Funded Research Projects

Some of our research is funded by external bodies. You can find out more about some of the externally-funded research our academic staff are involved in below.

Innovating Sema: Community-building of Live Coding Language Design and Performance with Machine Learning

Thor Magnusson

The Innovating Sema project will secure the long-term existence and use of our innovative live coding platform for machine learning. After an intense development process during the MIMIC project ( we have developed a potential paradigm-shifting system that empowers users of programming languages for artistic expression to design their own languages for interfacing with machine learning ( This has not been done before and through our user studies and workshops we are confident that our system works. Our project has the potential to demystify machine learning through hands-on use, thus generating understanding and trust in modern AI. It enables non-expert users to engage with creative AI. Now is the time to secure the longevity and wide use of the Sema system promoting understanding of computing through the two pillars of language design and machine learning.

Intelligent Instruments

Thor Magnusson

The European Research Council has awarded Thor an ERC Consolidator grant for the project Intelligent Instruments: Understanding 21st-Century AI Through Creative Music Technologies. The five-year, 2 million Euro research project will consist of a team of postdocs, doctoral researchers and an instrument designer from the fields of music, computer science and philosophy.

Artificial Intelligence is drastically changing the world we live in. Our machines have become creative, equally extending our mind and our body. Amazing technologies are emerging where machine learning can be used to parse large and small data sets, such as music or any musical behaviour, and generate new materials from that learning. New music, new sounds, new workings of our musical tools and instruments.

We have been busy focusing on the technology of AI, but an emerging problem is that our critical understanding and language are lagging behind. The Intelligent Instruments project shifts the focus and through technical development of new instruments studies how AI affects us. And here the humanities become crucial in our understanding of AI and its cultural impact.

The project will study the impact of creative AI, conducted in the research domain of music, with a broad humanities basis, involving musicians, computer scientists, philosophers and cognitive scientists in key international institutions. Through a streamlined research collaboration protocol, we seek to explore the language and discourse of creative AI, addressing our changed notions of, for example, agency, autonomy, authenticity, authorship, creativity and originality.

In order to achieve this goal, the technical approach is to implement new machine learning in embodied musical instruments. We invent instruments that interact, learn, and evolve in the hands of the performer. The instruments become boundary objects, studied by collaborators from a range of sciences and the general public. In three respective work packages that are grounded in phenomenology, sociology and epistemology, we study how embodied creative AI transforms our 1) relationship with technology, 2) social interaction, and 3) knowledge production.

The project will be hosted at the Icelandic University of the Arts (IUA), where Thor has been appointed Research Professor. He will divide his time between IUA and Sussex.

Opera, Myth and Modernity

Nicholas Till, Major Research Fellowship funded by Leverhulme Trust. 

Live Coding Research Network

Thor Magnusson

The live coding research network is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK. This network aims to take the relatively new field of live coding research to its next development stage, bringing together researchers from a wide variety of disciplines to explore how live coding can enrich technological engagement in wider culture. The network explores themes of live coding in the arts, computing in education, and collaboration in cultures of practice. This is investigated through three workshops, one international conference, and diverse publications. Wider cultural impact is achieved through industry events, musical performances, media engagement, online fora, and public workshops.

Sonic Writing

Thor Magnusson

The Sonic Writing research project is a two-year AHRC funded research programme that will result in a monograph to be published by Bloomsbury. The research plan involves diverse activities, such as symposia, workshops and a conference, with international partners: STEIM, IRCAM, C4DM, CMC and CNMAT. The project explores work and practices using new technologies for musical expression. Through tracing the historical conditions of material and symbolic design in in three interconnected strands of inscription - instruments, notation, and phonography - the project studies how established techniques are translated into new methods of musical composition and performance in digital musical media

Orchestra of Sound and Light

Ed Hughes

The Orchestra of Sound and Light is a tightly-knit ensemble of professional players who from Oct 2015 to July 2016 are funded by the Arts Council England and University of Sussex to tour schools and colleges across Sussex to share and develop insights into composition and ensemble performance across a range of settings. The professional players discuss writing for their instruments; in the process they are making ‘how to’ videos which are being added to the project website as a longer term resource. At these events a specially composed flexible score by Prof Ed Hughes (Music) to the BFI’s short film ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (1903) is used as a starting point to enable everyone in the room (including non-readers) to get involved in the performance. We’re aiming to create an immersive experience of ensemble music-making, stimulated by the film’s story and to use technology alongside acoustic instruments. In addition to six days of presentations to schools over nine months of the project there were also public concerts in the Brighton Fringe Festival (6 May 2016) and at the Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts (17 June 2016).

