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Clayman Institute Artist's Salon: A Tribute to Ada Lovelace Exploring AI and Human Expressivity

Thu February 13th 2020, 4:15 - 5:30pm
Event Sponsor
Clayman Institute for Gender Research
Levinthal Hall, Stanford Humanities Center

The Artist’s Salon presents Patricia Alessandrini, assistant professor in the Department of Music’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. Her presentation will focus on Ada’s Song, a composition for mezzo-soprano, ensemble, and a piano automata system employing artificial intelligence. Ada’s Song was commissioned by the Barbicanas part of their Life Rewired series, to be premiered by Marta Fontanals-Simmons and the Britten Sinfonia at a special event dedicated to the life and work of Ada Lovelace, Imagining the Analytical Engine, in November 2019. Taking Ada Lovelace’s theorization of notions of AI, its possibilities –including composing music - and limitations as a prompt, Ada’s Song is an exploration of AI-Assisted Composition and its relationship to interpretation and expressivity in music.

In addition to using AI to generate musical material, it attempts to make real-time machine learning processes visible and comprehensible to the public while exploring the particularities of human expression: neural networks “listen” to the instrumentalists during the performance and respond by “playing” the piano through the automata system according to what they have “learned”, not just in terms of what notes have been played, but how they have been performed. Music created by the neural network learning in real time is thus physically distinct from the performance of the musicians, yet inscribes itself in the sonic world of the instrumentarium of the ensemble. The mezzo-soprano plays a leading role in this process, as the system allows her to both generate new material to sing and influence the piano automata’s musical responses over the course of the performance. Audio and video excerpts of the November performance will be shown during the presentation, in addition to live demonstrations of the machine-learning processes. The work is named for Ada Lovelace, who was a visionary mathematical genius and co-inventor of the computer in a time when women were still excluded from formal higher education.

About the Artist

Patricia Alessandrini is a composer/sound artist creating compositions, installations, and performance situations which are for the most part interactive and intermedial. Her works have been presented in the Americas, Asia, Australia, and more than 15 European countries. She studied at the Conservatorio di Bologna, Conservatoire de Strasbourg and IRCAM (Paris), and holds PhDs from Princeton University and the Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) of Queens University, Belfast. In 2018, she was appointed as Assistant Professor in the Department of Music and at the Stanford Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), where she performs research on embodied interaction and immersive experience, including instrument design for inclusive performance. She is published by Babelscores, and her works may also be accessed at