"If we could understand any correlation between brainwave signals and someone's experience of the music, or their state of consciousness, could you actually compose with states of consciousness? Generate music based on algorithms using pre-composed or co-composed music? That would be awesome."
Song of the Ambassadors reimagines opera as a musical ritual producing scientific understanding about the effects of music on the body and mind. It is above all an opera, a hymn to the sun, space, and life written by K Allado-McDowell using the A.I. language model GPT-3 and performed by a trio of vocalists representing the ambassadors to those three entities. But it is also a meditation and a neuroscience experiment performed by a team of scientists from the University of California, San Diego, who record and analyze the brainwaves, heart rate, and other data of subjects in the audience. The score, composed by Derrick Skye, combines traditional Ewe music from Ghana, Persian classical music, electronic music, and environmental sounds to form a meditative hymn to the sun, space, and life sung by the opera’s "Ambassadors." For the Lincoln Center performance, A.I.-generated images designed by media artist Refik Anadol were infused with real-time brainwave data from Shanta Thake, Lincoln Center's artistic director, to create visualizations on stage alongside the ceremonial set pieces and costumes designed by Marcos Lutyens and Oana Botez. The neuroscience experiments were performed by a team of scientists from UC San Diego who recorded and analyzed brainwaves, heart rate, and subjective feedback from pre-selected subjects in the audience. Song of the Ambassadors was presented at Alice Tully Hall in New York's Lincoln Center on October 25, 2022, as a work-in-progress.