Friday, July 28, 2006

Artificial intelligence interprets Mozart

Artificial intelligence interprets Mozart

By VERENA DOBNIK, Associated Press Writer 19 minutes ago

It was a 21st century Mozart moment — the music of a genius from the Age of Enlightenment interpreted by the artificial intelligence of the Digital Age.

The 2006 Mostly Mozart Festival on Thursday night unveiled an outdoor artwork that uses artificial intelligence in a visual and aural play of the composer's last symphony — the "Jupiter." In a city that never sleeps, it's a 24-hour-a-day performance for the duration of the month-long festival that marks the 250th anniversary year of the composer's birth.

The 40th-annual festival, which offers a free preview concert Friday night, officially opens Tuesday night. Wednesday night's concert — featuring conductor Louis Langree, pianist Garrick Ohlsson and singers Hei-Kyung Hong, Susanne Mentzer, Matthew Polenzani and John Relyea — will be broadcast nationally on PBS-TV.

The night before the preview concert, the 198-foot-wide digital installation was turned on to illuminate the facade of Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.

"Enlightenment" was commissioned from artists Marc Downie, Paul Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar, with help from Columbia University's Computer Music Center. Langree, Mostly Mozart's music director, supervised the musical process.

The aim is to link Mozart's Age of Enlightenment to our Information Age by using artificial intelligence to interpret the final 30 seconds of his last symphony — an intricate fugue that plays around with five themes.

"Mozart composed the contemporary music of his time. So a way to pay homage to him during this anniversary year is to keep the creation of new works alive by commissioning today's artists," said Langree. "Even centuries later, Mozart's genius still speaks to today's world and today's creators."

The artists spread their multicolored creation across 10 high-resolution screens with speakers, each representing a different orchestra section. In the interplay between sound and image, Mozart's music is taken apart, with computers searching for the right sequence of notes that was recorded by real musicians — even making mistakes and detours — before reconstructing the final, perfect end to the masterwork.

Each 25-minute performance is different. The work will generate 125 million frames of animation by the time the festival ends on Aug. 26.

"Enlightenment" is one of four Lincoln Center commissions for the festival anniversary.

The others are a staging of Mozart's unfinished opera "Zaide," directed by Peter Sellars; the evening-length "Mozart Dances" choreographed by Mark Morris; and a new violin concerto by the contemporary Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg.

The festival's 40 events — centered around Mozart — include music ranging from the Baroque and Classical styles to contemporary and world music. Performers include pianist Emanuel Ax and violinists Joshua Bell, Gidon Kremer and Sergey Khachatryan making his New York debut.


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