Singing robot Skeleton ready for world debut at Oz Asia

Posted September 29, 2017 11:40:50

Skeleton the singing AI android is ready for its worldwide debut this weekend after an intense six months of programming and composing.

Iconoclastic Japanese musician Keiichiro Shibuya worked alongside two programmers and two directors to bring Skeleton to life with help also from the University of Tokyo.

“Skeleton is a medium for a disruptive kind of new music,” Shibuya said.

Shibuya is famous for his ability to combine technology and music in unusual ways.

“Every new technology is a new instrument for me.”

He gained an international following with his holographic performer Hatsune Miku.

His latest project will further challenge performance perceptions when an operatic singer is replaced with the android.

Skeleton will perform three songs in front of the Australian Art Orchestra eight-piece ensemble as part of the Oz Asia Festival in Adelaide.

“This is not a normal android because it is also able to move a bit itself,” Shibuya said.

“It can react to movement and sound.”

Shibuya said Skeleton’s ability to express emotions through facial movement would further humanise the performance.

Though Shibuya has previously been met with mixed responses to his innovations, he said musicians had nothing to fear from his work.

“Composing music is difficult enough, but making a melody and [computerised] sound is very difficult.”

But he added: “Robots will take part in performances in the future and we are just now at the beginning.”

Shibuya said his imagination was only limited by technological discovery.

Topics: music, robots-and-artificial-intelligence, community-and-multicultural-festivals, carnivals-and-festivals, adelaide-5000

Aussie sumo wrestlers ready to throw their weight around

Posted August 25, 2017 10:13:50

Watching two sumo wrestlers in a practice bout is a surprisingly quiet affair.

A Japanese phrase is issued to kickstart the match before some dull slaps of skin against skin.

Training in a small reserve in Mosman in Sydney’s north on a chilly August day are Jack Carlson and John Trail.

Carlson isn’t your stereotypical sumo wrestler.

He’s only 78 kilograms, in his first year of a medical degree and has very little “puppy fat”.

“The diet is pretty important but I can pretty much eat what I like,” the 18-year-old said.

“I’d like to go up to 85 kilograms and put on as much weight as I can.”

Carlson has been sumo wrestling since he was young, and was the Oceanic junior champion in 2015 in his first year of competing professionally.

The sport runs in the family.

Carlson’s cousin is also a wrestler, and Trail, the family’s trainer and Carlson’s uncle, is president of the Australian Sumo Federation.

“It’s steeped in tradition, a very ritualistic sport, very primal,” Carlson said.

“It’s also very simple — easy to learn, hard to master.”

Not all about the kilos

Sumo is still a fairly niche sport in Australia and has a small community that regularly compete against each other.

There are three categories — lightweight for those under 85kg, middleweight (85-115kg) and heavyweight (115kg and over).

Compared to international athletes, particularly in Japan where the sport is revered and respected, the wrestlers in Australia tend to want to lose weight rather than gain it.

“You might think sumo wrestling is all about putting on the kilos, but for the Australian team it’s often about losing the weight to drop down a category,” Trail said.

Diet is of course a key component of the training regime.

“With the eating, it’s a bit of a myth it’s about being fat,” Trail said.

“[The Japanese] eat a very healthy diet called chanko — it’s a hot pot with low calories and they go to bed with a full stomach.

“It gives you the puppy fat to protect your organs from the impact.”

Endurance over weight

Strength, discipline and flexibility are important skills for a sumo wrestler.

With the raw combat style, being heavy-set doesn’t necessarily guarantee a win.

For Carlson, improving his endurance will hopefully give him the upper hand.

“Sumo wrestling is a lot of strength and speed … so if I can withstand the initial barrage I can wear out my opponent,” he said.

Carlson will be competing in the Sakura Cup at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Auburn on Sunday.

Sumo wrestlers will be coming from as far afield as Fiji, Mongolia, Vietnam and Tonga.

And while the main rivals and most intimidating will be the Tongans, Carlson said most sumo wrestlers were “kind enough not to hurt you”.

“The scariest guys are usually the middleweights, so that’s when you need to be concerned how hard they will hit you,” he said.

“But if they’re giant they usually try and put you safely to the side.”

Tune in to ABC Radio Sydney live from the festival from 10:00am on Sunday, August 26.

Topics: sport, other-sports, human-interest, arts-and-entertainment, carnivals-and-festivals, community-and-multicultural-festivals, sydney-2000

Carols by Candlelight splinter ignites community backlash in Hobart

Posted August 22, 2017 06:21:09

A move to break up Hobart’s traditional Carols by Candlelight into smaller community-based events has angered residents.

The popular St David’s Park event was altered in 2015 and again in 2016.

But after a ticketing fiasco last year, the Hobart City Council abandoned its joint production with local company ExitLeft Productions.

