re going to point out the installation by Ben Bogart (a member of Simon Fraser University’s Metacreation Lab for Creative AI and instructor at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design (ECU)) but it’s based on the iconic US scifi film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. As for the other Canadian, Sougwen Chung, she left Canada pretty quickly to get her undergraduate degree in the US and has since moved to the UK. (You could describe hers as the quintessential success story, i.e., moving from Canada only to get noticed here after success elsewhere.)

Of course, there are the CDM student projects but the projects seem less like an exploration of visual culture than an exploration of technology and industry requirements, from the ‘Master of Digital Media Students Develop Revolutionary Installations for Vancouver Art Gallery AI Exhibition‘ webpage, Note: A link has been removed,

In 2019, Bruce Grenville, Senior Curator at Vancouver Art Gallery, approached [the] Centre for Digital Media to collaborate on several industry projects for the forthcoming exhibition. Four student teams tackled the project briefs over the course of the next two years and produced award-winning installations that are on display until October 23 [2022].

Basically, my friend, it would have been nice to see other voices or, at the least, an attempt at representing other voices and visual cultures informed by AI. As for Canadian contributions, maybe put something on the VAG website?

Playing well with others

it’s always a mystery to me why the Vancouver cultural scene seems comprised of a set of silos or closely guarded kingdoms. Reaching out to the public library and other institutions such as Science World might have cost time but could have enhanced the show

For example, one of the branches of the New York Public Library ran a programme called, “We are AI” in March 2022 (see my March 23, 2022 posting about the five-week course, which was run as a learning circle). The course materials are available for free (We are AI webpage) and I imagine that adding a ‘visual culture module’ wouldn’t be that difficult.

There is one (rare) example of some Vancouver cultural institutions getting together to offer an art/science programme and that was in 2017 when the Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery (at the University of British Columbia; UBC) hosted an exhibition of Santiago Ramon y Cajal’s work (see my Sept. 11, 2017 posting about the gallery show) along with that show was an ancillary event held by the folks at Café Scientifique at Science World and featuring a panel of professionals from UBC’s Faculty of Medicine and Dept. of Psychology, discussing Cajal’s work.

In fact, where were the science and technology communities for this show?

On a related note, the 2022 ACM SIGGRAPH conference (August 7 – 11, 2022) is being held in Vancouver. (ACM is the Association for Computing Machinery; SIGGRAPH is for Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques.) SIGGRAPH has been holding conferences in Vancouver every few years since at least 2011.

At this year’s conference, they have at least two sessions that indicate interests similar to the VAG’s. First, there’s Immersive Visualization for Research, Science and Art which includes AI and machine learning along with other related topics. There’s also, Frontiers Talk: Art in the Age of AI: Can Computers Create Art?

This is both an international conference and an exhibition (of art) and the whole thing seems to have kicked off on July 25, 2022. If you’re interested, the programme can be found here and registration here.

Last time SIGGRAPH was here the organizers seemed interested in outreach and they offered some free events.

In the end

It was good to see the show. The curators brought together some exciting material. As is always the case, there were some missed opportunities and a few blind spots. But all is not lost.

July 27, 2022, the VAG held a virtual event with an artist,

Gwenyth Chao to learn more about what happened to the honeybees and hives in Oxman’s Synthetic Apiary project. As a transdisciplinary artist herself, Chao will also discuss the relationship between art, science, technology and design. She will then guide participants to create a space (of any scale, from insect to human) inspired by patterns found in nature.

Hopefully there will be more more events inspired by specific ‘objects’. Meanwhile, August 12, 2022, the VAG is hosting,

… in partnership with the Canadian Music Centre BC, New Music at the Gallery is a live concert series hosted by the Vancouver Art Gallery that features an array of musicians and composers who draw on contemporary art themes.

