The six world premieres on this concert are the fruit of a collaboration between the International Contemporary Ensemble and the Center for Practice and Research in Science and Music (PRiSM) at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, UK. PRiSM founder-director and composer Emily Howard curates a program of new works for ensemble by UK-based composers Sam Salem, Robert Laidlow, Zakiya Leeming, Bofan Ma, Megan Steinberg, and Howard herself. The works utilize PRiSM’s wide range of experimental tools for generating music via artificial intelligence techniques, as well as new machine listening software for real-time gesture recognition and classification, developed by PRiSM researchers Hongshuo Fan and David De Roure, University of Oxford computer scientist, mathematician, musician, and PRiSM’s Technical Director.
Founded in 2017, PRiSM has become one of the leading world centers for research in artificial intelligence and music. The Center brings together researchers across the creative arts and the sciences with a view to making a real contribution to society by developing new digital technology and creative practice that address fundamental questions about what it means to be human and creative today. Uniquely positioned within a music conservatoire environment, PRiSM creates world premieres, from small chamber works and sound installations to large-scale orchestral works, created using such AI tools as the widely used PRiSM SampleRNN, an open-source software for neural audio synthesis, as well as techniques for automatic musical gesture recognition and score and text generation. PRiSM’s annual Future Music Festival has featured by the BBC, The Guardian, The New York Times and more.
The list of PRiSM collaborators includes New Scientist, Manchester Science Festival, BBC Philharmonic, Barbican Centre, The University of Oxford, nonclassical, NMC Recordings, Riot Ensemble, Distractfold, BCMG, Contemporary Music for All (CoMA) Manchester, The National Archives, ANU Productions and The Irish Museum of Modern Art, The Warburg Institute, The Santa Fe Institute’s Music as Complex Adaptive Systems Working Group, The University of Manchester’s Global Development Institute and NOVARS Research Centre, and AHRC Research Network. Other important initiatives include the Oxford Vaccine Group, and the Lucy Hale Festival, focused on Disability and AI.
The founding directors of PRiSM are composer Emily Howard (Professor of Composition, RNCM) and mathematician Marcus du Sautoy (Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics, University of Oxford). They are joined by computer scientist David De Roure (Professor of e-Research, University of Oxford and Turing Fellow, The Alan Turing Institute) and composer Sam Salem (PRiSM Senior Lecturer in Composition).
INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY ENSEMBLE
The International Contemporary Ensemble is a multidisciplinary collective of musicians, digital media artists, producers, and educators committed to building and innovating collaborative environments, inspiring audiences to reimagine how contemporary music and sound can be experienced. Acclaimed as “America’s foremost new-music group” (The New Yorker), ICE honors the diversity of human experience and expression by commissioning, developing, recording, and performing the works of living artists. Co-founded in 2001 by flutist and MacArthur “genius” Fellow Claire Chase, the Ensemble has premiered over 1,000 works and has given performances at Warsaw Autumn, Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music, Cité de la Musique (Paris), Park Avenue Armory, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ojai Music Festival, Big Ears Festival Dutch National Opera, Carnegie Hall, and Walt Disney Concert Hall Stage. Among the Ensemble’s composer-collaborators are Du Yun, who won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for the opera Angel’s Bone, which the Ensemble developed and premiered, and MacArthur Fellows Tyshawn Sorey and Courtney Bryan.
A livestream will be available free of charge at 8pm on the day of the performance and archived for future viewing. Watch below or on YouTube.
Megan Steinberg is an experimental composer and turntablist. She works with found sound, chance procedures, graphic & text scores, quietness and microtonality. Megan is studying a PhD at Royal Northern College of Music, where she is the Lucy Hale Doctoral Composer in Association with Drake Music. Her project is focused on the creation of works for Disabled musicians, new instruments and AI. She has composed for incredible performers including Riot Ensemble, Kathryn Williams, Heather Roche, Juice Vocal Ensemble, Distractfold, Apartment House and Lore Lixenberg. In 2016, she was awarded the FI Williams Prize for Composition. In 2017, she was Composer in Residence at the Royal Holloway Picture Gallery. In 2022, she was an Artist in Residence at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival with the Australian Art Orchestra and Composer Fellow at NEO Voice Festival, Los Angeles. She is currently Composer in Residence with CoMA London. Her music has been performed at Kings Place, IKLECTIK, Grachtenfestival, and Arts by the Sea Festival in Bournemouth.
