Collaborative Environments for

Projects & Events

Music, play, artificial intelligence and innovative collaboration

Nubots - Newcastle Robotics Lab

Richard Vella (UON),

Associate Professor Stephan Chalup (UON),

Dr Jon Drummond (UTS)

In collaboration with University of Newcastle Robotics Lab and the Creativity and Cognition Studios, (UTS).

This project combines music improvisation with deep learning strategies utilised in artificial intelligence (AI) machines. It investigates the collaborative relationship between humans and robots focusing on the roles of play and curiosity and their contribution to a musician’s creative practice and thinking.

< In a world that merges humans with automation in production processes, this project will provide in-depth knowledge about the creative processes that enable innovation in the interplay between humans and AI.

We regard free improvisatory music performances as a key starting point for our investigation into creative problem solving strategies in AI. The research will provide and analyse an artificial intelligence system in which a robot assists musicians to optimize free improvisation outcomes. Through artificial neural networks based on deep learning the robot learns to improvise and collaborate with the musician. It will train the AI system to “translate” between different improvisation styles in order to understand creative thinking strategies. Our aims are to investigate:

  1. collaborative creativity and innovation in human-robot interactions;
  2. individual and collective creative music practices and their translation to deep learning systems; and
  3. models of human free music improvisation that allow AI systems to be more flexible, playful and curious.

These aims are interconnected. We use interdisciplinary collaboration, computer science and music improvisation to explore neural network programming in a human-robot setting.  The aims underpin three aspects of the innovation process: knowledge collaboration; knowledge translation; and knowledge transfer. Aim 1 is concerned with interdisciplinary communication and interaction. Aim 2 examines the necessary processes and translation from one setting (music) to another (AI). Aim 3 focuses on the modeling of the results so that they can be transferable to other AI contexts.

GIRD #musicbricks

by Tracy Redhead

As technology changes the way we produce and experience music, it presents many creative challenges to musicians and the music industry. In this post digital environment musicians now have the tools and opportunity to completely reinvent forms of recorded music.

GIRD is a gestural based interactive audio and lighting system that allows audiences to remix, explore and interact with the music and lights through dancing and gestures. GIRD also gives performers and producers tools to create interactive audio and musical works.

The prototype consists of a glove containing IRCAM’s riot sensor, a max for live patch controller and 5 neo pixel LED lights. The patch allows musicians and producers to design dynamic and fluid music that can be explored using gesture and movement.

The lighting in the environment plays a vital role. Using individually programmable LED “neo pixels” there are 5 individual lighting fixtures.

The fixtures have several modes.

  1. The lights can create atmosphere for the music.
  2. Gesturally control the lighting
  3. Provide interaction feedback to guide the user based on the music being interacted with.

This project began in September 2015 when Tracy Redhead and Jonathan Rutherford participated in a Hackathon at Music Tech Fest in Ljubljana #mtfcentral. Their idea was chosen for a 3 month incubation as part of the European Commission funded #musicbricks initiative.

The Ghosts of Nothing

by Ilmar Taimre (UON) and Sean Lowry (VCA)

The Ghosts of Nothing are collaborating with an eclectic array of talented artists to produce a series of original mime-based interpretations of In Memory of Johnny B. Goode - A Rock Opera.

Each album track is being re-staged as a single fugitive performance, presented at various locations globally, as part of a multi-year World Tour.

The first leg of the tour - "World Tour of Abandoned Music Venues - 2014/2015” - was completed in 2015. It corresponds to Act 1 of the album. It was originally advertised in the Italian art magazine Mousse #45 (October-November 2014).

The second leg - “World Tour of Remote Wildernesses - 2015/2016” - has now also been completed. It covers Act 2 of the album. A complete list of Stage II tour dates was advertised in Mousse #51 (December 2015-January 2016).

The third and final leg - "World Tour of Abandoned Gaol-Houses - 2016/2017" - has commenced. Tour dates are advertised in Mousse #55 (October - November 2016)


The economic and cultural value of Australian music exports will be determined in a new study that is the first of its kind.  Funded by the Australian Research Council, APRA AMCOS and the Australia Council for the Arts, the research project is an exciting collaboration between the music industry and academics from the University of Newcastle and Monash University.

The research team is led by chief investigators Professor Richard Vella (The University of Newcastle), Professor Stephen Chen (The University of Newcastle)Associate Professor Shane Homan (Monash University), Tracy Redhead senior research assistant (The University of Newcastle) and partner investigator Millie Millgate (Executive Producer, Sounds Australia).

The research will be completed over three years (2016 – 2018) and arrives at a time when Australian artists like Sia, Tame Impala, Courtney Barnett, Flume, Vance Joy, Troye Sivan and 5 Seconds of Summer are dominating the world stage.