Highlighting a selection of twentieth- and twenty-first-century music compositions, this second concert, inspired by the exhibition The Imitation Game: Visual Culture in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, will spotlight The Iliac Suite (1957), the first piece ever written using only a computer, and Kaija Saariaho’s Terra Memoria (2006), which is in a large part dependent on a computer-generated musical process.

It would be lovely if they could include an Ada Lovelace Day event. This is an international celebration held on October 11, 2022.

Do go. Do enjoy, my friend.

Art/Sci exhibit in Toronto, Canada: “These are a Few of Our Favourite Bees” June 22 – July 16, 2022

A “These are a few of Our Favourite Bees” upcoming exhibitions notice on the Campbell House Museum website (also received via email as a June 4, 2022 ArtSci Salon announcement) features a month long exhibit being co-presented with the Canadian Music Centre in Toronto,

Exhibition
Campbell House Museum
June 22 – July 16, 2022
160 Queen Street W.

Opening event
Campbell House,
Saturday July 2,
2 – 4 p.m. [ET]

Artists’ Talk & Webcast
The Canadian Music Centre,
20 St. Joseph Street Toronto
Thursday, July 7
7:30 – 9 p.m. [ET]
(doors open 7 pm)

These are a Few of Our Favourite Bees investigates wild, native bees and their ecology through playful dioramas, video, audio, relief print and poetry. Inspired by lambe lambe – South American miniature puppet stages for a single viewer – four distinct dioramas convey surreal yet enlightening worlds where bees lounge in cozy environs, animals watch educational films [emphasis mine] and ethereal sounds animate bowls of berries (having been pollinated by their diverse bee visitors). Displays reminiscent of natural history museums invite close inspection, revealing minutiae of these tiny, diverse animals, our native bees. From thumb-sized to extremely tiny, fuzzy to hairless, black, yellow, red or emerald green, each native bee tells a story while her actions create the fruits of pollination, reflecting the perpetual dance of animals, plants and planet. With a special appearance by Toronto’s official bee, the jewelled green sweat bee, Agapostemon virescens!

These are a Few of Our Favourite Bees Collective are: Sarah Peebles, Ele Willoughby, Rob Cruickshank & Stephen Humphrey

 The Works

These are a Few of Our Favourite Bees

Sarah Peebles, Ele Willoughby, Rob Cruickshank & Stephen Humphrey

Single-viewer box theatres, dioramas, sculpture, textile art, macro video, audio transducers, poetry, insect specimens, relief print, objects, electronics, colour-coded DNA barcodes.

Bees represented: rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis); jewelled green sweat bee (Agapostemon virescens); masked sweat bee (Hylaeus annulatus); leafcutter bee (Megachile relativa)

In the Landscape

Ele Willoughby & Sarah Peebles

paper, relief print, video projection, audio, audio cable, mixed media

Bee specimens & bee barcodes generously provided by Laurence Packer – Packer Lab, York University; Scott MacIvor – BUGS Lab, U-T [University of Toronto] Scarborough; Sam Droege – USGS [US Geological Survey]; Barcode of Life Data Systems; Antonia Guidotti, Department of Natural History, Royal Ontario Museum

In addition to watching television, animals have been known to interact with touchscreen computers as mentioned in my June 24, 2016 posting, “Animal technology: a touchscreen for your dog, sonar lunch orders for dolphins, and more.”

The “These are a few of Our Favourite Bees” upcoming exhibitions notice features this artist statement for a third piece, “Without A Bee, It Would Not Be” by Tracey Lawko,

In May, my crabapple tree blooms. In August, I pick the ripe crabapples. In September, I make jelly. Then I have breakfast. This would not be without a bee.

It could not be without a bee. The fruit and vegetables I enjoy eating, as well as the roses I admire as centrepieces, all depend on pollination.

Our native pollinators and their habitat are threatened.  Insect populations are declining due to habitat loss, pesticide use, disease and climate change. 75% of flowering plants rely on pollinators to set seed and we humans get one-third of our food from flowering plants.

