Department of Music

Performance Listing

"Autonomous Robots in Opera", CANCELED - 8:30 am, Friday, February 14, 2014 - Center for the Arts Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre

Due to the impending storm and related travel advisories, all three events, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, February 14 & 15 are canceled. He sends his apologies, and looks forward to visiting Virginia Tech, another time.

Maurice Wright will discuss his collaboration with computer scientist Dr. Rolf Lakaemper, and how they presented "GALATEA_RESET", an opera in two acts for three autonomous robots, 5 singer/actors, dancers and chorus, in September 2013. Programmed in PureData and JAVA, all musical sounds in the performance except for the human singers, were realized in real-time with minimal reliance on pre-recorded audio. Beginning as an etude involving spatial manipulation with moving sound sources, the work evolved into a work of lyric music theater. Each robot was imbued with a persona resulting from a confluence of kinetic sculpture, musical characterization, lighting and movement. The performance score, encoded as a series of text files, contained directions for musical sound, lighting effects, and movement commands. A special set design provided geometric landmarks for the robots, which navigated with laser rangefinders, and dead reckoning. Navigation sensing, motion control, lighting control and sound synthesis were accomplished locally using a single laptop computer connected to a central data source.  Another laptop controlled projected images, including supertitles.

The initial design called for the music synthesis for each robot to use less than 10% of the CPU to provide adequate computing power for range-finding, shape recognition and motion control. The network design called for limited-band data flow (e.g. no audio or video, rather simple text messages), and for a robust system that allowed for robots to drop off the network without disrupting it. A UDP protocol proved both flexible and reliable. The opera was presented three times with no major errors. Maurice will play several brief excerpts of an edited, super-titled recording of the performance.