HKBU Symphony Orchestra's Annual Concert presents an extraordinary fusion of art tech and music

30 Apr 2024

The Hong Kong Baptist University Symphony Orchestra (HKBU Symphony Orchestra) held its Annual Gala Concert on 19 and 20 April at the Academic Community Hall at HKBU under the theme “East West Encounters”. The event integrated cutting-edge art tech into a stunning musical performance, offering audiences a unique immersive art experience.

HKBU has long been at the forefront of arts and technology education and research, dedicated to nurturing well-rounded talents who can adapt to the development of the new era. Professor Alex Wai, President and Vice-Chancellor of HKBU, said, "The theme of this year's Concert reflects HKBU's commitment to promoting Hong Kong as a centre for cultural and artistic exchange between China and the rest of the world, showcasing the profound and diverse Chinese arts to the global community."

At the concert, the HKBU Symphony Orchestra performed Dance of the Yao People, blending elements of Chinese folk music with symphonic arrangements, and for the first time, incorporated artificial intelligence (AI)-generated virtual dancers who performed alongside the live orchestra. This representation of Guangxi’s local culture serves the purpose of preserving and promoting its artistic heritage.

Professor Johnny M Poon, the Founding Dean of the School of Creative Arts, Director of the HKBU Motion Capture and Visualisation Laboratory, as well as the Music Director and Conductor of both the HKBU Symphony Orchestra and the Collegium Musicum Hong Kong, said, “We have worked closely with Dr Chen Jie, Assistant Professor of the Department of Computer Science at HKBU, and documented the folk songs, dances, culture and landscapes from Guangxi. By translating the dancers’ movements into motion data, the team created a machine learning model to train the AI dancers to synchronise their movements to the music.” The team employed the “MotionGPT” movement generation system and “BuVatar” virtual avatar technology, projecting images on stage to enrich the visual spectacle of the concert.

Another highlight was the performance by renowned violinist Ms Yao Jue, who played the classic violin concerto Butterfly Lovers. This composition is an outstanding example of cross-cultural musical collaboration, combining Chinese folk melodies and instrumentation with Western classical music structures and orchestration. Additionally, a new variation of the HKBU anthem Lion Hill Symphonic Metamorphosis made its debut at the concert, accompanied by an AI virtual choir, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Academy of Music and the 30th anniversary of HKBU achieving university status, marking the climax of this remarkable and meaningful journey.