Field work and interviews for The Economic and Cultural Value of Australian Music Exports project commenced in May 2016 at music events The Great Escape (UK), Classical:NEXT (the Netherlands), MIDEM (France) and A2IM Indie Week (USA).

The project intends to measure the economic contribution Australian music export makes to GDP; the impact and return on investment of Sounds Australia; and less tangible elements of music export such as cultural experience, practice and identity and their integration with public policy.

“This is a great opportunity to study the workings of a global industry which has been neglected by most international business and management researchers,” says Professor Stephen Chen of the University of Newcastle.

“It promises to bring a fresh perspective on exporting in the creative industries, and should be useful for artists, companies in the industry as well as policy makers.”

APRA AMCOS Head of Member Services, Dean Ormston, expects the data to highlight Australia’s music export potential: “With the right investment, Australia could set its sights on becoming a net music exporter. This research will seek to provide evidence of the far-reaching economic and cultural benefits generated by Australian music export.”

Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Practice Director, Music, Paul Mason, says the research will demonstrate the impact of cultural funding on music export: “The project will deliver empirical results that can be used by government and industry to plan and support the Australian music sector well into the future.”



A rich media annotation environment for the peer reviewing and presentation of creative works

Supanova provides solutions whenever documentation, evaluation, presentation and review of rich media are required. It can be integrated with grant management systems, university repositories and used for publishing, research presentation, legal arguments, medical analysis, PHD submissions, architectural presentations, etc.

Supanova is an open source all in one, on line publication environment designed for the presentation, annotation and peer review of creative work (video, music, performance, text, image). The main features are:

  1. upload,annotation and comparison of rich media
  2. allin one publishing tool for creative outputs
  3. theintegration of a content management system with rich media annotation
  4. hierarchicaland nonhierarchical approaches to knowledge management
  5. abilityto communicate with existing library repository environments

The annotation functionality in Supanova enables the researcher to provide evidence. It links knowledge claims made in the opening Statement page to exact locations in the creative work and provides the ability to refer to other information such as links, text excerpts, quotations, examples, etc. These arguments enable the use of all types of media files and their annotations from which a knowledge hierarchy or sequencing can be created.

Oribotics - On aesthetics and language of folding and technology

Matthew Gardiner

Matthew Gardiner
(Ars Electronica)

Wednesday March 19 2014 - 10.00AM – 11.00AM

Boardroom, Level 3, Conservatorium Corner Auckland and Laman Streets, Newcastle

Matthew Gardiner is a senior research with the prestigious Ars Electronica . His work combines the traditional paper folding art of origami with complex technologies and robotic programming to create an oribotic (robotic origami). The tradition of origami–paper folding–dates back centuries. The contemporary practical application of folding has come a long way from the ancient cultural tradition.

Its irresistibly ordered aesthetic of geometric lines, planes and curves, is a defining source inspiration for artists, designers, fashion labels, architects, mathematicians, scientists, nano-technologists, biologists, and educators. The past 50 years has seen a dramatic increase in the number of origami designs and also the complexity of the designs. Part of the boom can be attributed to computing, and origami theory, where significant discoveries have led to a field known as computational origami, wherein software is used as a tool to design and calculate folded forms. The theory, including design theory, is predominantly mathematics.

From homelessness to 'residence': The agency of the material and designed environment. Barbara Adkins

Associate Professor Barbara Adkins (Queensland University of Technology)

Thursday April 3rd 2014 - 4.00PM – 5.00PM 

Isabella Upstairs, Callaghan Campus 

Design activists propose that design is particularly suited to dealing with contemporary societal, economic and environmental issues because of its capacity to operate through 'things' and 'systems'. In recent times, design has been brought into the centre of programs to alleviate homelessness in the 'housing first' program, which advocates housing as a central strategy in alleviating long-term homelessness due to its capacity to deliver stability, security, on-site support, social and community connections.

This paper opens up the question of the agency of design through an investigation into the way homeless people anticipate inhabiting a purpose-built apartment building as part of a housing first intervention.

The descriptions of prospective residents illuminate a point in time in the experience of 'moving out of homelessness' that entails a process of creating 'residence' exposing the role of the material environment in the daily struggles and newly found comforts of the home.

The virtuoso concert musician in the 21st century

Michael Kieran Harvey

Michael Kieran Harvey

Thursday May 29th -  4.00PM – 5.00PM

The Theatrette, University House. Ground floor 
Corner Auckland and King Street, Newcastle 

Michael Kieran Harvey is one of Australia's foremost virtuoso pianists and musicians. He has an international profile with recordings and performances across Europe, America and Australasia. Referring to the prophetic compositions and writings of the 19th century piano virtuoso Franz Liszt, Michael will perform compositions and talk about his research on the current and future role of the virtuoso musician giving reference to aesthetics, economic viability and contemporary thought.