I invite you to enter this beautiful dining room and consider the importance of pollinators to the enjoyment of your next meal.

Bio

Tracey Lawko employs contemporary textile techniques to showcase changes in our environment. Building on a base of traditional hand-embroidery, free-motion longarm stitching and a love of drawing, her representational work is detailed and “drawn with thread”. Her nature studies draw attention to our native pollinators as she observes them around her studio in the Niagara Escarpment. Many are stitched using a centuries-old, three-dimensional technique called “Stumpwork”.

Tracey’s extensive exhibition history includes solo exhibitions at leading commercial galleries and public museums. Her work has been selected for major North American and International exhibitions, including the Concours International des Mini-Textiles, Musée Jean Lurçat, France, and is held in the permanent collection of the US National Quilt Museum and in private collections in North America and Europe.

Bzzz!

The sound of the mushroom

A May 13, 2022 article by Philip Drost for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) As It Happens radio programme highlights the “From funky fungi to melodious mangos, this artist makes music out of nature” segment of the show, Note: Links have been removed,

At the intersection of biology and electronic music, you can find Tarun Nayar plugging his synthesizer equipment into mushrooms and other forms of plant life, hoping to capture their invisible bioelectric rhythms and build them into tranquil soundscapes. 

“What I’m really doing is trying to stimulate joy and wonder and create these little sketches or vignettes using the plants themselves, so I like to think of it as definitely a collaboration,” Nayar told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.

Nayar is an electronic musician and former biologist in Vancouver who uses his TikTok account and Youtube page, Modern Biology, to show off his serenading spores. And his videos have millions of views.

To make his fungi sing, Nayar uses little jumper cables to connect the vegetation with his synthesizer and measure their biological energy, or bioelectricity, which has an effect on the notes. 

“The mushroom is contributing the pitch changes and the rhythm, and the synthesizer, which I have the mushroom plugged into, is contributing the timbre or the quality of the sound,” Nayar said. 

You may be familiar with Nayar’s work (from a Creative Mornings Vancouver About The Speaker webpage for a talk given on July 3, 2020), Note: Links have been removed,

Tarun Nayar has built his world at intersections. Of east and west. Of music and business. Of science and art. Born to a white Canadian mother and an immigrant Indian father in French Canada, he has always lived in multiple worlds. He is comfortable in discomfort and fascinated with helping people find common ground, opening doors, and equalling the playing field. He is passionate about changing perceptions and championing unheard stories and talent.

rained formally in Indian Classical Music from the age of seven, Tarun’s involvement in Vancouver’s underground electronic music scene in his early 20s led to the formation of well-known Canadian band Delhi 2 Dublin [emphasis mine] in 2006. He has since led the band to Glastonbury (UK), Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (US), Woodford (AUS) and hundreds of other club and festival gigs around the world. Tarun is passionate about creating opportunities in the arts for people of colour. He is Executive Director of 5X Festival [emphasis mine], one of North America’s largest South Asian festivals. He is on the board of Vancouver’s New Forms Festival, the Canadian Live Music Association, and a member of BC’s Ministry of Education Advisory Committee, Vancouver’s Music City Task Force, and Vancouver’s 2018 Juno Host City Committee. Tarun manages emerging Pakistani-Canadian electronic artist Khanvict, and is the co-founder and owner of digital label Snakes x Ladders [emphasis mine] which focuses on the new wave of hybrid South Asian artists.

As best I can determine after looking at the Modern Biology YouTube channel and Tik Tok account, Nayar seems to have started his project or made it public about 10 months ago (August 2021?). There’s lots of mushroom music along with fruit music, and flower music in either location although Tik Tok seems have a more complete collection.

There’s also a Modern Biology page on linktree.ee where you can sign up for an email list. It also features a link to PlantWave, (Note: This is not a product endorsement),

$299.00 USD

Listen to the music of plants. Tune into Nature with PlantWave!

