Graduate takes New Media to new creative levels with Artificial Intelligence

October 16, 2019

Musical performance is a creative process, and SFU PhD alumnus and accomplished multimedia artist K?van? Tatar is expanding musical performance with computational creativity. His focus on using artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance music and multimedia is helping pioneer new directions in live performance.

Tatar, a postdoctoral fellow in SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology, applies artificial agents and multi-agent systems to creative tasks, an innovative approach that often leads to stunning musical results.

“These applications are beneficial to modelling and designing music with interactive systems because musical creativity involves distributed, coordinated entities with perception and action abilities,” Tatar explains. “For example, in live music performance, musicians collaboratively create music by listening to each other. In terms of musical composition, composers divide the problem of making music into sub-problems, such as producing individual instrument parts, or musical layers in experimental music.

“I’m studying creative AI for music with a focus on artificial agents that tackle musical creative tasks, whether partially or completely; so concepts such as reactivity, adaptability, coordination and others. These are all fundamental to ‘musical metacreation,’ the term we use for endowing machines with creative behaviours for musical applications.”

SFU PhD alumnus and accomplished multimedia artist K?van? Tatar (in the middle) performs before a live audience.

Tatar, originally from Turkey, came to SFU to work with computational music pioneer Philippe Pasquier in SIAT’s Metacreation Lab. The lab has been at the forefront of the emerging field of creative AI for the past decade.

Tatar's PhD research led to several creative outcomes. Among them, the design of a new, fully automatic musical agent that learns from raw audio and listens to live audio to perform. Dubbed Musical Agent, it is based on Self-Organizing Maps (MASOM), and a real-time audio-visual performance with an AI system and audio-reactive generated visuals, called Revive where an established Canadian digital artist and composer, Remy Siu joins the project with his work on generative visuals.

In collaboration with SFu alumnus Mirjana Prpa, he also developed a virtual reality system featuring an autonomous musical agent that reacts to a user’s breathing, called Respire (previously known as Pulse.Breath.Water). In 2016, Tatar was part of a graduate student team that produced POEMA, which also uses breathing to explore the relationship between space and audience. The project was featured at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

In his artistic practice, Tatar joined well-known Turkish composer Mehmet ünal and creative director Hakan Y?lmaz for a project titled "Under 1 Minute (U1M)."

The project connects moving images, visual arts, musical composition, interactive arts, live performance, creative AI, audio-visuals, and software development. In U1M’s aesthetics, new technologies of artificial intelligence and computational methods meet new media through structural forms.

In September 2019, U1M exhibited a head-shaped digital LED sculpture that is 2.8 metres high and powered with AI-generated content. at the PlugIn exhibition at the Contemporary Istanbul gallery. The piece was well received, with 74k walk-ins and 40k social media shares that reached 10 million views in one week. The artwork was  mentioned on every mainstream news outlet in Turkey for a week. 

Tatar continues to prepare AI and VR installations and perform with his work in experimental music, including several contemporary art and experimental music projects. His art has been performed and exhibited internationally in many countries, including Germany, Italy, Romania, Austria, Brazil, Australia, South Korea and Turkey, along with stints in the U.S., including New York and Atlanta, and in both Vancouver and Montreal. 

He holds a visiting researcher position at the Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technologies at Zürich University of the Arts in Switzerland. Earlier this year he  completed a residency at the Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technologies (ICST) in Zurich, Switzerland.