The Creative Arts and the University

3D approach: Directions - Deviations  - Disruptions

The Politics of Knowledge: Plato, Socrates and Research

Wednesday, April 24 2013

Presenters: Professor Marguerite Johnson and Professor Richard Vella

Marguerite Johnson and Richard Vella will give two papers on aspects of Plato's writing. Vella will examine Plato's dialogue "Ion" in the context of current HERDC metrics. Johnson will discuss the beauty of Plato's writing, its poetic imagination, and its role in arguing the case for reason.

The International Space Time Concerto Competition – 2012

Space Time Concerto

The Space Time Concerto Competition celebrates not only the historical form of the concerto but also showcases exciting, contemporary interpretations encompassing the latest digital technology. Through the inclusion of Historical and Innovative categories this unique competition seeks to reshape traditional perceptions of the concerto. It recognises and rewarded both excellent musicianship and cutting-edge creativity. The finals concerts were held at the Newcastle Conservatorium of Music Concert Hall on 30 November and 2 December, 2012. Eleven finalists will play with specially selected musicians in two orchestras formed for the event, as well as an internet-linked ensemble spanning five countries.

Around the World in 80 Milliseconds - Fri 30 Nov

Performers in five global locations simultaneously create one extraordinary event. The Newcastle Conservatorium (Australia) connects with Ars Electronica and Bruckner University (Austria), the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (Singapore) and Central Conservatory of Music (China) live in real time.

History Meets Innovation - Sun 2 Dec

History and innovation combine to challenge musical tradition and propel the concerto form into the 21st century. Virtuoso performances on piano, trombone and violin (accompanied by a full symphony orchestra) of music from Romantic and 20th Century concertos mix with new compositions involving light sculptures, video projections and jazz improvisation.

Find out more at:

Newcastle Music Industry Forums

A joint project of CeCar, The Newcastle Conseravtorium and MusicNSW.

Music Industry Forum

MusicNSW, in partnership with the University of Newcastle Conservatorium of Music, is proud to announce the second event in our new series, titled "The Newcastle Music Industry Forum". Aimed at aspiring artists and the Newcastle industry, this special free panel and networking drinks will focus on all things recording and how to get heard, and takes place at the Newcastle Conservatorium at 6.30pm, Thursday 26 September.

Whether laying down tracks in a studio, sharing Aussie music on the airwaves, or publicising artists to the world, our panel will share expertise on what makes a good record and the best ways to get heard. The Newcastle Conservatorium is proud to have initiated this forum. It represents an important part of its education program with music and the creative industries.

Guest speakers for "The Newcastle Music Industry Forum" are:

Jay Whalley (Frenzal Rhomb)

Jay is the lead singer for three times ARIA losing punk legends Frenzal Rhomb. Somehow he has managed to make a 'career' out of head-banging and swearing at people. He also spent four years getting up at the crack of dawn to host the breakfast show, "Jay and The Doctor", at national youth broadcaster triple j.

Dave Ruby Howe (triple j Unearthed)

Dave Ruby Howe is the Music Director of triple j Unearthed, overseeing the programming of triple j Unearthed radio, the 2011-launched digital radio station that plays all Australian and all independent music sourced through Dave began his career in the industry as a music journalist as well as editor of websites and The Cool Hunter and the creator of the music blog Hyperbole.

Paula Jones (Jones PR)

Paula 'Jonesy' Jones is a national freelance publicist who has worked with some of Australia's most high profile acts, inc. Midnight Oil and Silverchair. She currently manages publicity for Paul Kelly, John Butler, Karnivool, and Kate Miller-Heidke. As the National Event Publicist for Groovin The Moo, she oversees all media activity for the regional touring festival and did the same for Sydney's Homebake Festival for 11 years.

Mark Dodds (A&R, Australian Music Manager – Inertia)

Mark is responsible for liaising with Big Scary, Glass Towers, Seth Sentry, The Delta Riggs, Hermitude, Dappled Cities and Mantra, as well as labels including Elefant Traks, Rice Is Nice and Stop Start. Mark also heads up the new Inertia Access initiative, which enables burgeoning artists like Dune Rats, Apes and Elizabeth Rose to utilise Inertia's services without forfeiting any rights to their masters or signing a long-term deal.

Lachlan Mitchell (producer)

Attic Studios co-owner Lachlan Mitchell has worked with a huge array of Aussie artists over the years, from world-class electronic duo PNAU to Central Coast pop-punkers Something With Numbers to acts like Nunchukka Superfly and Kate Ceberano. He landed two ARIA nominations – Producer and Engineer of the Year – for his efforts with 2012 Best Independent Release, The Jezabels' debut LP, Prisoner.