The CHIPS Project


The Computer-Human Interactive Performance Symposium (CHIPS) project was funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through the Digital Transformations programme.  The project ran from February to September 2012.

The aim was to explore the likely performance practices (and problems) that would result from having easily deployable, robust, creative, and reliable artificial music performers in mixed human-computer ensembles playing popular music.  There are many systems that go some way to solving the technical problems of computer participation in this kind of music (e.g. beat trackers, chord estimators, interactive improvisers) but as yet no complete systems that can be deployed by non-expert users into common practice performance contexts and be relied upon to underpin the performances of popular music ensembles.

The project aimed to develop the future research agenda for both technical and non technical music computing research in this area, by learning from the issues and experiences of technological adoption in other relevant performance contexts, understanding the technological state of the art in relation to popular music performance, imagining future performance practices incorporating computer “musicians”, and thinking about how to study musicians (human and computer) in this context.


Popular music (e.g. folk, rock, music theatre) plays a central role in the lives of millions of people.   Musicians of all standards from amateur to professional produce music that is heard on radios and televisions, and performed in concert halls and theatres.  Teenagers are motivated to learn instruments and play in bands to emulate their professional idols, serious amateurs play and sing together at open-mike nights, charity concerts, and in churches, and professionals perform in clubs, theatres, and spectacular multimedia shows like Cirque du Soleil and the Blue Man Group.   To learn, rehearse, and perform popular music often requires a musician to be part of an ensemble yet forming such a group can be challenging, particularly for amateur musicians.  Even in established communities such as churches, the demands of everyday life mean that musicians cannot always attend rehearsals or play regularly together.  In professional ensembles, illness can cause the absence of key musicians in rehearsal or performance.  Computer music technology offers the potential to substitute for musicians in these situations, yet reliable, robust, and simple systems that can be quickly set up, and that play musically and creatively do not yet exist.  


The main activities of the project were the virtual and actual symposia.  These were supplemented by theoretical work culminating in an adoption assessment framework published at SMC 2012.  From the results of this work and in collaboration with Andrew Robertson and Adam Stark, a feasiblity study was undertaken using beat tracking and chord estimation on the iOS platform.

For information, the programme, abstract, slides, photos, and videos from the main symposium (presented as part of the CREST open workshop programme), please see the COW web-page here

The virtual symposium Wordpress site hosting the conversations is here.  For an account and to join in, please contact me

The virtual symposium will remain live for some time and we plan to run a further CHIPS event in 2013 - if you are interested in getting involved, please contact me.


The expected outcomes from the project comprise conference and journal papers discussing the issues identified, the record of the virtual symposium and video and other media produced from the main event.  Links to the media can be found above under Activities.

Other formal outputs/presentations to date:

  • Brief presentation given about the project at the PI's meeting at the University of Westminster on 30th April 2012
  • Paper on evaluating the adoption potential of performance technology for popular music presented at Sound and Music Computing 2012
  • Invited seminar at Centre for Digital Music, Queen Mary University of London on 3rd October 2012
  • The final report is here.
  © Nicolas Gold 2012