Anima is an interactive installation that facilitates a musical jam session between humans and machines. Anima functions like a sequencer that uses AI algorithms to generate new musical sequences, but with a unique twist: the installation not only allows you to make changes, but it also serves as a musician in its own right, meaning that it is an equal and active participant in the jam session, able to bring in and overwriting sequences. It creates variations and transitions that you can ignore, adapt and build upon. Through interplay and interaction with Anima, humans can freely experiment with various musical ideas and boundaries, as if they were jamming in a band.
To start a jam session, you place a disk on the installation’s INSPIRATION module. This serves as a communication tool for the AI algorithms to understand the desired genre for the jam session (e.g. disco, reggae, techno, etc.). Then, Anima generates an initial drum beat and a melody sequence in the corresponding BEAT and MELODY modules.
Both modules function as abstracted sequencers where you can interact to change the generated drum and melody patterns. The BEAT module is a 16-step drum sequencer that consists of 4 drum instruments (e.g. kick, snare, hi-hat, tom) for the selected genre. Instead of using traditional input modalities associated with musical instruments, such as a keyboard, to control a melody, the MELODY module uses four buttons to give instructions to the algorithm to change the melody per measure. These buttons are associated with a different tonality (e.g. pitch upwards, pitch downwards), allowing anyone – especially non-musicians – to reflect on the current composition and decide what changes they would like to make. The AI algorithm will then generate a new melody based on this tonality.
Anima communicates its new sequences through indicators that are placed above and next to the buttons in the BEAT and MELODY module. When they light up, Anima will soon bring its new idea into the jam session, altering and overwriting your previously made changes. Throughout the jam, you are guided by a virtual Tamagotchi-like character that “lives” in of the three modules. Through this, Anima communicates its own actions and reacts to your interactions. You can influence Anima’s musical sequences through adjusting the AI parameters using the black rotation knobs in the BEAT and MELODY module. These will tune the algorithm to generate more creative, complex and/or groovy melodies and rhythms.
Given the low threshold of the installation’s interaction modalities and interface, Anima is primarily aimed at people who do not play an instrument. By leveraging the capabilities of AI, we aim to give them the unique experience of “playing with music”. We hope that experiencing the installation sparks an interest in music and inspires people to take up an instrument themselves.
Throughout history, new technologies have continually transformed the field of music, expanding possibilities and opening up new avenues for expression. Advances in AI technology bring about new and exciting opportunities to the creative process for musicians. Bureau Moeilijke Dingen considers AI as a tool that humans collaborate with rather than a replacement for human musical creativity. AI has the potential to enable novel forms of exploration, sound synthesis and engagement. Ultimately, it is up to the creatives/musicians to explore how they can incorporate this technology into their craft. We cannot wait to see what human creativity can be unlocked through the use of novel technology, especially in music.