Quantum Computer And Mezzo Soprano To Duet In World First Performance


What happens when you combine the pure tones of an internationally renowned mezzo soprano and the complex technology of a $15 million quantum supercomputer?

The answer will be exclusively revealed to audiences at the Port Eliot Festival when Superposition, created by Plymouth University composer Alexis Kirke, receives its world premiere later this summer.

Combining the arts and sciences, as Dr Kirke has done with many of his previous works, the 15-minute piece will begin dark and mysterious with celebrated performer Juliette Pochin singing a low-pitched slow theme.

But gradually the quiet sounds of electronic ambience will emerge over or beneath her voice, as the sounds of her singing are picked up by a microphone and sent over the internet to the D-Wave 2X quantum computer at the University of Southern California.

It then reacts with behaviors in the quantum realm that are turned into sounds back in the performance venue, the Round Room at Port Eliot, creating a unique and ground-breaking duet.

And when the singer ends, the quantum processes are left to slowly fade away naturally, making their final sounds as the lights go to black.

First Creative Performance Of Quantum Computer

Dr Kirke, a member of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research at Plymouth University, said:

The three-part performance will tell the story of Niobe, one of the more tragic figures in Greek mythology, but in this case a nod to the fact the heart of the quantum computer contains the metal named after her, niobium. It will also feature a monologue from Hamlet, interspersed with terms from quantum computing.

This is the latest of Dr Kirke’s pioneering performance works, with previous productions including an opera based on the financial crisis and a piece using a cutting edge wave-testing facility as an instrument of percussion.

D-Wave 2X

Geordie Rose, CTO and Founder, D-Wave Systems, said:

Quantum computing is positioned to have a tremendous social impact, and Dr Kirke’s work serves not only as a piece of innovative computer arts research, but also as a way of educating the public about these new types of exotic computing machines.“

Image: A D-Wave 1000 Qubit Quantum Processor. Credit: D-Wave Systems Inc

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