February 1, 2017

Innovator-in-residence to present 'Shimon Robot and Friends' in a free show at Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — An innovator-in-residence will present Shimon Robot and Friends, a group of music-driven, improvising robots, in a free show on Feb. 18. 

The innovator-in-residence, Gil Weinberg of Georgia Tech, brings Shimon Robot and Friends to the Purdue campus to present “Musical Robots and Cyborgs from Room 100,” in a free show on Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. in Stewart Center’s Loeb Playhouse.

The event is free to the public and no ticket is required. Purdue Convocations is presenting the event, with support from Purdue’s College of Science, College of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts, Purdue Polytechnic Institute, Indiana Space Grant Consortium, and Flora Roberts. 

Attendees are invited to join faculty experts in Room 214 of Stewart Center at 7 p.m. for a discussion about human and technological issues of robotics and artificial intelligence. A post-show discussion will be held with our visiting researchers.

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? 

Initiated in 1902, Purdue Convocations was one of the first professional performing arts presenters in the United States. Each year, Convocations offers the region 30-40 performances of widely varying genres: Broadway-style shows, theater, dance, children's theater, world music, jazz, and chamber music, along with rock, pop, country and comedy attractions. With a vision for connecting artists and audiences in artistic dialogue and for drawing in academic discourse, Purdue Convocations aims to promote frequent exposure to and familiarity with human cultural expression in a multitude of forms and media. 

Source: Abby Eddy, Purdue Convocations director of marketing, 765-494-9712, aeeddy@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: Publication-quality photos are available at http://www.convocations.org/press 

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