September 7, 2016

Yamaha's AI Technology Makes Possible Joint Performance of Sviatoslav Richter and Today's Members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

What would it be like if a past master pianist could play a concert with today's leading players? Making the impossible possible Yamaha's AI Music Ensemble Technology can now play such piano pieces in synch human players.

Yamaha AI Technology understands the human player's performance and plays a piano in harmony with the performance. The AI analyzes human players' gestures and sound to anticipate their next notes and instructs our Yamaha Disklavier™ player piano to play accordingly. The instructions contain special data that enables faithful reproduction of the touch of master pianist Sviatoslav Richter. While playing the piano, the AI also projects a shadow of an imaginary pianist in order to give human players a cue to synchronize their rhythm and tempo.

In short, Yamaha AI Technology goes well beyond replicating master pianist Richter's touch to allow today's players to enjoy playing ensembleswith master pianist Richter's avatar.

Using this AI technology, Yamaha has been able to in effect digitally reintroduce past master Sviatoslav Richter via a performance with the renown Scharoun Ensemble, which is comprised of some of the greatest string players of the 21th century.

The Scharoun Ensemble was founded by members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1983. For this concert the ensemble was composed of members performing on the violin, viola, cello, and contra-bass.

To live up to their high performance level required, we prepared a special Disklavier™ linked to the AI system. This special Disklavier™ was configured based on Yamaha's flagship model CFX concert grand pianos. As a matter of fact, CFX concert grand pianos are a later generation of the Yamaha's CF series concert grand pianos that Richter performed on in his later years.

Both in Germany and Japan, the ensemble members practiced together with Yamaha's AI system right up to the day of the performance. As far out as it sounds, the ensemble practiced with our AI system just as if it were a person, with machine and players deepening their mutual understanding to steadily improve their joint performances expression.

This exciting ensemble performed on Thursday, May 19, 2016, in the Sogakudo Concert Hall at the Tokyo University of the Arts. The program spanned the fourth and fifth movements of Franz Schubert's Piano Quintet in A Major (D667, "Trout").

The polished performance of the ensemble comprising the AI system and live musicians absolutely delighted both audience and Scharoun Ensemble members. And maybe our musical AI system was pleased, too.

Since 2015, Yamaha has participated as a member of the Tokyo University of the Arts Center of Innovation (COI); the collaboration this time was part of these activities and is aligned with Yamaha's commitment to the music and instruments of tomorrow.

Peter Riegelbauer, Representative Member of the Berlin Scharoun Ensemble

I feel it is really exciting to be tackling the challenges of doing things that are thought to be impossible. I enjoyed this challenging joint performance. One should try these activities not just in classical music but also in electronic music and in other genres. These initiatives are just beginning, but just as today's technological environment is completely different from 20 years ago, 20 years from now, the environment will certainly be quite different from today.

Isao Matsushita, Composer and Vice President of the Tokyo University of the Arts

AI is on the cutting edge of scientific technology, and, in the near future, it may become indispensable in our daily lives. These days, you hear much about AI "winning" or "losing" against human beings, but what we saw here today suggests that we may be able to experience "the joys of living with AI." It is precisely because the music we heard was performed by human beings that today's performance shows we can share passion and performance together with AI.

Motoichi Tamura, General Manager of Development Department No. 1, Research & Development Division, Yamaha Corporation

The performance this time was a challenge and was the first of its kind in the world. I would like to express my deepest thanks to everyone who cooperated in many ways. While I believe there are still issues related to expression that need to be addressed, I think this event was the first steady step toward a world of the future where AI type instruments can perform together with human beings.