Quantum Music – Pilot Project (2015-18)

The original pilot project Quantum Music (http://quantummusic.org), co-funded by Creative Europe, began in August 2015 and it was successfully completed in May 2018. The final report was submitted in July 2018 and approved by EACEA in September 2018. This highly original and innovative project managed to push boundaries and bring together the distant worlds of music and quantum physics. Partners on this project were: Institute of Musicology SASA (project coordinator), New Art Center Belgrade, Center for the Promotion of Science, Kino Šiška Center for Urban Culture Ljubljana and the Danish National School of Performing Arts.

Since our new project Beyond Quantum Music, presents a direct continuation and expansion of the original Quantum Music project, we will present here just a short overview of the most important results and outcomes of the pilot project:

1. Production of the Quantum Music multimedia show

The main outcome of the original pilot project was an interactive multimedia show of Quantum Music, featuring new, specially designed hybrid keyboard instruments, new library of quantum sounds developed from the experiments and formulas of quantum physics and new compositions written specially for this show. Aside from music, the production also contained a visual interactive component that served the educational purpose and explained the basic premises of the quantum world to the widest possible audience; furthermore, all performances were accompanied by lectures by some of the most renowned quantum physicists of today. According to the project plan, the show co-financed by the EU grant was performed in three European partner cities in Autumn 2017: Ljubljana, Copenhagen, and Belgrade. There were additional, independently organized and finaced performances in Singapore (as a pre-premiere), in Aarhus and The Hague (as part of the European tour in Autumn 2017), as well as London, Paris and New York (after the project ended).

The Quantum Music show was performed to sold-out audiences and sparked great interest wherever it was performed. This enthusiasm of the audiences encouraged us to think of further expanding the show, inviting international artists to write new Quantum Music pieces and design new visuals that would be included in the performances. The Belgrade show was fully recorded and broadcasted by Serbian National Broadcasting Corporation.

2. Innovative technology development and implementation – Awarded for the best technological innovation

As part of the pilot Quantum Music project, a new, completely innovative product of high technology was developed, which presents a breakthrough in the development of the audio technology and its application in the industry of keyboard instruments. This product, the Hybrid Piano (MIDI piano converter) which enables an easy and (for the first time ever) portable connection of the classical piano with quantum laboratories equipment, computers and other electronic devices has far outgrown the framework of the pilot project and become an independent branch of development of the entire future project Beyond Quantum Music. The core of this technology can be applied on other types of musical instruments, and a common label for all these products that link acoustic instruments with computers and experimental gear is Quantum Link Technology. Our Hybrid Piano won a bronze medal on the annual competition for the best technological innovation in Serbia in 2017. In 2018 New Arts Center also received a prize, with the same product, as the best Serbian startup in the field of creative industries. That prize allowed them to compete at the global competition of creative industry startups (Creative Business Cup, Copenhagen, November 2018), with more than 70 other startups who won their respective national contests: they were selected as one of the 6 the most investable startups. The development of the prototype was co-financed by the Creative Europe grant and fully developed in the framework of the first Quantum Music project; a company that would mass produce and distribute this product is in the phase of establishing, with plans for production start in the 2019. This company would create jobs and be fully devoted to a further development of innovative creative music tools that would guarantee sustainability and dissemination of the results of the Quantum Music project on a whole new level.

3. Media coverage

The first pilot project attracted the attention of several media companies, especially the Serbian National Broadcasting Corporation (RTS), which produced two documentary films and several features about this project. The Belgrade performance of the Quantum Music show was recorded and broadcast. There were also numerous interviews and other guest appearances in all European cities where the show was performed.

4. Education

The pilot Quantum Music project encompassed organization of a number of educational workshops and lectures on topics related to the project. The strongest educational component was reflected in the ways in which it was possible to present such a complex topic as the relation between quantum physics and music to the widest audience. The lectures and/or workshops were given in all cities where the Quantum Music show was performed over the duration of the project: in Singapore, Ljubljana, The Hague, Copenhagen, Aarhus and Belgrade.

