Music Tech Fest Stockholm - AI Performance Lab

Music Tech Fest returned in style in Stockholm in partnership with KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and with venues that included the dramatic Reaktorhallen - a decommissioned nuclear reactor chamber deep underground. It was the setting for a week long AI Performance Lab of 90 artists, hackers and scientists, and became a spectacular performance space to showcase their work.

Entering the nuclear reactor chamber

Excitement and a twitch of trepidation sparked round the audience waiting to enter the decommissioned nuclear reactor chamber, for the site specific immersive innovation extravaganza that was the culmination of Music Tech Fest’s AI Performance Lab. Bodies, Brains, AI, and even the Moon, all had a starring role.

For five days experts in AI, Robotics, Data, Dance, Fashion Tech, the Theatre, VR, Neuroscience and more, from all over the world, had gathered and collaborated. The aim was to create new hybrid technologies and a memorable show; they delivered and then some.

A mysterious figure in a radiation protection style suit took us down in a giant industrial lift fitted with video screens, and we exited with no idea of what to expect. We were greeted by audiovisual wizard Eyal Weisz in a scene-setting antechamber performance. Eyal is also a co-creator of the Play This Wall interactive installation that has been on tour.

Eyal Weisz - pic Terry Tyldesley

Moving to the breath-taking cathedral-like space of the main chamber, there was the opportunity to interact with a cymatics piece, followed by spine-tingling dance.

Lilian Jap and Kirsi Mustalahti, founder of ACC Global, performed a compelling piece with sounds that responded to their movements. Their stark actions gave them the appearance of puppets of terror, held in a vice-like grip by dark forces with ominous voices.

Lilian Jap, Kirsi Mustalahti - pic Terry Tyldesley

Composer and artist Reeps One performed in a rough-hewn sunken chamber, with wearable tech from Mexico City’s exciting Machina, armed with sensors that he could use to trigger lights. The world-leading beatboxer’s bass heavy sounds reverberated around the reactor space, given added power by the visuals. Reeps, who is also a cymatics artist, is doing research into Machine Learning, experimenting with the voice and technology, and is an E.A.T. Artist in Residence at Nokia Bell Labs.

Reeps One - pic Terry Tyldesley

The performance pieces were bound together by the narrative created by the likes of Popkalab’s Ricardo O’Nascimento and theatre director Airan Berg, and there were further audio-visual pieces installed around the monumental space. It was hard to believe that all this work had been created in such a short space of time.

A team of neuroscientists from MuArts in Portugal had been busy creating brain experiments. The R&D start-up has showcased its neurofeedback work at Music Tech Fest’s European Commission event, as well creating new work at other editions of MTF.

For the Lab performance Ninja Tune artist and producer Gadi Sassoon activated powerful sounds using his brainwaves, along with composer Portrait XO on haunting vocals, and DJ Arthro / Tim Palm on beats. The accompanying visuals were stunning.

DJ Arthro had been live producing beats with his rig for six years but his only way of looping was using his nose and a touchscreen - incredible to see and hear. At the Lab Tim Yates and Human Instruments’ Vahakn Ma built a wireless chair-mounted loop system in just three days, which Arthro premiered in the reactor chamber.

Gadi Sassoon, Portrait XO, DJ Arthro - pic Terry Tyldesley

This ‘Loopfree project’ enabled Arthro to operate multiple feedback loops using different parts of his body. There was a huge reaction from the crowd, and the project went on to win the KTH Royal Institute of Technology KTH Innovation Grand funding prize of 50 000 SEK.

DJ Arthro - pic Terry Tyldesley

A great AI and AV performance followed from composer, technologist and singer Tracy Redhead and conceptual artist PETERMFRIESS featuring data that appeared to take the emotional temperature and toxicity of the future planet and turn it into sound. The concept was that “the sound is in harmony no matter how it is triggered. It is the first Artificial Intelligence song produced using the emotional data from every human on earth.”

Tracy previously developed a VR Coldcut single for Ninja Tune and has been asked to present her new app The Semantic Machine at FAST Industry Day at Abbey Road Studios this week. She is also working on a new album.

Tracy Redhead, Petermfriess - pic Terry Tyldesley

Andrea Cerrato’s striking installation Time Flows, a virtual clock tower played between performances. The audio installation was created specially for the KTH Bell in the Reaktorhallen, with the virtual clock tower synthesising over 5000 bell sounds based on physical modeling (TAMS). Every time the clock tower rang its timbre changed, and it’s designed to let you reflect on the meaning of Time. Andrea also created forceful Duality Portraits of the Lab’s participants, that were projected.

The spectacle finished with a Moon piece in the control room. Earlier in the Lab week there was a moon bounce by Martine-Nicole Rojina that sent 81 sounds from voices and instruments to the moon, creating a live echo from the moon’s ‘voice’. Martine-Nicole has an artist residency at the Dwingeloo Radio Observatory in The Netherlands, and the moon bounce featured an incredible combination of people including Imogen Heap improvising a song, Leon Trimble playing his gravitational wave synth, Reeps One beatboxing, Leif Handberg playing nose flute, and Luis Xandy Anjos playing mouth drum.

The moon-bounced sounds were recorded and used to great effect in this otherworldly Lab performance, and the audience crowded round as Dean McCarthy (artist and MTF Technical Manager) triggered sounds with his Bodhrán drum.

DJ Arthro, Martine-Nicole Rojina - pic by Andrea Cerrato

As if by magic the 3D printed moon used in the performance appeared in MTF founder Michela Magas’s hands at the very end. She paid tribute to all the creators in the Lab, performers and non-performers, for their ground-breaking work.

  • Read more about Music Tech Fest on their website, and some of our blog posts on previous editors of the fest here.