Interview with Jennifer Walshe

Ahead of the premiere of her latest opera, ‘TIME TIME TIME’, and new piece for New Music Dublin later this month, Jennifer Walshe talks to CMC about these two projects and her recent AI-inspired project with artist Memo Akten, ULTRACHUNK

Jennifer Walshe’s new opera TIME TIME TIME is a collaboration with Timothy Morton and features, among others, a creative cast including Áine O’Dwyer, Lee Patterson, M.C. Schmidt, Streifenjunko (Eivind Lønning & Espen Reinertsen), Vilde&Inga (Inga Aas & Vilde Alnæs).

Exploring the multiplicity of temporalities at the heart of being human, the opera is a commission from Borealis, in collaboration with Sonic Acts, MaerzMusik – Festival for Time Issues, Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival, and London Contemporary Music Festival /​Serpentine Galleries. The premiere takes place at Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam on 24 February, followed by its Norwegian performance on 9 March at Borealis in Bergen.

all musicians are extremely sensitive to time, they build their work in time, but there’s something about free improvisers and they way that they had to build things in real time to get together in the room alongside the audience that gives them a very special skillset - that was very important for me to have.

Following the premiere of this work, Walshe travels to Dublin to perform her new work The Site of an Investigation with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in the opening concert of New Music Dublin, which also features a performance of David Fennessy’s major work Conquest of the Useless.

Commissioned by RTÉ, The Site of an Investigation is described by Walshe as dealing with being alive at this point in history:

… on the one hand things are terrifying, but on the other hand there’s people that you got to be here with, and dance to Prince.

One of Jennifer Walshe’s recent works, ULTRACHUNK, explores the emerging world of artificial intelligence. A collaboration with artist/researcher Memo Akten, the work, which was performed in London last November, is an improvised piece between Walshe and an AI learning key components of Walshe’s identity – both her voice and face.

ULTRACHUNK Excerpt from performance at ASSEMBLY 2018 at Somerset House Studios from Memo Akten

“I really deeply believe that everybody who’s involved in music in the next 50 years is going to have to contend with AI”, says Walshe, who recorded daily samples of her voice for a year, which Akten used to train a number of neural networks on for the piece. “The next big argument is what does music mean, when increasingly we’re going to have neural networks who can do it just as good as us or better.”