Info Phil collaboration in China opens to rave reviews

Info Phil

The Informatics Philharmonic, a system in which a computer-driven orchestra follows and learns from a soloist in a concerto-like setting and developed by Professor of Computer Science Christopher Raphael at the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, recently performed to rave reviews at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China.

The artificial-intelligence-based music accompaniment system joined soloists from the Central Conservatory of Music, the top music conservatory in China, to perform 12 pieces of both traditional Chinese and Western classical music. The event, billed as the first AI-music collaboration in China, drew wide attention from the Chinese media and included cellist Hee-Young Lim, who recently recorded a solo album with the London Symphony Orchestra, and Guang Chen, guest principal of China Philharmonic Orchestra and China National Symphony Orchestra.

“Music, particularly the kind of Western classical music emphasized at CCoM, has been far less influenced by technological advances than other areas,” Raphael said. “In many ways the playing, teaching, studying, and composing of music proceeds much as it did a hundred years ago. This is partly due to a cultural resistance to technology from the classical musical world where some see technology as an unwelcome intrusion into a sacred space. However, as relative newcomers to Western art music, many Chinese don't share this cultural view. Our CCoM colleagues have been quick to appreciate and embrace the potential contributions of the Info Phil, and are highly curious about what else may be possible.”

The event was the first performance in a collaboration between SICE, the startup company MetaMusic, and the CCoM, which created the Informatics Philharmonic Orchestra laboratory in May 2018. The Info Phil system computes a real-time score match using a hidden Markov model, generates the output audio by phase-vocoding a preexisting audio recording, and provides a link between the two by predicting future notes based on what has been played prior. The result is a soloist who is accompanied by a virtual orchestra that learns on the fly and adjusts to the style and tempo of the human player.

MetaMusic was founded by Raphael and his former Ph.D. student, Yushen Han, and includes Chinese partner and violist Yibo Zhang. The company plays a crucial role in supporting the collaboration.

“(Informatics Philharmonic) allows the composition of music that is difficult or nearly impossible for musicians to perform,” said Feng Yu, the president of the CCoM. “AI can perform as well and even outperform human accompanists. This is a far-reaching concert. The entire music industry in China will enter an era of artificial intelligence, which greatly enhances the music industry.”

Trumpter Chen was also impressed with the system.

“Now, one can perform alone with what amounts to an 80-100-member orchestra,” Chen said.

The event, which was held Nov. 26, further solidifies IU’s status among world leaders in artificial intelligence. CCoM also has committed to creating a lab for the Info Phil, which will be used for master classes, teaching, and self-reflective practice while providing detailed feedback for the further development of related technologies.

“This impressive display of technology and vision shows just one of the many ways in which artificial intelligence and machine learning has the potential to change our world,” said Raj Acharya, dean of SICE.

“This is an exciting collaboration, and we’re looking forward to playing a key role in the evolution of such an important field of technology.”

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