Scott Barton

Scott BartonComposition/ Robotics: Musical Robots

During his residency at HCL, Barton will explore how human performers and robots interact in musical contexts.  Barton, along with his lab at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and his colleagues at EMMI (, designs, builds, programs, composes for, and performs with robotic musical instruments.  His compositions illuminate the musical spaces that are unique to humans, are unique to machines, and are shared between the two.  His research interests also include music psychology, and in particular, rhythmic and temporal perception.  He combines these seemingly independent fields in an artificial musical intelligence that will allow humans to interact and improvise with human performers.  His time at High Concept Labs will be spent refining this artificial intelligence by experimenting with the ways in which a human ensemble can collaborate with the robots (and vice versa).  These experiments will explore foundational musical and perceptual questions: how do we perceptually group individual elements, such as notes, into larger organizations such as rhythms?  When playing music with others, when do we follow and when do we lead?  How will our new ideas relate to our old ones?  These explorations will teach us about how we understand and communicate with music, which will inspire us to imagine new modes of musical communication.  Importantly, these experiments respect that which is human and that which is mechanical; the goal is to both preserve and synthesize these areas to create something that is new and good.  The time spent at HCL will culminate in a local performance that showcases the improvisational, compositional and performative possibilities of a human-robot musical ensemble.

PAM2 by Scott Barton

About the Artist:

Scott Barton is an Assistant Professor of Music at Worcester Polytechnic Institute who composes, performs, and produces (electro)(acoustic) music.  His interests include: rhythmic complexity, auditory and temporal perception, musical robotic instrument design, human-robot interaction in composition and performance, audio engineering and rock music. His dissertation explores the cognitive and contextual inputs to musical discontinuity perception. He co-founded Expressive Machines Musical Instruments (EMMI,, a collective focused on designing and building robotic musical instruments.  He studied music and philosophy at Colgate University, received his Master of Music in Composition from the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music, and completed his Ph.D. in the composition and computer technologies program at the University of Virginia.  His music has been performed throughout the United States and Europe and has been featured at SMC; ICMC; CMMR; NIME; 12 Nights of Electroacoustic music series; the Sound, Sight and Play Conference; and the Leeds International Festival for Innovations in Music Production and Composition.

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