PlantWave allows you to wirelessly connect from your plant to your phone, making it easier than ever to listen to nature’s song.

Pre-orders will ship June of 2022. We sold out of our January run of devices before shipping. Thank you for your patience as we do our best to meet demand for this experience.

Package Includes:

Hardware

PlantWave Plant Music Device

Electrode leads

3 pairs of reusable sticky pads for leaves

Duck beak clips for smaller plants

USB C cable for charging / data transmission

Free iOS / Android App

….

Enjoy!

Sci-fi opera: R.U.R. A Torrent of Light opens May 28, 2022 in Toronto, Canada

Even though it’s a little late, I guess you could call the opera opening in Toronto on May 28, 2022 a 100th anniversary celebration of the word ‘robot’. Introduced in 1920 by Czech playwright Karel Čapek in his play, R.U.R., which stands for ‘Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti’ or, in English, ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots’, the word was first coined by Čapek’s brother, Josef (see more about the play and the word in the R.U.R. Wikipedia entry).

The opera, R.U.R. A Torrent of Light, is scheduled to open at 8 pm ET on Saturday, May 28, 2022 (after being rescheduled due to a COVID case in the cast) at OCAD University’s (formerly the Ontario College of Art and Design) The Great Hall.

I have more about tickets prices, dates, and location later in this post but first, here’s more about the opera and the people who’ve created it from the Tapestry Opera’s ‘R.U.R. A Torrent of Light’ performance webpage,

This stunning new opera combines dance, beautiful multimedia design, a chamber orchestra including 100 instruments creating a unique electronica-classical sound, and wearable technology [emphasis mine] created with OCAD University’s Social Body Lab, to create an immersive and unforgettable science-fiction experience.

As for the opera’s story,

The fictional tech company R.U.R., founded by couple Helena and Dom, dominates the A.I. software market and powers the now-ubiquitous androids that serve their human owners. 

As Dom becomes more focused on growing R.U.R’s profits, Helena’s creative research leads to an unexpected technological breakthrough that pits the couples’ visions squarely against each other. They’ve reached a turning point for humanity, but is humanity ready? 

Inspired by Karel Čapek’s 1920’s science-fiction play Rossum’s Universal Robots (which introduced the word “robot” to the English language), composer Nicole Lizée’s and writer Nicolas Billon’s R.U.R. A Torrent of Light grapples with one of our generation’s most fascinating questions. [emphasis mine]

So, what is the fascinating question? The answer is here in a March 7, 2022 OCAD news release,

Last Wednesday [March 2, 2022], OCAD U’s Great Hall at 100 McCaul St. was filled with all manner of sound making objects. Drum kits, gongs, chimes, typewriters and most exceptionally, a cello bow that produces bird sounds when glided across any surface were being played while musicians, dancers and opera singers moved among them.  

All were abuzz preparing for Tapestry Opera’s new production, R.U.R. A Torrent of Light, which will be presented this spring in collaboration with OCAD University. 

An immersive, site-specific experience, the new chamber opera explores humanity’s relationship to technology. [emphasis mine] Inspired by Karel Čapek’s 1920s science-fiction play Rossum’s Universal Robots, this latest version is set 20 years in the future when artificial intelligence (AI) has become fully sewn into our everyday lives and is set in the offices of a fictional tech company.

Čapek’s original script brought the word robot into the English language and begins in a factory that manufactures artificial people. Eventually these entities revolt and render humanity extinct.  

The innovative adaptation will be a unique addition to Tapestry Opera’s more than 40-year history of producing operatic stage performances. It is the only company in the country dedicated solely to the creation and performance of original Canadian opera. 

The March 7, 2022 OCAD news release goes on to describe the Social Body Lab’s involvement,

OCAD U’s Social Body Lab, whose mandate is to question the relationship between humans and technology, is helping to bring Tapestry’s vision of the not-so-distant future to the stage. Director of the Lab and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts & Science, Kate Hartman, along with Digital Futures Associate Professors Nick Puckett and Dr. Adam Tindale have developed wearable technology prototypes that will be integrated into the performers’ costumes. They have collaborated closely with the opera’s creative team to embrace the possibilities innovative technologies can bring to live performance. 

