Machine listening in artistic contexts

Much research effort is spent worldwide on speech, education and medical applications of machine listening. On a personal level, however, I was motivated to join this effort as a result of difficulties encountered while creating sonic controllers for use in live performance and sound installations. My work since then has involved the development of machine listening techniques, specifically those inspired by human audition. In this project I aim to open new lines of communication and enquiry, and to survey the current state of machine listening in artistic contexts.

I was able to work full-time on this project during May 2017 thanks to a ‘Socially Enterprising Researcher’ award from the University of Sheffield’s Engineering Researcher Society.

Related works

  • A. V. Beeston, “Unmaking acoustics: Bio-inspired sound information retrieval for an audio-driven artwork,” in 4th Workshop on Intelligent Music Production (WIMP2018), Huddersfield, UK. Invited talk. 14 Sep, 2018.
    [BibTeX] [link]
    @inproceedings{Beeston:2018wimp,
    author = {Beeston, Amy V},
    title = {{Unmaking acoustics: Bio-inspired sound information retrieval for an audio-driven artwork}},
    booktitle = {{4th Workshop on Intelligent Music Production (WIMP2018)}},
    year = {2018},
    address = {Huddersfield, UK. Invited talk. 14 Sep},
    link = {https://research.hud.ac.uk/institutes-centres/apl/events/wimp18/},
    month = sep
    }

  • A. Beeston, L. Cheesman, and D. Egan, “SONA: Unmaking acoustics,” in AlgoMech Festival of Algorithmic and Mechanical Music+Art, Sheffield, UK. Sound-responsive audio-visual installation. 11-12 Nov, 2017.
    [BibTeX] [link]
    @inproceedings{SONA:2017algomech,
    author = {Beeston, Amy and Cheesman, Lucy and Egan, Deborah},
    title = {{SONA: Unmaking acoustics}},
    booktitle = {{AlgoMech Festival of Algorithmic and Mechanical Music+Art}},
    year = {2017},
    address = {Sheffield, UK. Sound-responsive audio-visual installation. 11-12 Nov},
    link = {http://algomech.com/2017/events/exhibition/},
    month = nov
    }

  • A. V. Beeston, “Machine-mediated listening in sound art and music,” in Field Studies 2017: Listening After Pauline Oliveros, Leeds, UK. Invited talk. 13 Oct, 2017.
    [BibTeX] [link]
    @inproceedings{Beeston:2017lapo,
    author = {Beeston, Amy V},
    title = {{Machine-mediated listening in sound art and music}},
    booktitle = {{Field Studies 2017: Listening After Pauline Oliveros}},
    year = {2017},
    address = {Leeds, UK. Invited talk. 13 Oct},
    link = {http://www.field-studies.org/open-programme/},
    month = oct
    }

  • A. V. Beeston and M. A. C. Summers, “Machine listening: the expressive potential of human+computer systems in real rooms,” in European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (ESCOM), Ghent, Belgium. Poster. 1-4 Aug, 2017, pp. 202-203.
    [BibTeX] [paper]
    @inproceedings{Beeston:2017escom,
    author = {Beeston, Amy V and Summers, Mark A C},
    title = {{Machine listening: the expressive potential of human+computer systems in real rooms}},
    booktitle = {{European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (ESCOM)}},
    year = {2017},
    pages = {202-203},
    address = {Ghent, Belgium. Poster. 1-4 Aug},
    paper = {http://www.escom2017.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/ESCOM-2017-Book-of-Abstracts-1.pdf#page=206},
    month = aug
    }

  • A. V. Beeston, “Machine listening in artistic contexts,” in Music Mind Machine Lab, Sheffield, UK. Oral presentation. 19 May, 2017.
    [BibTeX]
    @inproceedings{Beeston:2017mmm,
    author = {Beeston, Amy V},
    title = {{Machine listening in artistic contexts}},
    booktitle = {{Music Mind Machine Lab}},
    year = {2017},
    address = {Sheffield, UK. Oral presentation. 19 May},
    month = may
    }

  • A. V. Beeston, “Using sound as a controller,” in International Women’s Day at Heritage Quay, Huddersfield, UK. Software demonstration. 4 Mar, 2017.
    [BibTeX] [link]
    @inproceedings{Beeston:2017iwd,
    author = {Amy V Beeston},
    title = {{Using sound as a controller}},
    booktitle = {{International Women's Day at Heritage Quay}},
    year = {2017},
    address = {Huddersfield, UK. Software demonstration. 4 Mar},
    link = {http://heritagequay.org/events/yorkshire-sound-women-network/},
    month = mar
    }

