UCL Anthropology



Keep up to date with upcoming and past MusAI public events, seminars and gigs. Contact us for information about attending future MusAI events. Please let us know when you write who you are, what your interest in the program is, and how your own work relates to music AI.

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Past events


MusAI Research Programme X The Alan Turing Institute Seminar Series


The MusAI Research Programme, based at UCL, is running 4 public seminars at The Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence. The first seminar is on Friday January 12 at 3-5pm at the Turing Institute, British Library, 96 Euston Rd., London NW1 2DB. The 4 seminars introduce the work of the ERC-funded MusAI Programme, which focuses on critical and creative research on the cultural implications of AI through the lens of its impact on music.


Seminar 3: AI and Practice-Based Research in Music and the Arts


Artemi Gioti, Aaron Einbond


February 23, 2024, 3.30-5.30 pm


In this third seminar of the MusAI series of 4 public seminars held in collaboration with the ‘AI and the Arts’ group at The Alan Turing Institute, we address the rapid growth of practice-based research in music and the arts focused on creative applications of AI. Composers Artemi Gioti and Aaron Einbond present two MusAI projects that, in different ways, seek to innovate by developing critical kinds of engagement between the arts and technology. They counter the tendency of some art- and music-engineering collaborations to neuter critique of technoscience by instead engaging with critical themes from relevant humanities scholarship to inform artistic research using machine learning. Their work explores how composing with machine learning is contingent on the artists’ aesthetic backgrounds, engagement with human and non-human collaborators, and the processes of data-making themselves, probing issues often deemed external to the concerns of computer music: those of material engagement, musical labour, and distributed creativity.


Seminar 4: Towards Radically Interdisciplinary AI Pedagogies


Rebecca Fiebrink, Owen Green, Oliver Bown, Georgina Born


March 1, 2024, 3.00-5.00 pm


“Towards Radically Interdisciplinary AI Pedagogies” is the fourth in a series of 4 public seminars taking critical and creative perspectives on the current state of AI in music; it is organised by the MusAI research programme in collaboration with the ‘AI and the Arts’ group at The Alan Turing Institute. In this final seminar, Rebecca Fiebrink, Oliver Bown and Owen Green draw on findings from the MusAI programme (introduced in the previous three seminars) to present a series of conceptual and practical proposals for prototyping radically interdisciplinary AI pedagogies. Such pedagogies will recognise the need for trainings in critical thinking among future engineers designing AI systems, and for thoroughgoing understandings of AI’s social and cultural dimensions. It is now well established that any attempt to reform AI must address the trainings facing coming generations of computer scientists, as well as non-computer-scientists involved with AI. We will share our experiences of teaching artists, musicians, and other practitioners about machine learning in classroom and collaborative contexts, and we invite and welcome wide-ranging discussion with others addressing similar challenges.


Sonic Social Genre Project Livestream at RNCM Research Forum


Georgina Born, Owen Green


February 7, 2024, 4.15 pm


Georgina Born and Owen Green will present at the research forum of https://www.rncm.ac.uk/, where they will introduce the MusAI programme and initial work on their Sonic Social Genre project. Join live stream on February 7, 4.15 pm GMT.




MusAI Research Programme X The Alan Turing Institute Seminar Series:


Seminar 2: Music, Copyright & Generative AI: Social, Ontological & Legal Perspectives


Georgina Born, Eric Drott, Christopher Haworth


February 6, 2024, 4.30-9.30 pm


“Music, Copyright & Generative AI: Social, Ontological & Legal Perspectives” is the second in a series of 4 public seminars taking critical and creative perspectives on the current state of AI in music. This seminar considers the challenges posed by generative AI to existing music copyright regimes. Born’s presentation draws on anthropological literature to highlight key ontological categories underwriting property and ownership, followed by Drott’s presentation focuses on automatic music generation services, asking whether copyright’s commitment to the individual author is called into question. Haworth focuses on official and unofficial productions of the Beatles’ and Beach Boys’ music, examining the use of AI-based vocal cloning and source separation methods in popular music. By that, he discusses the artist-led initiatives regarding copyright law due to emerging moral anxieties in vocal likenesses in pop.


