Two folk-rnn music videos!

On Nov. 18 2016, C4DM presented A brief evening of electroacoustic music, with Oded Ben-Tal as guest composer and Torbjörn Hultmark as guest performer. Oded and I have been working on evaluating the folk-rnn music transcription model, and this concert provided a unique opportunity to try a few things out.

First, I wanted to compose a piece around an idea generated by our character model, which the system titled, “The Ranston Cassod”. Here is a synthesis of that output, which shows what an utter failure it is in mimicking Celtic music. It caught my ear when I first heard it about a year ago though, and I made a note to return to it at some point. This concert provided that opportunity. I use the first eight measures of that tune as a bright and happy centrepiece in the whimsical landscape of my composition. Here Torbjörn plays, “The Ranston Cassock” for soprano trombone and synthesised accompaniment.

Second, we gave Torbjörn a copy of the folk-rnn Session Book, vol. 1 of 10, and said to pick a few to interpret. He just looked near the middle of the 3000 transcriptions and picked three. Here Torbjörn interprets with various effects folk-rnn transcriptions #1469, 1470 & 1472.

We are planning to do much more, including organising a “computer-generated session session”. :)

We need to talk about Donald

President-elect Donald Trump said the following at one of his rallies in February 2016:

Torture works. OK, folks? You know, I have these guys—”Torture doesn’t work!”—believe me, it works. And waterboarding is your minor form. Some people say it’s not actually torture. Let’s assume it is. But they asked me the question: What do you think of waterboarding? Absolutely fine. But we should go much stronger than waterboarding. (

In a phone interview with Fox and Friends in December 2015, President-elect Donald Trump said:

“When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” he continued. “They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself.” (Fox news link)

If you support President-elect Donald Trump, please describe in detail the means of torture that you think the USA should use. Does it involve family members being forced to watch each other being hurt? Does it involve forced marching through public? What about the removal of organs, such as cutting out of tongues or cutting off of hands? How about rape? There are lots of things “stronger than waterboarding”, and I want you to use your imagination to describe what would you like to see. Or maybe you don’t want to see any of it, but will feel comfort knowing that some people are being tortured in particular ways?

President-elect Donald Trump’s Vice President Pence recently said about Trump and torture:

“We’re going to have a president again who will never say what we’ll never do.” (interview link)

So I leave it to you as a USA citizen to say what Trump is not able to: Where do you draw the line between the permissible and impermissible, and why?

Some uncomfortable reflections on our collective misery

Since the results of the US election, and after several days of mourning and reflection, I have come to realise several important things.

Electing a POTUS isn’t about who is most moral, or ethical, or the best representative of the nation. Many people didn’t vote for Trump because they found him the most moral or ethical or the best representative of the USA. There is no single reason for why anyone voted for Trump. I don’t believe most people who voted for Trump are as racist or mysogynist as I think he is (based on what he has said with his own mouth and twitter).

I think all US citizens share some blame for what is to come; however, one group above all others chose Trump from a field of 17 candidates, and then voted for him in the election. They are the ones who loaded the gun, aimed right at the heart of our nation, and pulled the trigger. These people will blame the Democrats for manufacturing the gun or something, and might in the same breath claim it’s not fair to hold gun manufacturers accountable for the fatal results of their products.

The toilet is clogged, and so the Trump voters would rather burn down the house. In the UK, the response (Brexit) is to wall off the toilet and shit in UK-made pots. Neither is the way to fix our house. I really “enjoyed” this Greenwald article: Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit. It is necessary reading for everyone.

Probably the most inspiring news article I have read in a long time is this one: The white flight of Derek Black. I love it because it opens my heart, gives me a strategy, and fills me with hope.

I am incredibly priviledged to teach at one of the most diverse universities in the UK. Many students are from China and India. Probably half of my students are Muslim. Everyone knows I am from the USA. I will continue to be the best example of America I can so they will see some of us aren’t like what they see in the future POTUS.

It is absolutely critical to engage with a diversity of opinions. We cannot wall ourselves off from perspectives that make us uncomfortable. We are all in the coming shit-storm together as well, and we are going to have to work together.

Reinforcement learning for Numberwang?

Attended some nice talks tonight at the London Machine Learning Meetup. First was Daniel Slater talking about his project “Alpha-Toe” (github here), which is reproducing the “Alpha-Go” system but for a variety of board games. It looks like an excellent way to learn about reinforcement learning. Then Piotr Mirowski of Google Deep Mind gave an easy-to-follow talk on recurrent neural networks, and their application to a variety of things, including game playing.

All of this game talk reminds me of the ultimate goal of designing an AI to play Numberwang. It won’t be likely to ever beat human players since the number of possible moves is 13+10^{|\mathbb{R}|}.

Nov 18 Concert Program

Below is the exciting program for the upcoming concert of electroacoustic music!

Emulation (2015) tape (Robert Blaauboer, QMUL MSc Sound and Music Computing student)

InMuSIC (2016) improvisation for electronics & clarinet, Giacomo Lepri performing (Giacomo Lepri, QMUL MAT PhD student)

Mitslalim (2014) audio-visual work (Oded Ben-Tal)

Solo for Soprano Trombone (2016) soprano trombone, Torbjörn Hultmark performing (Michael Searby)

Vocal Shafts (2015) tape, electronics & soprano trombone, Torbjörn Hultmark performing (Roger Dean)

The Ranston Cassock (2016) tape & soprano trombone, Torbjörn Hultmark performing (Bob L. Sturm)

Nani series, parts 1-3 (2009-10) tape (Patricia Alessandrini)

Metaphors of Space and of Time (2014) computer & soprano trombone, Torbjörn Hultmark performing (Oded Ben-Tal)

E N C O R E : Transcriptions #1469, 1470 & 1472 from the folk-rnn Session Book, vol. 1 of 10 (2016) electronics & soprano trombone or trumpet, Torbjörn Hultmark performing (folk-rnn + Torbjörn Hultmark)

C4DM presents a Brief Evening of Electroacoustic Music with guest composer Oded Ben-Tal, and soprano trombonist Torbjörn Hultmark


C4DM presents a Brief Evening of Electroacoustic Music with guest composer Oded Ben-Tal, and soprano trombonist Torbjörn Hultmark Nov 18 2016, 18h30-20h, MAT performance lab (Engineering building, QMUL). The diverse program includes two works by Oded Ben-Tal, a work by Patricia Alessandrini, a new work by Bob L. Sturm, and several tunes composed entirely by a computer. The concert will feature Torbjörn Hultmark on soprano trombone.

Source: C4DM presents a Brief Evening of Electroacoustic Music with guest composer Oded Ben-Tal, and soprano trombonist Torbjörn Hultmark Tickets, Fri, 18 Nov 2016 at 18:30 | Eventbrite