Competing Engineers Set Sights on Disklavier

RENCON Mitsuyo Presents 200x133Stockholm, Sweden - July 30, 2013 - Computer engineers are constantly striving to get closer and closer to realistic human gestures, whether in movement, speech, or even “thinking.” (remember Deep Blue, anyone?) Those of us who spend a great deal of time combining music and technology know that musical expression is one of those elusive human behaviors that has long evaded the world of non-human production. Seeking to conquer this “holy grail” of modeling, Rencon [Musical Performance RENdering CONtest] began in 2002, as part of a conference workshop in Kyoto. Rencon has since become an international competition, encouraging advancement in this highly sophisticated realm.
RENCON has historically favored the Yamaha Disklavier as the preferred performance medium for the competitors' submissions. The 2013 contest, held at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, working with the Stockholm-based Yamaha Piano Center, specifically chose the Yamaha Disklavier DC3XE3 PRO. Anders Friberg explained the decision to DEN: 

“We chose the Disklavier since we think it is the best way of evaluating computer models for music performance. The playback of the Disklavier is very accurate as confirmed by our calibration measurements. By using an acoustic piano it is the same conditions as for a human pianist. Thus, in this way we are avoiding all the artifacts associated with electronic piano models using loudspeaker playback.”

The specific call for entries specified that the contestants were to create “computer models simulating expert music performance on the piano.” Then, with just two hours to create their submissions, each competitor or team was given both MIDI and MusicXML versions for excerpts of two musical works: Sonata K.466 by Domenico Scarlatti and Prelude No. 3 by Nino Rota.RENCON Note Sequences Similarity 600x400 The elite level of engineering combined with artistry caught the attention of Wired UK, which dubbed the contest The Turing Test for Music in a recent feature article.

The final performances were played “live” on a Disklavier. The audience was invited to take part in the evaluation. Audience questionnaires, in addition to the evaluations of jurors Lucia Negro and Stefan Bojsten. (both Swedish concert pianists), formed the final results in two categories: automatic performance and semi-automatic and interactive performance. 

Since it would be cruel to make you go look up the winners, they are:

In the Automated Category: 

A stochastic model of artistic deviation and its musical score for the elucidation of performance expression
Kenta Okumura, Shinji Sako, and Tadashi Kitamura, Nagoya Institute of Technology, Japan

In the semi-automatic and interactive category:

VirtualPhilharmony: a conducting system focused on a sensation of conducting a real orchestra
Takashi Baba (Kwansei Gakuin University), Mitsuyo Hashida (Soai University), and Haruhiro Katayose (Kwansei Gakuin University)

DEN heartily congratulates these winners and salutes all the 2013 RENCON participants

To learn more about RENCON, including how to participate, please visit the RENCON website

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