Robert Laidlow’s “gigantically imaginative” (BBC Radio 3) music is concerned with discovering and developing new forms of musical expression through the relationship between advanced technology, scientific collaboration, and live performance. Recent work includes: ‘Silicon’ for orchestra and artificial intelligence, featured in the New York Times and the New Scientist; the piano concerto ‘Warp’, which was awarded the KCL Ivan Juritz Prize for Modernism; and ‘Post-Singularity Songs’ for soprano and electronics. He is a Fellow in Composition at Jesus College, Oxford University, and from 2018-22 he was the PRiSM PhD Researcher in Artificial Intelligence with the BBC Philharmonic.
Sam Salem is an award-winning composer and artistic director. He creates audiovisual works for performers, electronics and video which challenge traditional notions of concert presentation and instrumental virtuosity. His work is fundamentally psychogeopraphical, informed by site-specific research—the layers of myth and history that he uncovers form the building blocks of his work. He is a founding member of Distractfold Ensemble, co-director of the Another Sky Festival, and is currently Practitioner-in-Residence at the Warburg Institute. He has most recently written for the BBC Philharmonic, Weston Olencki, Noam Bierstone and Linda Jankowska, and his debut album, London Triptych, is available from dFolds. He received his doctorate in composition from the University of Manchester in 2011 and is PRiSM Senior Lecturer in Composition at the Royal Northern College of Music.
Hongshuo Fan 范弘硕 is a Chinese cross-disciplinary composer, new media artist and creative programmer with a PhD in Electroacoustic Composition from the University of Manchester, currently a PDRA/research software engineer at RNCM PRiSM. His work has involved various real-time interactive multimedia contents, such as acoustic instruments, live electronics, generative visuals, light and body movements. His research and creative interest focus on the fusion of traditional culture and cutting-edge technology in the form of contemporary art, and leveraging ML/AI to explore new avenues in music and art. His output spans chamber music, live interactive electronics, installations, and audio-visual works.
Described as “Visionary” (The Times), Emily Howard’s distinctive music is notable for its granular use of instrumental colour, powerful use of text and inventive connections with shapes and processes. Works include Ombra/The Wernicke’s Area (Irish Museum of Modern Art); The Anvil (Manchester International Festival); Ada Lovelace: Imagining the Analytical Engine (Barbican Life Rewired); opera To See The Invisible (Aldeburgh Festival); Four Musical Proofs and a Conjecture (New Scientist Live), Torus (BBC Proms) and Antisphere (London Symphony Orchestra / Sir Simon Rattle). Howard is founding director of PRiSM; she has received two British Composer Awards and her works are published by Edition Peters. www.emilyhoward.com
Zakiya Leeming is Artist and Producer in Residence at the Royal Northern College of Music’s Centre for Practice & Research in Science & Music (PRiSM). Specialising in interdisciplinary collaboration, the composer is interrogating the role of AI in a creative practice through an ongoing series, and partnered with Oxford University Professor Paul Klenerman on a project exploring immune memory and music. Recent commissions include Riot Ensemble, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Ensemble Recherche, and Explore Ensemble. Selected for the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Composer Programme 2021-22 and London Philharmonic Orchestra Young Composer Programme 2022-23, Leeming’s work has been featured by The Guardian and BBC Radio 4.
Bofan Ma is a Manchester-based composer-performer and intermedia researcher. Originally from China, he makes music that embodies a normalised, transnational creative identity, addressing issues around cultural bias, inclusion, and accessibility in the age of AI and machine learning. He has worked with ensembles/initiatives including Shanghai Conservatory Chinese Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Distractfold, Psappha, ANU Productions Ireland, Ensemble X.y, Vonnegut Collective, Music Theatre Wales. His music has been heard across the globe, namely in the Shanghai Spring International Festival (China); Mise-en International Festival (USA); Hearing Art Seeing Sound International Festival (Armenia); and Darmstädter Ferienkurse (Germany). Having completed a PhD at the Royal Northern College of Music in 2021, Bofan is currently the Post-doctoral Research Associate at the RNCM Centre for Practice & Research in Science & Music (PRiSM). He is one of the co-founders of the composer collective The Incógnito Project, as well as Chair of the Manchester branch of the international Contemporary Music for All (CoMA) network.