Brighton: Symphony of a Modern City - Brighton Festival 2016

Ed Hughes and Lizzie Thynne Dome

Brighton Festival commission and research project Feb 2016 to Mar 2017

Brighton: Symphony of a City was conceived in collaboration by composer, Ed Hughes, and film maker, Lizzie Thynne. There are two results of this work: a 46 minute silent film, and a 46 minute full orchestral score. In combination the two pieces of work aim at producing a powerful effect. The contrasting tempos, themes, patterns and textures of the film and music often connect with one another. As such, the piece is in a line of work which explores the rich artistic practice implied in a field that imagines an equal connection between moving images and music, recalling some of the most aspirational artist-led work of the pre-sound cinema decades.

Funding for the music included development of a studio recording in surround sound which will be synchronised to the high definition original film for further dissemination via national and international screenings. 

Humanising Algorithmic Listening

Alice Eldridge

Humanising Algorithmic Listening is an AHRC funded network which brings together experts with an interest in the applications and implications of machine listening from diverse disciplines including oral history, sensory ethnography, archive services, computer science, philosophy and music technology. The principle aim is to develop a critical and methodological agenda for the design, development and application of computational methods for audio analysis - listening algorithms - in the future.

MIMIC: Musically Intelligent Machines Interacting Creatively

Thor MagnussonChris Kiefer and Fransisco Bernardo 

This project is a direct response to significant changes taking place in the domain of computing and the arts. Recent developments in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are leading to a revolution in how music and art is being created by researchers (Broad and Grierson, 2016). However, this technology has not yet been integrated into software aimed at creatives. Due to the complexities of machine learning, and the lack of usable tools, such approaches are only usable by experts. In order to address this, we will create new, user-friendly technologies that enable the lay user - composers as well as amateur musicians - to understand and apply these new computational techniques in their own creative work.

Syncphonia - Breaking down barriers to playing notated music in ensembles, using networked tablet technology

Ed HughesAlice Eldridge and Chris Kiefer 
Many UK schools run ensembles to play notated music together. The national curriculum for music requires pupils to play in ensembles and use musical notation. But while research shows that ensemble music making is beneficial, it is a complex activity which can be off-putting for beginners when they get lost in rehearsal or performance. Prof Ed Hughes won a Digital Transformations grant from the AHRC to devise and evaluate a technology intervention to help beginners to gain confidence to play music in groups. Prof Hughes, Dr Alice Eldridge and Dr Chris Kiefer designed, created and evaluated an app to display a score and specially adapted parts with constantly updated position indication on synchronised wireless computer tablets. Colleagues from Psychology, Dr Fidelma Hanrahan and Prof Robin Banerjee evaluated data from a case study. In Sept 2017, with the support of the Sussex Innovation Centre, and a follow on AHRC grant secured by Dr Kiefer, it launched on the app store, and we have evidence of successful use in numerous settings regionally, nationally and internationally.

Interdisciplinary and Historical Explorations in the Design of Contemporary Creative Tools, Instruments and Interfaces

Chris Kiefer

As a resurgence in tangible tools and creativity moves us forward from an era of dominance by screen-based creative technologies, how can we learn from practitioners in broader design disciplines and from historical best practice? This project responded to this question via a two day international practice-led resarch symposium. It brought together leading designers from fields outside of creative technologies (e.g industrial design), experts on historical design practice (e.g. analogue technologies or vintage computing) with designers of contemporary creative tools and instruments, including academics, makers/hackers, artists, and members of the creative industries. The event focussed on knowledge sharing and network building through practical workshops, discussions, presentations and public performances, to build future collaborations and contribute to determinant research policy debates.