This seminar is followed by an electronic music performance by Owen Green and Jules Rawlinson.


Seminar 1: Re-Engineering Recommendation – Prototyping Radical Interdisciplinarities


January 12, 15.00-17.00 GMT.


This is the first in the series of 4 public seminars taking critical and creative perspectives on the current state of AI in music.


The MusAI Research Programme, based at UCL, is running 4 public seminars at The Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence. The first seminar is on Friday January 12 at 3-5pm at the Turing Institute, British Library, 96 Euston Rd., London NW1 2DB. The 4 seminars introduce the work of the ERC-funded MusAI Programme, which focuses on critical and creative research on the cultural implications of AI through the lens of its impact on music.


The first seminar, ‘Re-Engineering Recommendation – Prototyping Radical Interdisciplinarities’, is led by Georgina Born (UCL Anthropology), Fernando Diaz (Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University) and Jenny Judge (Philosophy, University of Melbourne). It presents the MusAI research on re-designing AI-based recommendation systems curating music and other cultural content on the basis of public interest principles.


This event will be hybrid, as are all the seminars, and a Zoom link is available after registration. Registration is mandatory to join the seminar. Please join us in person or online!


Seminar 15: Joint Seminar

September 26, 14.00-16.00 BST

We hold the opening online joint seminar in a series held in collaboration with 6 other major music AI and/or music streaming research projects, directed by some of our key interlocutors: Bob Sturm, David Hesmondhalgh, Andrew McPherson, Rob Prey, Andre Holzapfel and Thor Magnusson.


Seminar 14: What can GPT do and (how) does it change everything?

September 21, 12:00-14:00 BST

Oliver Bown, Discussants: Rebecca Fiebrink, Nick Seaver, Bob Sturm

Although GPT and competing large language models (LLMs) are not music generation models, they are finding applications absolutely everywhere, music included. This seminar takes time to look at some of the claims made about GPTs in terms of what cognitive work the models are capable of, and the distinction between capability and the appearance of capability, application, interface, impact, and the philosophy of AI.


Seminar 13: Commercial Applications of AI Music

28 June, 12:00-14:00 BST

Oliver Bown

Whether or not current AI capability stands up to the claims made of it, the commercial music world is well underway playing out an AI revolution. Any commercial AI music venture, even those with significant backing, is riddled with risk. Advanced technologies can be rapidly displaced by competitors, and money can easily be burnt on the wrong work. Many efforts may be destined to collapse. Amidst this highly competitive field, a very broad range of business models and value propositions have emerged. 

In this seminar, we present two papers, both in review, that discuss commercial AI music projects. Bown’s paper compares three startup companies, Aimi, Endel and Splash, and a music production studio, Uncanny Valley, each developing technologies for infinite music streams. He considers each company in terms of the way their product pitches balance competing needs, including the need to remain flexible to new possibilities, build immediate value (in code, assets, teams), minimise wasted investment, pitch a concept to customers and convince investors of scaling potential. He builds on theories of innovation, proposing that enabling “blind search” for potential unforeseen designs and products is a core strategy that startups must leverage. He considers the consequences of such strategising.  

Sturm et al’s paper brings together a very large number of authors working in music and AI, particularly computational musicology and music information retrieval, to consider what a new field of AI musicology would look like. They consider the startup company Boomy, who provide an automated music generation service, and make the curious boast that they have already produced over 10% of the world’s recorded music. Their analysis is divided into various perspectives such as the founders, the users, the musicians, the music, etc.  

Both papers seek to merge and cross disciplines to build an expanded sociotechnical understanding of commercial applications of AI in music.


