London debuts computer-generated musical

Published December 1, 2015

Beyond The Fence, a new musical created in part by computers, will receive its world premiere at London’s Arts Theatre in 2016.

The show, which is set in 1982 at the Greenham Common peace camp, runs at the West End venue from 22 February.

Growing from research into what makes a successful musical, Beyond The Fence had its premise and central characters conceived by Goldsmiths, University of London’s What-If Machine and its plot structure generated by storytelling computer system PropperWryter, which was fed new analysis of musical theatre narratives.

The music came from another machine, which analysed musical theatre scores, dubbed Android Lloyd Webber. More music will be created using the FlowComposer system.

Not all of the ground-breaking production has been born from the mind of computers. Composer Benjamin Till and writer/performer Nathan Taylor, who brought Our Gay Wedding: The Musical to Channel 4, have worked on the production, creating the book and lyrics, and making choices about their sci-fi colleagues’ suggestions.

Beyond The Fence’s road to the stage will be charted in a new Sky Arts documentary, Computer Says Show.

Speaking about the production, Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts said: “This is a fascinating project that we’re extremely proud to be a part of. At Sky Arts, we’re always excited by innovation and this venture offers an intriguing glimpse into how technology is changing music evolution. Can an algorithm create music with all the humanity, emotion and drama that a person can bring? This question captivates us. We cannot wait to see the result.”

Shaping the production with a human touch is In The Heights and Casa Valentina director Luke Sheppard. Choreography comes from Cressida Carré, whose previous credits include Titanic at the Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto.

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