Thursday, 21 November 2019

Music, robotics, AI: Recording the Lim Fantasy of Companionship for Piano and Orchestra

Lim Fantasy of Companionship for Piano and Orchestra
Having recently reviewed a disc of music inspired by particle physics [Matthew Whiteside's Entangled, see my review], on Tuesday 19 November 2019 I found myself listening to the studio recording of a new work for piano and orchestra inspired by robotics and artificial intelligence!

The Lim Fantasy of Companionship for Piano and Orchestra was commissioned by Dr Susan Lim, a Singaporean surgeon who is a specialist in the field of transplantation, robotics and stem cell research. The work was written by the French composer Manu Martin, and arises out of Lim's ALAN project which aims to explore disruptive technologies, the intersection between technology and humanity, in the form of robotics and AI, via music. The idea that human engineering of the inanimate may ultimately produce companions previously unimagined. And that is Fantasy of Companionship which is depicted in Manu Martin's work.

French composer Manu Martin is best known for his work in television and radio, working alongside some major French artists. His Lim Fantasy of Companionship for Piano and Orchestra is written for large forces, substantial orchestra along with choir and solo voice, plus electric guitar, electric bass and drums.

I heard part of the recording at Abbey Road Studios, with Arthur Fagen (musical director of the Atlanta Opera) conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. The solo piano part was played by the Belgian-American pianist Tedd Joselson, the role of the piano was not so much that of a concerto soloist as an important concertante part. The Fantasy is in six sections, which tell a clear narrative story. Musically, Martin's piece draws inspiration from a companion work, ALAN the Musical, and his background in writing for TV and radio was apparent in his fluent and engaging writing for large orchestral forces. It is always difficult judging a work from hearing sections out of order, and it will be fascinating to see how the Fantasy builds when the recording is complete.

Dr Lim described the project thus:
"In November 2019, I commissioned Manu Martin to write me a Fantasy conveying hope for the future companionship between and inanimate and a human; a Fantasy that would ... unfold and explain the journey of a soul from wild to captive, from animate to inanimate and with the addition of electric sounds, to herald the inanimate's bold futuristic step into a new world order of synthetic biology, AI and robotics"

As part of the same planned recording, Tedd Joselson is recording, next week, Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Phlharmonia Orchestra, and Grieg's Piano Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, both conducted by Arthur Fagen.

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