First ever concert of AI-generated music to be performed in Yerevan

The specially formed WCIT World Orchestra will perform the first ever concert of music written live by artificial intelligence (AI), in which the musicians perform the score as it is being written. 

The idea for the FREE outdoor concert in Republic Square comes from Sergey Smbatyan, Music Director of the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra, who will also conduct the orchestra .

The concert is part of the opening ceremony of the World Congress of Information Technology (WCIT), one of the largest IT events in the world, which will be held this year in Yerevan, Armenia. 

The WCIT World Orchestra is formed of more than 100 professional musicians: 75 drawn from orchestras in the 14 countries that have previously hosted WCIT and 30 from the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra.

Established in 1978, the WCIT – the signature event of the World Information Technology & Services Alliance, a consortium of ICT associations from 83 countries, representing 90% of the industry – is held annually in different countries around the world. A key topic in 2019 is Artificial Intelligence and speakers include leaders from the world’s biggest tech companies such as Microsoft, Pixar, Intel, VMware, Siemens and Reddit alongside international media representatives including Kim Kardashian West.

For the first time, the Congress will include a music-related project in the form of the WCIT World Orchestra, which has been put together in a collaboration between the WCIT, the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra and Sergey Smbatyan, the Orchestra’s Artistic Director.

The WCIT World Orchestra will comprise musicians from the 14 countries that have previously hosted the Congress, as well as 30 musicians from the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra to represent this year’s hosting country, making it one of the most cross-continental orchestras in the world.

In the first concert of its kind, the musicians of the WCIT World Orchestra will perform two works as they are being composed live by AI. The technology will create two pieces of music live in front of the audience. The first will be a composition based on the anthems of the 15 previous (and current) host countries to create a new ‘WCIT anthem’. For the second composition, the AI technology will generate a new work based on its database of traditional Armenian chants.

The artificial intelligence – or ‘artificial talent’ as conductor Sergey Smbatyan refers to it – will transmit each musical part to tablets on the musicians’ stands in order for them perform the music as it is being created. Sergey Smbatyan will also be seeing the full score for the first time. The process will have been tested with the technology in rehearsal, but the musicians will only see the new music for the first time as it is composed during the concert.  

Sergey Smbatyan, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra, as well as the founder of the WCIT World Orchestra, said, “This ambitious creative endeavour will explore uncharted territory, creating symbiosis where art, culture, and technology meet. I like to call this type of AI ‘Artificial Talent’, as it brings together these two definitive fields. The whole world will witness this extraordinary fusion of music and technology, and gives us the opportunity to showcase the power of music. The creation of this orchestra underlines the importance of culture within the technology sphere, and once again proves that music transcends boundaries and does not recognise nationality.“

A spokesperson from WCIT said: “The world has witnessed AI make developments and improvements in spheres such as mechanical engineering and transportation. Now, this Orchestra and this concert will convey a powerful message to the world – they’ll demonstrate new horizons for the future of art, science and engineering all working together. We’re thrilled to have the first ever musical project at WCIT, and we think the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra are the perfect musicians to execute such an ambitious venture.”

The opening concert on the 6th October will take place outdoors in Yerevan’s iconic Republic Square and will include state-of-the-art visualisations which will convey to the audience what is happening on the stage and how the music is appearing to the musicians. The concert will also feature music from eminent Armenian composers, a piece by Aram Khachaturian and a performance from Grammy-nominated Dutch DJ, Armin van Buuren.

The World Congress of Information Technology 2019 takes place in Yerevan, Armenia from 6th – 9th October. The opening concert is at 8pm on the 6th October in Republic Square, Yerevan and is free to attend.

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