Centre for Research in Opera and Music Theatre (CROMT)

Robot Opera - Opera takes a robotic turn

Long the domain of popular science fiction, robots increasingly permeate every aspect of society. How will this impact the creative and performing arts? This research strand, initiated by the Centre for Research in Opera and Music Theatre (CROMT) and supported by the Centre for Research in the Creative and Performing Arts, explores the ramifications of robot presence through encounters with music and operatic performance.

This research project builds on our previous CROMT events Opera and the Media of the Future (2014) and The Operatic (2017) and will examine the specific meanings and challenges of involving robots in operatic performance. Focusing on issues of stage presence, embodiment, machine learning and vocality, we ask – what can we learn from opera’s robotic turn?The symposium will consist in talks, discussion and exploratory creative practice. 

Primary Research Questions:

Robots and Performance - what happens if we put a Robot on a stage? How does an audience 'read' its presence? Is puppeteering the most relevant model, given the current state of embodied AI? Clearly the robot does not ‘know’ it is performing, or could you say that on some level a robot is always performing?

Embodiment - computer music has a long history involving artificial intelligence and creativity, and we already have computers that can improvise / compose / play music. If a robot is essentially a computer that can move around, how does embodiment affect or change the acquisition / expression of these skills?  

Vocality  - how would a robot sing if it sang like a robot rather than being programmed to sing like a human? i.e. what about its physicality would provoke / create sound? What does it ‘mean’ for a robot to sing?

We launched this project in June of 2017 with a mini-symposium featuring researchers from Sussex. Watch this space for future events!


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