Music of Mixed Reality

We belong to an age where the ideas of talking machines, driverless cars, or even citizen robots are becoming commonplace. Artificial intelligence seems to be everywhere, in particular within the context of one of the most distinguishing traits of humanity, creativity, including the production of art and music artefacts. Why are we doing that, trying to replicate ourselves? Does that make us more or less creative? At Music of Mixed Reality, these questions are addressed through an open conversation between human and artificial musicians.

Four performers (3 human and 1 artificial) will meet and play music pieces belonging to their shared improvisational repertoire. Some of these are traditional jazz standards whilst others originate from the intricacies of computer-based algorithmic composition. The amalgam of these two apparently opposite extremes results in intriguing overlapping layers of music phrases, timbres and textures. It is almost impossible to determine beforehand who or which styles will lead or prevail, whether the ones belonging to the human or the artificial realms. Yet, sound communication being the medium that connects these realities, the idea behind this performance is exactly that any pre-determined boundaries or limitations between them be extinguished.

The technology behind the Music of Mixed Reality has been explored in leading research institutions around the world, including Plymouth University, at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research. This is where Marcelo, during his PhD, in 2004, started his investigations on artificial intelligence and music evolution, and developed the Interactive Musical Environments computer system (iMe), which, in its current version, is able to ‘sustain’ artificial life. This means that, in the iMe system, artificial agents are born, live, and die. During their lifetime, they interact with each other and with human musicians. Each one of them develop their own individual learning and creative pathways, listening to each other, composing and improvising music together, which ultimately define their unique musical worldviews.

Date and venue:

  • Wednesday 8 November at 19:30h
  • The House, Plymouth University

Book your place here.


Marcelo Gimenes is an educator, pianist, composer and experimental electronic musician. His career is driven by a major transdisciplinary axis in which he aims at bridging the gap between creative practices and technology. He is particularly interested in exploring music as an interactive medium through which people communicate and interconnect. To achieve that, he develops technological tools and applications that he incorporates in his own performances and presentations. Marcelo did his PhD in Computer Music at Plymouth University where he used artificial intelligence to simulate music style evolution in virtual worlds. He is currently an Associate Lecture in Psychology of Music at the School of Humanities and Performing Arts and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research.

Rich Hamer is a professional musician, performing and teaching in the UK. He was born in Plymouth and studied music at Dartington College of Arts. Rich has performed for celebrity audiences, at top clubs and venues all over the UK and on BBC radio. He has performed, composed and recorded through a great range of genres but now focuses on jazz. He can be seen playing everything from cool and smooth to hot and cooking jazz guitar throughout the UK with his long-standing favourite project, Hamer & Co. The father-son guitar duo has recently released their 2017 album entitled ‘Double Or Nothing’. Rich also works with gypsy jazz trio, Tanzanite Manouche, and makes guest appearances with numerous local outfits. In 1998 he founded Plymouth Guitar School and he has since built a strong reputation as a guitar teacher, teaching hundreds of people to play and improve at guitar over the years.

Mike Trevarthen is a versatile percussionist and guitarist based in Devon. He has guested with many local outfits through a broad range of styles, including Desperate Measures and The Bad Band.

Jerry is an artificial agent that was born in an autonomous virtual reality world called Interactive Musical Environments (iMe), where he received his musical education. He spends most of his time in iMe, listening to, and improvising with fellow artificial agents but, from time to time, he also enjoys playing with human musicians from the ‘outside world’. He has been invited many times to play with Marcelo and has significantly contributed to the overall improvement of the environment where he lives. His preferred music style is free jazz and he is interested and willing to collaborate with other human musicians that may wish to perform within this and other idioms.

Vox Populi interactive performance in Plymouth

One of the things I like to do (and have been doing for many years now) is to develop computer systems that explore machine creativity, in particular interactive music systems I can play with. The computer will listen to what I play on the piano keyboard, learn from it and start to talk with me. There is a lot of hard work behind this (like the programming stuff) but also a lot of fun when the computer surprises me with a musical dialogue I would have never expected. To be frank, in many ways it is a bit like playing with myself. This totally reminds me of Bill Evans’ “Conversations with Myself” (1963) and “Further Conversations with Myself” (1967), two of the most extraordinary jazz albums ever produced.

I will have one of these musical conversations with my system (the Interactive Musical Environments – iMe) at the 21st International Conference on Digital Research in the Humanities and Arts (DRHA2017) at Plymouth University on the 12th of September at 14:30h. If you are around, please come over and watch us playing. By the way, this time, I prepared a little ‘tweak’: whoever wants to participate will be able to do so with a smartphone app controlling some of the things the computer does in real time. That is the research bit of the performance. Hope you will enjoy it.

This is the main website of the Conference: DRHA2017.