Sónar, the UPC and betevé present, for the first time in Barcelona, the AI and Music S+T+ARTS Festival


Image of the program corresponding to the creation of 'AAI LIve', by Mouse on Mars, the tandem formed by electronic music artists Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma


In the show Engendered Otherness. A Symbiotic AI Dance Ensemble, AI has been applied to the world of dance. Created in collaboration with singer-songwriter Stefano Rosso and IDEAI researchers Martí de Castro and Javier Ruiz


Marco Mezquida’s performance for the inaugural concert was conceived with IDEAI researchers Ivan Paz and Philippe Salembier, in collaboration with the ESMUC.

Talks to explore innovations between AI and music

The AI and Music Festival will also offer a series of talks and round tables, organised by Sónar and the UPC, in the CCCB Auditorium. Scientists, artists and other professionals will discuss the uses, experiments and potential of AI as a transformative element in music and how to bring it closer to the general public, emphasising, for example, new instruments and ways of performing and creating or how to teach machines to listen, see and feel in a human way. 

These talks will cover aspects of computer vision, voice technologies, instruments and tools for audio processing and music production.

Among the scientists and researchers will be Rebecca Fiebrink, a professor of creative computing at the University of the Arts London and Goldsmiths University of London; Santiago Pascual, a researcher at Dolby; Antonio Torralba, faculty head of Artificial Intelligence and Decision Making at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a UPC graduate; Luc Steels, a professor and researcher at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology of the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF-CSIC); and Douglas Eck, a researcher at Google Magenta. 

Artists like Jan St. Werner (Mouse on Mars), Agoria, Rob Clouth, Nabihah Iqbal and Libby Heaney will be also participating. And halfway between academia and artistic practice, the festival will also be attended by Shelly Knotts, a researcher at Durham University, and Koray Tahiroğlu, a researcher at Aalto University.

Some of the talks will be

  • Musicians learning machine learning, with Rebecca Fiebrink (University of London), composer Shelly Knotts and UPC graduate and engineer Santiago Pascual.
  • Teaching machines to feel like humans do, with Antonio Torralba and UPF researcher Luc Steel.
  • AI and future music genres, with artist Libby Heaney, musical composer Nabihah Iqbal, UPF professor Emilia Gómez and musician Jan St. Wener. 
  • Make way for the new music instruments!, with music producer Agoria, researcher Koray Tahiroğlu, musician Rob Clouth and Google scientist Douglas Eck. 

Sónar, the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC) and betevé are partnering to present the AI and Music S+T+ARTS Festival on 27 and 28 October. The festival will be held live in Barcelona and online and will feature nearly 30 activities, including shows, presentations, talks and roundtables with artists, scientists and other professionals who incorporate artificial intelligence as an essential element in musical projects. UPC students can get a discount (ticket price of 15 euros) by presenting their student card.

Oct 20, 2021

Within the framework of the S+T+ARTS programme of the European Commission, the AI and Music S+T+ARTS Festival will feature nearly 30 activities at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), the Barcelona Auditori and several UPC facilities. Musicians and artists of multiple genres will premiere their works and experiment live with artificial intelligence (AI). One of the highlights of the AI and Music S+T+ARTS Festival, which transcends the festival itself, is the creation of the Thinking Lab, an applied research laboratory that explores the relationship between AI and musical creativity, and, ultimately, the interaction between people and machines. The Thinking Lab is led by the UPC’s Intelligent Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (IDEAI) research centre and the Image Processing and Multimedia Technology Centre (CITM) and is coordinated jointly with Sónar.

In this space for discussion and co-creation, which has been running since April, experts, scientists, artists and other professionals have been exchanging experiences and knowledge that have nurtured some of the presentations and shows of the festival. The conclusions will be published later in a white paper on music and AI. During the festival, the Thinking Lab will remain an open space for discussion and experimentation to identify and conceptualise the major challenges and most relevant practices when applying AI in musical activities.

Co-creation groups
Sónar and the UPC have promoted three co-creation groups between artists and AI specialists.

Co-creations are spaces for exchange between musicians and artificial intelligence experts that aim to develop new performances by using AI techniques. Each resulting co-creation focuses on a specific line of research: neural networks, sentiment analysis, computer vision and motion capture.

