Created by Bureau Moeilijke Dingen, Anima is an interactive installation that facilitates a musical jam session between humans and machines. Operating much like a sequencer, Anima uses open-source AI algorithms to generate musical sequences, but with a unique twist. Anima not only allows you to make changes, but it also serves as a musician in its own right: it is an equal and active participant in the jam-session. Anima is able to bring in and overwrite sequences, variations and transitions that you can adapt and build on. Through interaction and interplay, anyone – alone or with multiple people – can freely experiment with musical ideas and boundaries, as if they were jamming in a band.
Place a disk with your desired musical genre on the inspiration module to start the jam session. Based upon the genre, Anima generates a beat and melody in the two corresponding modules, laying a foundation for the jam session. Now it is time to jam! You can manually enter a simple drum patterns (in beat), and give instructions (in melody) to the AI-algorithm to change the melody per measure. Given the low threshold of the installation’s interaction modalities, it allows anyone – especially non-musicians – to reflect on the current composition and decide what changes they would like to make. Anima proposes its new sequences through indicators, and through a virtual Tamagotchi-like character that reacts to the user’s input. You can influence Anima’s musical sequences by adjusting the AI parameters. These will tune the algorithm to generate more creative, complex and/or groovy melodies and rhythms.
The installation’s architecture is built around a central PC that handles AI tasks, displays, coordination and audio processing, as well as a number of custom hardware units that handle user inputs and outputs, as well as the smaller screens in the rhythm section. The central brains of the operation is an Electron (NodeJS) process on the PC that coordinates all individual parts of the application, as well as keeps state in Redux. It is connected to three individual PCBs with Teensy’s (Genre selection, Beat I/O and Melody I/O, respectively) over USB. The boards send out MIDI Control Changes in response to user inputs (keyboard keys, potentiometers or genre discs). These are received by the main process, which sends out MIDI Control Changes to illuminate different LEDs and show general state.