“This collaboration with Tapestry Opera has been incredibly unique and productive. Working in dialogue with their designers has enabled us to translate their ideas into cutting edge technological objects that we would have never arrived at individually,” notes Professor Puckett. 

The uncanny bow that was being tested last week is one of the futuristic devices that will be featured in the performance and is the invention of Dr. Tindale, who is himself a classically trained musician. He has also developed a set of wearable speakers for R.U.R. A Torrent of Light that when donned by the dancers will allow sound to travel across the stage in step with their choreography. 

Hartman and Puckett, along with the production’s costume, light and sound designers, have developed an LED-based prototype that will be worn around the necks of the actors who play robots and will be activated using WIFI. These collar pieces will function as visual indicators to the audience of various plot points, including the moments when the robots receive software updates.  

“Despite current stereotypes, opera was historically a launchpad for all kinds of applied design technologies. [emphasis mine] Having the opportunity to collaborate with OCAD U faculty is an invigorating way to reconnect to that tradition and foster connections between art, music and design,” comments the production’s Director Michael Hidetoshi Mori, who is also Tapestry Opera’s Artistic Director. 

“New music and theatre are perfect canvases for iterative experimentation. We look forward to the unique fruits of this collaboration and future ones,” he continues. 

Unfortunately, I cannot find a preview but there is this video highlighting the technology being used in the opera (there are three other videos highlighting the choreography, the music, and the story, respectively, if you scroll about 40% down this page),


As I promised, here are the logistics,

University address:

OCAD University
100 McCaul Street,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5T 1W1

Performance venue:

The Great Hall at OCAD University
Level 2, beside the Anniversary Gallery

Ticket prices:

The following seating sections are available for this performance. Tickets are from $10 to $100. All tickets are subject to a $5 transaction fee.

Orchestra Centre
Orchestra Sides
Orchestra Rear
Balcony (standing room)

Performances:

May 28 at 8:00 pm

May 29 at 4:00 pm

June 01 at 8:00 pm

June 02 at 8:00 pm

June 03 at 8:00 pm

June 04 at 8:00 pm

June 05 at 4:00 pm

Tapestry Opera’s ‘R.U.R. A Torrent of Light’ performance webpage offers a link to buy tickets but it lands on a page that doesn’t seem to be functioning properly. I have contacted (as of Tuesday, May 24, 2022 at about 10:30 am PT) the Tapestry Opera folks to let them know about the problem. Hopefully soon, I will be able to update this page when they’ve handled the issue.

ETA May 30, 2022: You can buy tickets here. There are tickets available for only two of the performances left, Thursday, June 2, 2022 at 8 pm and Sunday, June 5, 2022 at 4 pm.

Sonifying the protein folding process

A sonification and animation of a state machine based on a simple lattice model used by Martin Gruebele to teach concepts of protein-folding dynamics. First posted January 25, 2022 on YouTube.

A February 17, 2022 news item on ScienceDaily announces the work featured in the animation above,

Musicians are helping scientists analyze data, teach protein folding and make new discoveries through sound.

A team of researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is using sonification — the use of sound to convey information — to depict biochemical processes and better understand how they happen.

Music professor and composer Stephen Andrew Taylor; chemistry professor and biophysicist Martin Gruebele; and Illinois music and computer science alumna, composer and software designer Carla Scaletti formed the Biophysics Sonification Group, which has been meeting weekly on Zoom since the beginning of the pandemic. The group has experimented with using sonification in Gruebele’s research into the physical mechanisms of protein folding, and its work recently allowed Gruebele to make a new discovery about the ways a protein can fold.