Among its 21 shows, most of them absolute premieres, the programme features co-creations developed expressly for the festival in which the artists have worked hand in hand with artificial intelligence researchers from the UPC. The results of their work will be presented in several performances:

  • On 27 October at 8 p.m., the inaugural concert of the festival at the Barcelona Auditori, featuring pianist and composer Marco Mezquida, who has conceived his performance Piano + AI with UPC’s IDEAI researchers Ivan Paz, a central figure in the live coding scene, and Philippe Salembier, in collaboration with the School of Music of Catalonia (ESMUC). It will be a live dialogue between a piano and an artificial intelligence, using real-time audio analysis and digital sound synthesis.

  • On 28 October at 3.30 p.m., the audiovisual show Engendered Otherness. A Symbiotic AI Dance Ensemble, by Hamill Industries and choreographer Kiani del Valle. A show in which AI has been applied to the world of dance and that has been created in collaboration with singer-songwriter Stefano Rosso and UPC researchers Martí de Castro, from the Department of Automatic Control, and Javier Ruiz, from the IDEAI. It uses computer vision and motion capture to transform a real-time choreography by a dance ensemble formed by Kiani and her synthetic dancers.

  • On 28 October at 7 p.m., the interactive performance with public participation AWWZ b2b AI DJ, by Catalan DJ and producer Awwz, with the collaboration of IDEAI researchers Ioannis Tsiamas, Mireia de Gracia, Casimiro Pio and Marta Ruiz Costa-Jussà. The performance brings together machine learning and DJing and invites the audience to participate using AI technology trained with music databases from emojis or texts that signal specific moods and that are translated into song suggestions.

  • On 28 October at 7.45 p.m., also co-created for the occasion, the AI and Music Festival will produce a research and artistic residency project from Holly Herndon, a pioneer in experimenting with the human voice and artificial intelligence, together with María Arnal and Tarta Relena. This unique vocal ensemble will create a human and virtual polyphony exclusively for the festival.

  • On 28 October, at 3.30 p.m., another outstanding presentation at the forefront of technology and research, Interpreting Quantum Randomness. It is a musical show conceived by composer Reiko Yamada and theoretical physicist Maciej Lewenstein, from the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), with the collaboration of this university research institute linked to the UPC. The show will explore the nature of random sounds.

  • Additionally, the festival will include a video clip section, which will also be broadcast on sonar.es and will feature, among others, Human Brother, a project by composer and pianist Ferran Cruixent in collaboration with the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) that shows how AI cooperates with artists in their creative process.

See the programme of the AI and Music Festival

Two festival warm-up hackathons on the North Campus

The AI and Music Festival will start with two parallel 24-hour hackathons, which will take place on site on the UPC’s North Campus and online the weekend before the event, starting on Saturday 23 October at 12 p.m. until Sunday 24 October at 11.59 a.m.

The hackathons are EducationalHack, presented by Ableton and organised by the UPC and Hack UPC in collaboration with SokoTech, and LiveCodingHack, presented by everis, an NTT Data Company, and organised by the University and Hack UPC in collaboration with Hangar. Details on how to participate in the hackathons will be announced in the coming days.

Tickets on sale

All activities will be conducted face-to-face and many of them will also be broadcast live on sonar.es and beteve.cat produced by betevé. 

Tickets for the AI and Music S+T+ARTS Festival are on sale from 15 September on the website.

UPC students can get a discount (ticket price of 15 euros) by presenting their student card.

Alliances between science, technology and the arts

The European Commission selected the consortium formed by Sónar, the UPC and betevé to organise the AI and Music Festival within the framework of the S+T+ARTS (Science, Technology & the Arts) initiative to foster alliances between science, technology and the arts. The AI and Music Festival is sponsored by everis, an NTT DATA Company.

Entities from several European countries have taken part in developing the festival’s contents: Artificia, the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra and National Orchestra of Catalonia (OBC), Quantum Music, Polifonia, the Auditori and the ESMUC, Factory Berlin and c/o pop, Bozar, Today’s Art.