Seminar 12: Work-in-Progress: Composing the Assemblage

7 June, 18:00-20:00 BST

Artemi-Maria Gioti, Aaron Einbond, Georgina Born

Artemi-Maria Gioti and Aaron Einbond will present work-in-progress on their collaborative paper with Georgina Born, “Composing the Assemblage: Probing Aesthetic and Technical Dimensions of Artistic Creation with Machine Learning”. In our study, we address the role of ML in the composition of two new musical works for acoustic instruments and electronics through auto-ethnographic reflection on the experience. Rather than focusing on narrowly defined ML algorithms, we take into account the eclectic assemblage brought into play: from composers, performers, and listeners, to loudspeakers, microphones, and audio descriptors. Tracing the creative process of composing these works, we focus in particular on the aesthetic implications of the many nonlinear technical decisions involved in composing the assemblage, applying theoretical frameworks of material engagement and critical data studies. Our findings include a deconstructive critique of data as contingent on the decisions and material conditions involved in the “data-making” process. We also explore how engagement with the assemblage of ML agents has significant similarities—as well as important differences—with existing models of material engagement.

We welcome your discussion and critique of our text-in-progress, with will follow one week before the seminar.


Seminar 11: In Search of the Humans in Machine Listening

19 April, 20:00-22:00 UTC

Jonathan Sterne, Mehak Sawhney and Andy Stuhl

The goal of this seminar is to discuss a paper in progress.In this paper, we catalogue a range of constructs of “the human” operating in machine listening systems, from abstract mathematical models, to cultural desires and ideals, to actual human listeners. Machine listening is machine learning (often branded as “artificial intelligence”) that either deals with sonic data, or uses data to produce sound. Machine listening includes a range of fields that are not always in conversation with one another: music information retrieval, natural language processing and speech synthesis, computational auditory scene analysis, and other areas.

Drawing on readings of scholarship and practice in machine learning, our paper is an exercise in critical taxonomy. Across the fields of machine listening, we group the vestiges of the human we encounter into four broad categories: imitative (like humans), delegated (like a servant or labourer), objectified (like a category), and aesthetic (“arty”—like an aesthetic product, practice, or judgment). In order for these humans to work within a machine learning system, they all must be operationalized in some way. But many of the most politically problematic aspects of machine listening come precisely from this need to operationalize.  Conversely, many of the most valuable aspects of sonic culture are the ones that are most difficult to operationalize in a data-driven machine listening system.

Some recent scholarship in the humanities and social sciences has cast machine learning as an occasion to further advance arguments in favour of posthumanism, focusing on the alien dimensions of automated machinery.  Conversely, this paper argues that “the human” is very much alive—if not always well—in machine listening systems. Thus, alongside arguments against excessively anthropomorphizing machine learning systems, we suggest scholars beware of excessive deanthropomorphization of so-called AI.


Seminar 10: Mock Tudor: Engineer-led collaboration on the Neural Network Synthesizer, 1989-1994

29 March, 20:00-22:00 UTC

Christopher Haworth

This work in progress talk examines the collaboration that led to the Neural Network Synthesizers used by experimental musician David Tudor in the later part of his life. The project was made possible by the donation of an analog neural network chip, the ETANN 80170NX, by Intel computers. A casualty of the downturn in the ‘second wave’ of AI development and investment at the end of the 1980s, the ETANN’s failure to find a use in vehicle control or robotics enabled one of the company’s engineers, Mark Holler, to explore a more unconventional application. The neural network synthesizers he helped build were not intended to simulate human intelligence, and nor were they primarily intended as a critique of projects that took this as their aim. Nonetheless, AI discourses may help in analysing the dynamics of the collaboration that led to their development. Although Holler and fellow engineers Forrest Warthman and Mark Thornson credited Tudor with steering the project as a ‘guiding light’, I argue that he took a more passive role. Less an artistic director, it was as though his oeuvre and performance practice functioned as a corpus, ‘training’ the design of a new, Tudor-esque, machine. The talk assesses this dynamic in relation to existing theories of relayed creativity in the arts, asking whether the questions Holler et al’s work posed about the role of engineers in experimental music may have restated those once asked by Tudor about the role of performers.


