Robert is the PRiSM Researcher in AI-Assisted Composition in Association with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
His research includes working with computer scientists to develop new tools using artificial intelligence for the compositional process and imagining the future of classical music institutions in a world of intelligent technology.
He is currently working towards the final part of his PhD, a work for the BBC Philharmonic called Silicon. Silicon explores authenticity, technology, and the future through collaborations with PRiSM researchers and other AI-researchers from the UK and globally.
He is in the final year of his PhD at the RNCM funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council. Throughout his PhD he has participated in PRiSM events such as Imagining the Analytical Engine at the Barbican Centre, three editions of Future Music Festival at the RNCM, Calculating the Nervous System at Oxford University and others. His PRiSM PhD research has been broadcast on BBC Four and BBC Radio 3, and he has spoken about it at conferences and events including the Royal Musical Association Annual Conference, New Music Gathering USA, BBC Blue Room’s Annual Conference (2019 & 2020), the 2nd AI and Music Creativity Conference, the Alan Turing Institute’s AI & Arts series, Cambridge University’s Composers’ Seminar, and the Machine Creativity Showcase at NeurIPS.
Since the beginning of my PhD, I have been very busy working toward a few big projects. AI is a huge area of research, and is not nearly as simple as just clicking a button to produce some music.
There are a hundred ways I could use AI in my compositional output, from inspiration to audio genesis to score creation to real-time collaboration with a performing computer – but what I do has to fit with my own artistic goals, and be of interest to the programmer(s) I am collaborating with (in this sense it is a little like an opera, ballet or more traditional collaborative task).
I have been busy speaking with experts across the world in their particular fields of AI, some of whom I am lucky enough to count amongst my PhD supervisors, and creating a detailed plan that is both ambitious and realistic to push my work in new directions for these big projects.
I don’t think there could be a better place to do this than the RNCM. The composition school has an atmosphere of innovation, which you can hear by going to see any concert including student works, and this provides both a support network but also a creative backboard that I can bounce ideas off. The college is also very interested in supporting forward-thinking compositional research, and there are already plans underway for projects involving my research and that of similar composers. – Robert Laidlow