Android Opera “Scary Beauty”, 2018.Photography: Kenshu Shintsubo


The operatic performance Scary Beauty, conceived and directed by composer and musician Keiichiro Shibuya, features a humanoid android with artificial intelligence (AI) that conducts a human orchestra and sings alongside the players. Although Shibuya composed the music, the android, Alter 3, is responsible for deciding and leading tempo, volume and singing expression.

The opera lyrics are an amalgamation of critical texts: a love song by Michel Houellebecq, cut-up texts by William S. Burroughs, extracts from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s last work, On Certainty, and others.

A metaphor for the transitional nature of the relationship between humans and technology, the performance shows the fatalistic side of the future, where humans cannot exist without the technology they create.

A prototype of the opera with an early version of the android was performed in Australia in 2017. The work then had its world premiere with an updated android called Alter 2 at ALIFE 2018, which was an international conference on artificial life at the Miraikan, Tokyo. Alter 2 was created by robot scientist Hiroshi Ishiguro, and it used an autonomous AI program developed by artificial life scientist Takashi Ikegami. Alter 3 is the newest iteration of the android, further developed by the scientists with contributions from mixi, Inc. and Warner Music Japan Inc. The latest version of the opera with Alter 3 was successfully performed in Düsseldorf in 2019.

Concept, Composition, Direction, Piano: Keiichiro Shibuya
Vocal, Conduct: Alter3 (Supported by mixi, Inc.)
System Architect and Electronics: Kotobuki Hikaru

Orchestra performance: NSO Symphony Orchestra (UAE)
Alter series hardware and software architecture design and programming: Hiroshi Ishiguro, Kohei Ogawa, Takashi Ikegami, Itsuki Doi
Alter 3 software architecture design and programming: Atsushi Masumori, Norihiro Maruyama, Alternative Machine Inc.
Alter 3 simulator development: mixi, Inc.
Alter 3 performance operation and development: johnsmith
Produced by Warner Music Japan Inc / ATAK TOKYO CO, LTD

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Scary Beauty (2019)

Shibuya, Keiichiro

Composer and musician Keiichiro Shibuya has created musical works for live performances, films and sound installations and established the music label ATAK.