5. Connecting prominent individuals and institutions

A special evidence of the success of the original Quantum Music project was the fact that several prominent individuals and institutions joined the project during its duration. We should first mention the involvement of the University of Aarhus, led by Professor Klaus Moelmer, who made a major contribution to the scientific foundation of the concept of quantum music, enabling the use of their laboratory resources and experimental results. Although officially not a partner in this project, the University of Aarhus, led by prof. Moelmer, made an outstanding contribution to the quality and sustainability of the project, through practical engagements in the theoretical and experimental phases of the project; they also worked on organizing an additional concert in Aarhus, as well as a series of lectures given by Professor Moelmer on quantum music. Moreover, the Center for Quantum Technologies from the National University of Singapore also joined as an active participant in the project and opened the door for the Asian market. All listed activities and engagements were realized outside the budget of the project itself and represent an important contribution to the quality and dissemination of the project results.

6. Scientific contribution

The pilot project has forged new connections between quantum physicists, engineers, acoustic experts and artists. Through a series of meetings held within the planned and additional activities of the project, new opportunities were identified that could elevate the work on the Quantum Music project to a whole new level, beyond the boundaries of the Art & Science project, which primarily aims at popularization and education, and situates it among the projects that can transgress the existing boundaries in understanding the essence of quantum physics. This topic is of paramount importance, since the philosophical concept of quantum physics is one of the most important issues of our civilization at this moment, and its re-examination through the approach achieved in this project has the potential that has been perceived by all its participants. In that sense, completely new activities within project were established, in a sense of collaboration between scientists from different branches of science on establishment and further development of analogies between acoustic and quantum systems.

7. Original synthesizers and the first Quantum sounds library

As part of the work on the pilot project, the first sound sample library was formed. The results of the experiments carried out at the University of Aarhus, along with theoretical quantum mechanical principles, were used by the direct implementation system to form this unique sound bank. This library was used in the process of composing original musical pieces of quantum music. At this time, the Library contains over 100 sound samples, and it expands very quickly, as the new lab results come in. It is expected that this library will eventually have several hundreds of original sounds directly generated from the domain of the quantum world. In the process of working on the formation of the bank, some acoustical phenomena that deserve additional attention and explanation from the aspect of acoustics and quantum physics were recognized, which is yet another new development and contribution of this project. Also, two completely original software synthesizers were realized within the scope of the first QM project.

8. New music compositions

Several new original compositions were written by Kim Helweg and LP Duo for this project. These compositions are directly based on the laws of quantum mechanics by their rhythmic-harmonic and sound structures, and as such they represent an important contribution to European contemporary music. The new compositions were performed at all concerts within this project, and they form the basis for further research in the fields of composition, music and musicology.

9. Two PhD theses and several scientific papers

The scientific side of the pilot Quantum Music project was disseminated by means of two doctoral dissertations directly dedicated to Quantum Music topic, a scientific conference held in March 2018 in Belgrade, the publication of nine papers in the special issue of the journal Musicology dedicated to Quantum Music, and a series of popular-science articles in the magazine Elements.

10. Museum installations

The Quantum Music project was promoted, as a spin-off of the initial project plan, at two museum exhibitions in Belgrade. To this end, an interactive museum installation has been developed that illustrates the basic principles of the Quantum Music project. The exhibit is made to be easy to transport, and it is permanently curated in the gallery of the Kolarac Foundation, the prestigious cultural institution in Belgrade.

11. Contribution to the humankind – opening the big questions

The small scale cooperation project Quantum Music has far outgrown its “small”classification. The team of preeminent scientists, engineers and artists, systematically selected and expanded over the last 3 years, guarantees quality at all stages of its realization. New set of so called “big questions” concerning new approaches to scientific research of the harmony and beauty were opened, with intention of finding new ways to fund future work on such fundamentally important tasks. For us, the most important contribution of this project are exactly those key questions and dealing with them in a multidisciplinary way, which opens up opportunities for improvement of both the artistic, the scientific and technological levels of humankind today.