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How Bjork and Microsoft collaborated to create an evolving soundscape

Composed in real time using computer vision technology, the Sister City hotel lobby music has earned recognition from the 2020 Innovation by Design Awards.

How Bjork and Microsoft collaborated to create an evolving soundscape
[Photos: courtesy Ace Hotels]
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In the lobby of Sister City, a sleek Manhattan hotel from the creators of the Ace Hotel chain, no song is ever played twice. In fact, none of the music has ever been played before. It’s all being composed in real time on the roof. Computer vision technology—built by Microsoft for manufacturing and other enterprise applications—captures video footage taken by a camera on the hotel’s rooftop. Then snippets of choral music, produced by Icelandic artist Björk over the past 17 years, combine and recombine in real time in response to clouds, birds, light, and more, creating a dreamy soundscape, which Björk named Kórsafn (Icelandic for “choral” and “archives”). “The intention of the hotel was to make a space in the middle of Manhattan that is very different from the street around it,” says Amy Sorokas, director of strategic brand partnerships at Microsoft. “Björk was very involved in the process. She was curious about how it could all come together, and what kinds of options there were for what the AI could learn. She was most interested in what it could express—how to apply it as a creative tool as part of a [musical] piece.” COVID-19 temporarily closed Sister City in March, but you can still hear snippets of Kórsafn online.

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See more honorees from the 2020 Innovation by Design Awards here.

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D

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