Computers and creativity - Images and sounds made of bits and bytes

The exhibition section devoted to computer art and computer music traces historic developments as well as presenting the latest trends. With the help of many different interaction options, visitors can use computer technology to express their creativity.

From printed documents and animations to network art

When works are generated with the help of computer-controlled machines and algorithms, the results are largely shaped by the state of computer technology at that moment. Computer art came onto the scene in the late 1950s. Mathematicians, physicists, electrical engineers and computer scientists visually transformed scientific formulas and began to artistically research the relationship between digits and art. Early experiments were conducted with computers, but were presented for the most part as static, printed images. The 1980s saw the possibility of animating graphics. Films and videos featured an increasing volume of realistically illuminated, high-resolution moving images and special effects. In the 1990s, new approaches like generative design, network art or interactive multimedia installations arose from commercial art such as computer games, music videos or web design.

Art through and by algorithms

Most recently, machine learning and neural networks are being incorporated into creative, artistic processes. Artificial intelligence is becoming a tool and partner in design, painting, photography, music and film. Can art be created with the help of artificial intelligence? Machine learning is intended to support human creativity, and algorithmic tools are supposed to help create new forms of audiovisual works. Visitors will gain insights into earlier computer animation by using an augmented reality app that explains and enhances a Marilyn bust from 1986. At interactive stations, visitors see how an electronic curator works and how simple line drawings are turned into music and normal photos into digital works of art with special effects.

New keyboard instruments – Fairlight CMI and MIDI

Music that is produced by electronic devices and played on speakers is called electronic music. Music produced with the help of computer technology is commonplace today. But the technology does not replace humans; instead, it is helping them to create a new style of music. The age of electronic music instruments stretches back to 1897 with the Telharmonium, but the real breakthrough did not occur until the 1960s. Rock and pop bands began to use newly developed keyboard instruments and synthesisers in their music. Technical innovations made at the beginning of the 1980 fundamentally changed rock and pop music. The music computer was born in the form of the first digital synthesiser, the Fairlight CMI, which allowed sounds to be synthesised, stored and modified solely with digital technology. Sound sampling, in particular, caused quite a stir: with the help of this technology, every sound could be digitalised and reused in a different musical context. Visitors to the exhibition can sample the sounds of this technology by listening to a number of examples. The year 1983 marked the beginning of a music technology revolution with the arrival of a standardised interface for musical instruments – MIDI – which made it possible to connect instruments to one other and to computers in a process that enables them to communicate with one another.

Duet with the computer

Visitors to the exhibition can even write their own musical compositions. At the interactive station AI Duet, they can play piano with a computer. The computer responds to the notes and melodies being played and enhances them. The result is a creative duet between humans and machines.