A February 17, 2022 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, describes how the group sonifies and animates the protein folding process (Note: Links have been removed),

Taylor’s musical compositions have long been influenced by science, and recent works represent scientific data and biological processes. Gruebele also is a musician who built his own pipe organ that he plays and uses to compose music. The idea of working together on sonification struck a chord with them, and they’ve been collaborating for several years. Through her company, Symbolic Sound Corp., Scaletti develops a digital audio software and hardware sound design system called Kyma that is used by many musicians and researchers, including Taylor.

Scaletti created an animated visualization paired with sound that illustrated a simplified protein-folding process, and Gruebele and Taylor used it to introduce key concepts of the process to students and gauge whether it helped with their understanding. They found that sonification complemented and reinforced the visualizations and that, even for experts, it helped increase intuition for how proteins fold and misfold over time. The Biophysics Sonification Group – which also includes chemistry professor Taras Pogorelov, former chemistry graduate student (now alumna) Meredith Rickard, composer and pipe organist Franz Danksagmüller of the Lübeck Academy of Music in Germany, and Illinois electrical and computer engineering alumnus Kurt Hebel of Symbolic Sound – described using sonification in teaching in the Journal of Chemical Education.

Gruebele and his research team use supercomputers to run simulations of proteins folding into a specific structure, a process that relies on a complex pattern of many interactions. The simulation reveals the multiple pathways the proteins take as they fold, and also shows when they misfold or get stuck in the wrong shape – something thought to be related to a number of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The researchers use the simulation data to gain insight into the process. Nearly all data analysis is done visually, Gruebele said, but massive amounts of data generated by the computer simulations – representing hundreds of thousands of variables and millions of moments in time – can be very difficult to visualize.

“In digital audio, everything is a stream of numbers, so actually it’s quite natural to take a stream of numbers and listen to it as if it’s a digital recording,” Scaletti said. “You can hear things that you wouldn’t see if you looked at a list of numbers and you also wouldn’t see if you looked at an animation. There’s so much going on that there could be something that’s hidden, but you could bring it out with sound.”

For example, when the protein folds, it is surrounded by water molecules that are critical to the process. Gruebele said he wants to know when a water molecule touches and solvates a protein, but “there are 50,000 water molecules moving around, and only one or two are doing a critical thing. It’s impossible to see.” However, if a splashy sound occurred every time a water molecule touched a specific amino acid, that would be easy to hear.

Taylor and Scaletti use various audio-mapping techniques to link aspects of proteins to sound parameters such as pitch, timbre, loudness and pan position. For example, Taylor’s work uses different pitches and instruments to represent each unique amino acid, as well as their hydrophobic or hydrophilic qualities.

“I’ve been trying to draw on our instinctive responses to sound as much as possible,” Taylor said. “Beethoven said, ‘The deeper the stream, the deeper the tone.’ We expect an elephant to make a low sound because it’s big, and we expect a sparrow to make a high sound because it’s small. Certain kinds of mappings are built into us. As much as possible, we can take advantage of those and that helps to communicate more effectively.”

The highly developed instincts of musicians help in creating the best tool to use sound to convey information, Taylor said.

“It’s a new way of showing how music and sound can help us understand the world. Musicians have an important role to play,” he said. “It’s helped me become a better musician, in thinking about sound in different ways and thinking how sound can link to the world in different ways, even the world of the very small.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Sonification-Enhanced Lattice Model Animations for Teaching the Protein Folding Reaction by Carla Scaletti, Meredith M. Rickard, Kurt J. Hebel, Taras V. Pogorelov, Stephen A. Taylor, and Martin Gruebele. J. Chem. Educ. 2022, XXXX, XXX, XXX-XXX DOI: https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jchemed.1c00857 Publication Date:February 16, 2022 © 2022 American Chemical Society and Division of Chemical Education, Inc.

This paper is behind a paywall.

For more about sonification and proteins, there’s my March 31, 2022 posting, Classical music makes protein songs easier listening.