Could a computer conduct an orchestra?

R2-D2 may have some issues conducting Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but modern computing is showing that machines can be musical too. 

28th March 2017
Could a computer conduct an orchestra? (Getty)

Asked by: David Hayes, Redruth

At least two already have. In March 2004, Sony’s QRIO robot – a 58cm high humanoid bot that’s also rather good at dancing – conducted the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra for a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

A few years later in 2008, Honda’s Asimo (pictured) conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra performing Impossible Dream. The results sounded rather good, which is more than can be said for Russian media artist Dmitry Morozov’s work in 2015. In his artwork called Nayral-Ro, a human was able to conduct a bizarre robot orchestra of buzzing and bleeping devices, producing ‘music’ more reminiscent of a fax machine than a symphony. 


Get more fascinating Q&As from BBC Focus magazine by following @sciencefocusQA