Seminar 9: The Politics of AI and the Politics of Technology

Wed March 8, 20:00-22:30 UTC

In this round table we want, collectively, to get to the heart of some urgent yet classic and related questions: What are the politics of AI? How do they relate to how the politics of technology have been conceptualised by STS, media studies and music/sound studies? And how do the politics of AI relate to critical research and to critique of the kind MusAI aims to cultivate? To throw light we have invited a series of speakers to present provocative 5-7 minute statements that address their take on these questions. Our aim is in part collectively didactic: to make links between the AI literature and earlier theorisations of the politics-technology relation; to make us aware of distinctive traditions that have addressed these questions, and not to lose sight of links to earlier approaches; and (of course) to reinvigorate those older traditions by taking the measure of their relevance and adequacy when faced with AI. We aim for lively discussion and participation! Please join us for this tune-up as a preliminary to the November MusAI conference, where these issues will haunt our concerns .


Seminar 8: On the cultural mediation of music AI: challenges to ‘strong Foucaultian’ readings

24 January, 20:00-22:00 UTC

Gustavo Ferreira and Georgina Born

Gustavo Ferreira and Georgina will present two short papers for discussion that address the relationship between AI and culture with reference to recent studies of music streaming platforms and music recommender systems (MRS). Both papers engage with the advances and limitations of some recent writing particularly around the subjectification of platform and MRS users, presenting alternative framings that draw on classic arguments from STS and cultural studies, and particularly on the work of the late great Latin American theorist Jesús Martín-Barbero. On this basis both papers present alternative framings to the existing literature. Gustavo’s pre-submission paper focuses on accounts of distinctive live music scenes under strict COVID-19 movement restrictions that engaged with the affordances of streaming platforms mediated by shifting notions of liveness, locality and authenticity. Georgina’s short paper sets out four articulations between AI and (music) culture, an exercise in conceptual clarification, while also pointing to a major conceptual question posed to a classic STS model by the material nature of AI sociotechnical assemblages. She raises: does the materiality of AI assemblages mean that what she identifies as ‘strong Foucaultian’ theorisations of users are more apt than for earlier generations of music technologies?


MusAI Conference School of Advanced Study, UCL, 28-29 Nov.

Performing Critical AI I: feedback, noise, corpus, code

Sunday 27 November | 2pm

Cafe Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, E8 3DL

£12 | £10 in advance. Buy tickets

Anna Xambo | P.A. Tremblay and Owen Green | Feedback Cell feat. Ollie Bown

With the explosion in music technologies offering ‘artificial intelligence’, artists and musicians are exploring original and meaningful ways to adapt them to creative ends — often in ways that critique their underlying assumptions. Computational systems will be used to explore themes of agency and performative creativity, and to find new ways to control spatialisation, compose algorithmic patterns, and respond to bodily gesture. The performances will be followed by open Q & A and discussion with the artists.

Performing Critical AI II: body, space, action, agency

Tuesday 29 November | Doors: 8pm | First Act: 8:30pm

Iklectik, Old Paradise Yard, SE1 7LG

Free entry

Xenia Pestova | Artemi-Maria Gioti | Maxime Echardour | Aaron Einbond | Christopher Haworth

Prepared piano, handmade percussion, new compositions, and electronic improvisations situate AI with the listener in a unique 3D sound environment. With the explosion in music technologies offering artificial intelligence, artists and musicians are exploring original and meaningful ways to adapt them to creative ends — often in ways that critique their underlying assumptions. Live performances explore themes of agency and performative creativity to find new ways to control spatial sound, compose algorithmic patterns, and respond to bodily gesture. The performances will be followed by open Q & A and discussion with the artists.


