The topic of improvisation immediately calls to mind the powerful and singular vision of many great artists. Thelonious Monk’s angular chords and spacious riffs, John Coltrane’s flurried “sheets of sound,” or Joshua Bell’s powerfully melodic cadenzas are ready examples. Regardless of the genre, an improviser uses the ability to simultaneously listen, create, and respond inside an agreed-upon aesthetic. Like any musician, marimba artist Shimon Robot also taps into this world with remarkable self-expression and creates inspiring interactions with fellow bandmates. But unlike any other, Shimon is, indeed, a robot—investigating jazz using artificial intelligence, creativity algorithms, four arms, and emotive, tai chi-inspired movement.
In Musical Robots and Cyborgs from Room 100, Shimon Robot and Friends present original compositions influenced by jazz and hip-hop. Building off ideas and collaborating equally, Shimon listens to bandmates live onstage—such as Gil Weinberg, Shimon’s creator and founding director of the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology, and Jason “the Cyborg Drummer” Barnes, who lost his right hand but performs using a prosthesis powered by muscular electricity. Joining them will be local musicians as well as Shimi robots—ersatz backup dancers bobbing “heads” and tapping “toes” in time to the music. Shimon Robot and Friends have been featured in TED Talks, on Mashable, The Colbert Report, and TODAY, and at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Building off of our investigation of human-machine interaction from 2015’s performance with Huang Yi & KUKA, the question now turns to the nature of the intelligence involved in improvisation. Shimon means “to hear or be heard.” Is that not the essence of the music-making impulse, whether flesh and blood or zeroes and ones?
Faculty experts will discuss the human and technological issues of robotics and artificial intelligence.
Join us after the performance for a discussion with visiting researchers