Beyond the Fence
Nathan Taylor and Benjamin Till, who rose to national prominence last year with the Channel 4 “Our Gay Wedding: The Musical” (spot us in the audience!) are now working on Beyond the Fence, the world’s first computer generated musical which will be performed at the Arts Theatre next February. Working with Sky Arts, who will broadcast programmes on the production process, this is an experiment to see how far machines can go in a completely artistic sphere.
“It is a mad experiment, No one has ever done it before and we really didn’t know what was going to happen when we started.” said producer Catherine Gale, “This is not about taking humans out of the creative process at all”. And indeed it is not as a lot of the work has had an human hand in it. Book and lyrics are by Nathan and Benjamin but around a plot developed through analysis of existing musicals and some clever systems.
- Analysis of success in musical theatre by researchers from the Machine Learning Group at Cambridge University; investigating different aspects including cast size, emotional structure, and backdrop.
- The What-If Machine at Goldsmiths (University of London) which generated multiple key characters and central premises.
- Dr Pablo Gervás, of the Complutense University of Madrid, used his PropperWryter system to build the core narrative arc.
- Music by computer music researcher Nick Collins, a reader at Durham University.
- Lyrics by Nathan and Benjamin (you see, humans are still in there) with help from The Cloud Lyricist
Having worked in both theatre and machine intelligence I find this whole project fascinating and look forward to the result. I have worked with Nathan and am a great fan of both his work and Benjamin’s music (quite a bit of which is on my playlist) so this, to me, is an exciting experiment – it is not about replacing humans, or dumbing down music, it is about trying to understand the creative process and see if we can get a handle on what real artistic endeavour is.
Beyond the Fence