Seminar 6: Critically composing with AI – work in progress

October 12, 2022

Artemi-Maria Gioti & Aaron Einbond

Artemi-Maria Gioti and Aaron Einbond presented work on their project “Permeable Interdisciplinary: Algorithmic Composition, Subverted (WP3c)”. Artemi presented her composition Bias II for piano and electronics, to be premiered in November 2022 and Aaron presented his composition Prestidigitation for percussion and 3D electronics, premiered in September. In our discussion of both works we explored themes of aesthetics, action, affordance, and agency.


Seminar 5: Redesigning recommendation

September 7, 2022

Georgina Born, Fernando Diaz, Gustavo Ferreira & Andres Ferraro

Recommender systems (RS) have become the dominant means of curating cultural content, including music. In this seminar we invited discussion of our interdisciplinary (CS + SSH) research on alternative designs for RS informed by normative principles oriented to the public good (Andrejevic 2013; Born 2006, 2018). To identify useful normative principles to guide RS design, in the first phase of our work we examined those principles underpinning public service media (PSM) systems as well as critical debates over fairness, bias and discrimination – to assess if they could be productive for redesigning RS.


Seminar 4: AI and commercial music production

June 8, 2022

Oliver Bown & Eric. A Drott

Small startups and big tech companies are now very active in pursuing commercial opportunities in the application of AI to music. In this seminar we scanned and analysed this activity, considering the emerging business cases, issues of copyright, ethics, attribution and authorship, the sociotechnical challenges of developing transformative technologies that catch on, and the possible impacts of such technologies. 


Seminar 3: Ethnography of algorithms and platforms

May 11, 2022

Nick Seaver & Darci Sprengel

This seminar focused on the methodological challenges of operationalizing and studying “algorithms” and “platforms” ethnographically. It was led by Nick Seaver and Darci Sprengel, drawing on his completed fieldwork with developers of music recommender systems in the US and her ongoing work in the Arabic music industry and local music scenes in Egypt. The selected readings explored the challenges of rendering abstract technical objects and processes suitable for ethnographic study, as well as considering what kinds of questions ethnographic methods are (and are not) suitable to answer. Nick’s work was put in dialogue with Georgina Born’s earlier ethnography of a (music) AI research culture (the 1996 reading below) to highlight another, complementary angle on doing ethnography of this kind and what it can address.  


Seminar 2: Software studies

April 13, 2022

Christopher Haworth & Aaron Einbond, with respondent Tobias Blanke

In this seminar we explored some of the software studies literature, looking at how its more formal orientation can complement the ethnographic approaches of the MusAI subprojects. The seminar was guided by questions like: how should we think the textuality of code, and what interpretive methods should we bring to its analysis? How do we analyse collaboration using version control systems like GitHub? What kinds of empiricism has software studies typically entailed, and could it entail in the future? We will discuss potential connections to Aaron Einbond’s and Artemi Maria Gioti’s work-in-progress on Permeable Interdisciplinary: Algorithmic composition, subverted (WP3c).


Seminar 1: Interdisciplinarity

March 9, 2022

Georgina Born, Fernando Diaz, Gustavo Ferreira & Andres Ferraro, with respondent Lucy Suchman

The opening MusAI seminar focused on interdisciplinarity in the practice of Artificial Intelligence in music and, reflexively, in our own research practice. The discussion covered three paradigms: 1) Barry and Born’s ‘modes’ and ‘logics’ of interdisciplinarity (Barry and Born 2008, 2013); 2) Galison’s ‘trading zones’ (1997); and 3) Star’s concept of ‘boundary objects’ (Star 1989, 2010; Bowker and Star 1999). The seminar also included a short presentation on interdisciplinarity in practice by Fernando Diaz and Georgie Born stemming from their project ‘Interdisciplinary Interventions in the Design of Recommendation Systems’ (WP4c), based at Mila in Montreal, a 4-way collaboration with Gustavo Ferreira and Andres Ferraro. Central to the project are our attempts to experiment by developing deep interdisciplinary exchanges between computer science and SSH, and we will reflect on this and welcome input from the group. Lucy Suchman, from the MusAI Advisory Board, responded to the presentations with reference to her own experiences of interdisciplinarity.