  • A. V. Beeston, “Machine listening in music: A beginner’s guide,” in Catalyst: Festival of Creativity, DINA, Sheffield, UK. Workshop leader. 21 Jul, 2016.
    [BibTeX] [link] [slides] [watch]
    @inproceedings{Beeston:2016mlfb,
    author = {Beeston, Amy V},
    title = {{Machine listening in music: A beginner's guide}},
    booktitle = {{Catalyst: Festival of Creativity}},
    year = {2016},
    address = {DINA, Sheffield, UK. Workshop leader. 21 Jul},
    link = {http://www.sheffieldcityofmakers.co.uk/calendar/machine-listening-in-music-a-beginners-guide-with-amy-beeston},
    slides = {http://staffwww.dcs.shef.ac.uk/people/A.Beeston/dl/slides/Beeston_YSWN_Jul2016.pdf},
    watch = {https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wgbb2gYuNK8},
    month = jul
    }

  • A. V. Beeston, “Do we need robust audio interfacing based on psychoacoustic principles of hearing?,” in 2nd Royal Musical Association Music Philosophy Study Group Workshop, Sheffield, UK. Oral presentation. 27 May, 2015.
    [BibTeX] [link]
    @inproceedings{Beeston:2015rma,
    author = {Beeston, Amy V},
    title = {{Do we need robust audio interfacing based on psychoacoustic principles of hearing?}},
    booktitle = {{2nd Royal Musical Association Music Philosophy Study Group Workshop}},
    year = {2015},
    address = {Sheffield, UK. Oral presentation. 27 May},
    link = {https://humancomputermusicphilosophy.wordpress.com/events/workshop27may2015/schedule-abstracts/#beeston},
    month = may
    }

  • A. V. Beeston and M. A. C. Summers, “Using machine listening to analyse timbre in performance,” in Music Mind Machine Research Centre ‘Open House’, Sheffield, UK. Demonstration. 26 Nov, 2013.
    [BibTeX] [slides]
    @inproceedings{Beeston:2013mmm,
    author = {Beeston, Amy V and Summers, Mark A C},
    title = {{Using machine listening to analyse timbre in performance}},
    year = {2013},
    booktitle = {{Music Mind Machine Research Centre 'Open House'}},
    address = {Sheffield, UK. Demonstration. 26 Nov},
    slides = {http://staffwww.dcs.shef.ac.uk/people/A.Beeston/dl/slides/BeestonSummers_MMM_Nov2013.pdf},
    month = nov
    }

  • A. V. Beeston and M. A. C. Summers, “Groundwork for a resource in computational hearing for extended string techniques,” in 10th International Symposium on Computer Music Multidisciplinary Research (CMMR), Marseille, France, 2013, pp. 662-669.
    [BibTeX] [paper] [poster]
    @inproceedings{Beeston:2013cmmr,
    author = {Beeston, Amy V and Summers, Mark A C},
    title = {{Groundwork for a resource in computational hearing for extended string techniques}},
    booktitle = {{10th International Symposium on Computer Music Multidisciplinary Research (CMMR)}},
    year = {2013},
    pages = {662-669},
    address = {Marseille, France},
    paper = {http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/76764/1/Beeston_Summers_CMMR.pdf},
    poster = {http://staffwww.dcs.shef.ac.uk/people/A.Beeston/dl/Poster_CMMR2013.pdf},
    month = oct
    }

  • A. V. Beeston, “Sonic control in interactive audio installations,” Master Thesis, Institute of Sonology, Royal Conservatoire, The Hague, NL, 2005.
    [BibTeX] [link]
    @mastersthesis{Beeston:2005sono,
    address = {Institute of Sonology, Royal Conservatoire, The Hague, NL},
    author = {Beeston, Amy V},
    title = {Sonic control in interactive audio installations},
    year = {2005},
    link = {http://www.sonology.org/downloads},
    month = sep
    }

A bit of background

Our brain does incredible things when we listen! I had the good fortune to study perceptual constancy in audition during my PhD, and realise now that we constantly adapt our listening in light of both our environmental acoustic context, and the task we’re busy doing.

It’s hard to show such auditory phenomena on the internet since it’s a primarily visual medium… so here’s a visual analogy! It’s a real-life version of the grey square illusion – where squares A and B are exactly the same shade – and I hope it will give you a flavour of what’s going on inside our heads (but not yet our computers) when we effortlessly compensate for our environment. Isn’t it amazing!?