Behind the screens

Martyna Staszczyk, 23 Jahre

Attending the Karajan Music Tech Conference virtually was a complete newborn-experience. At this point, the technology theme took root even more, because gathering everyone on online platforms was the only solution to save this year’s edition. In the face of the currently spreading worldwide coronavirus epidemic, event organizers face a difficult challenge. They do not have many options to put conferences through, and thus not to waste months of hard work. The initiators of Karajan Music Tech Conference took immediate action and committed to transfer the entire enterprise to virtual space, Matthias Roeder, CEO of the Karajan Institute says in his opening speech. As the planned date approached, everyone was bending over backwards to find themselves in a completely new situation and achieve the best results at the same time. „Can you hear me clearly? I hope, that you do not have any connection issues and we can move forward.“

Given that the entire event is based on technological innovations in music industry, conducting it online has gained another meaning. In this case, the technology does not only fulfill the function of improving human’s work, but enables everyone to participate in the Karajan Music Tech congress. By using the Zoom application, all participants have access to various panels. At the same time, people scatter all over the world have the opportunity to exchange ideas about technological advances in the music business. But can involvement in an online panel evoke feelings similar to those in the real world?

The issue is, that even if we are extremely fascinated about a particular subject, it is hard to focus in the long run. We are distracted by the surroundings at home and also it is not possible to have eye- or emotional contact with the panel leaders. On the other hand, we do not have to overcome the physical way to various lectures and this is saving a lot of time. In case the topic does not appeal to someone’s taste, it is possible to exclude oneself from the conversation and change the virtual room, without feeling guilty about interrupting speaker’s discourse. I have to admit, that I found myself in a situation,where I had to leave the particular room, because the conversation did not meet my expectations. Of course, to large extent the quality of the speeches also depended on the standard of the internet connection, which unfortunately cannot be fully controlled. Most of the speeches were worthy of attention and gave the possibility to delve into the world of music and futuristic technologies.

However, the discussions with Maya Ackerman and Billy Andrews aka The Dark Tenor stuck the most in my memory. Both of them appeared on the Innovation Stage. May I add, just to be perfectly clear – there were two virtual stages that hosted many experts at the same time. At 18:00 (CTE time), Maya is going onstage. The amiable blonde appears on the screen and asks, if everything works flawlessly for all of the attendees. I had the pleasure of interviewing Maya Ackerman just before the conference. Dr. Ackerman is a leading expert of Artificial Intelligence and Computational Creativity, as well as CEO/co-founder of WaveAI, an advanced musical startup. The Canadian professor is also an opera singer and music producer. Maya explains the process of collaborating creatively with AI and presents her applications, which are Alysia and LyricsStudio. Alysia allows us to create original songs within a few minutes, creates both melody and lyrics. It has also power to generate vocals (female or male) at the end of the process. Whereas LyricsStudio is a brand new project that focuses only on the lyrics, as the name implies. It can be a help for both amateurs who struggle with the writing procedure and professionals who have been working as songwriters for years, but have the chance to accelerate their work.

Ackerman clarifies that AI does not have to immediately take away the pleasure of writing songs and performing it, but it shall serve as a facilitation, along with speeding up the creative tasks. “The more expertise the person has, the more control she or he can take over the process and allow the system to step back”, claims Maya. Over the time, thanks to the contribution of AI we will gain more certainty, improve our skills and it will probably even be easier for us to create on our own.

The last lecture before the lunch break is ahead of us, 12o’clock. We have the chance to meet an incredibly talented man who gives the impression of being truly positive and talkative. The Dark Tenor, because this is the stage name of the lecturer Billy Andrews, concentrates on another aspect of the music business, which is a deep connection of punk and rock with the classical music as the core. Billy Andrews has been close to classical music his entire life, we learn. The artist started his career as an opera singer, however after a while he decided to change his path and moved also towards punk rock vibes. He was able to attract the masses to himself and made other people adore symphonic music as much as him. He points out a really compelling statement about the idea of the whole convention: “The Karajan Institute has a very punk rock mindset and attitude.” By saying this he means that organizers, despite the rules imposed from above, found the solution for the event to take place and brought everyone together. He also discusses 3D printed instruments and shows aviolin with build-in LED lighting. Furthermore, he talks about differences between emotional bonds, while playing vintage instruments and those printed.

From my perspective, the whole venture went immaculately. The arrangers, speakers, contributors and all the other people involved have risen to the challenge, and hopefully in the future we will be able to experience it again. A huge advantage was that the online Karajan Music Tech Conference was completely free of charge. The event enabled us to meet a group of intriguing personalities, broaden our horizons and gain lots of new information about innovations in music, as well as in technology. Only, we should keep in mind that technology can be our best friend or turn into our greatest enemy.