The council voted on Monday night to instead plough $46,500 into a series of smaller community events.

The move has prompted a backlash on social media, with a stream of people venting on ABC Radio Hobart’s Facebook page.

Jolanda Narrding posted: “Disappointing. Christmas in Hobart will never be the same again.”

“Absolute rubbish idea. Literally, is this a joke?” Carinda Rue added.

Dianne Summers said: “These people have been around for five minutes, carols has been around for decades. Who do they think they are?”

Another post joked that the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) should take on the event and call it Dark Carols.

Instead of an outdoor event at the Royal Botanical Gardens, ExitLeft has opted to scale down and run a series of more intimate concerts in St David’s Cathedral, which holds 650 people.

As well, there will now be council-backed events in various locations around the city.

Lord Mayor Sue Hickey said the event needed to change and the community-based carols were a better idea which would cost considerably less than the $100,000 for St David’s Park.

“We do understand that some people will be disappointed because generations of people will have traditionally gone to St David’s Park,” she said.

“I’m personally sorry that it’s not going to be held there but I do think these community carols will go a long way towards fostering great community spirit.”

More events, more variety: Lord Mayor

She hoped the move would appease those lamenting the loss of the St David’s Park event.

“I hope so because the other one is a private operator doing their own thing,” she said.

“These ones are ones that we’ll be sponsoring and yes, they’ll be organising them as individual groups but there’s a variety.”

While some will be traditional carol nights with a religious theme, others will be community oriented, with singers from the SES, Rotary and the Hobart City Farm.

“Another good one will be a multicultural event held by the Korean Full Gospel Church in Hobart and that one’s going to have a Korean cuisine supper afterwards,” she said.

“So there’s a good variety, there’ll be some out at Lenah Valley on Turnbull Park, and Lansdowne Crescent and New Town will be coming together, a whole group of residents are organising that one.

“So I think overall there’ll be something for everyone in this group of carols.”

Topics: carnivals-and-festivals, christmas, events, christianity, local-government, hobart-7000

Hobart’s Carols By Candlelight concert goes indoors with battery-powered candles

Updated August 21, 2017 15:57:06

This year’s Hobart Carols By Candlelight event will be a paid-ticket, scaled-down, indoor affair with electric candles, organisers have announced.

ExitLeft Productions said the revamped Christmas carols event would be held at St David’s Cathedral, where audience capacity would be about 650.

ExitLeft managing director Ian Williams said the company decided to hold a more “intimate” event after feedback following last year’s event.

“We either had to go incredibly big or really bring it down to an intimate level and after looking around everywhere the cathedral turned out to be the perfect space,” he said.

This year’s carols will be several 70-minute performances, rolling across the weekend of December 9 and 10.

“This will give all of our audience members a chance to come along and celebrate Christmas with us at a time that’s going to be convenient to them,” Mr Williams said.

He said prices were still being worked out, but promised it would be affordable for families.

“All of the major carols events around the country have now had to become user pays and they have some very, very hefty ticket prices,” Mr Williams said.

“We’re going to be able to keep this to a reasonable ticket price.

“But of course remembering we’re so lucky in southern Tasmania that there are so many free carols events that people can attend, there really will be something for everyone.”

Mr Williams said charging an entrance fee would also help with demand.

“Being a paid event should hopefully slow down the speed that everybody purchases their tickets and sets it up so that everybody who wants to come along to this particular event … we can make room and fit everybody in,” he said.

This year’s concerts will feature “some of Tasmania’s leading performers plus national guest artists”, ExitLeft said.

The company said ticket holders would “receive electric candles on arrival to create a magical candlelight experience”.

In 2015, two free, council-backed carols concerts were held at St David’s Park in Hobart, attracting about 5,000 people each night.

A week later, ExitLeft ran their one-night event at the Botanical Gardens, with admission prices ranging from $15 to $25, with children 12 and under free.

Council and ExitLeft joined forces in 2016, allowing the removal of the admission fee, but the event was marred by a ticketing fiasco which saw many people missing out on attending after 10,000 tickets were snapped up within minutes.

In March this year, Hobart City Council announced they were redirecting funds from ExitLeft’s carols to smaller events, in part due to the public backlash following the 2016 ticket dramas.

‘Very sad to have to pay to go to church’, Mayor says

Hobart Lord Mayor Sue Hickey said it was “sad” the free carols event in St David’s Park were no longer.

“Generations of families have taken their blankets and sat in beautiful St David’s Park and enjoyed the carols there,” she said.

In March, Alderman Hickey voted against the council decision to pull financial backing for a large-scale event.

“Things do change and the aldermen decided that it was time for change and they wanted a more community focus,” she said.

“I think it’s very sad to have to pay to go to church, but I do understand that ExitLeft are a professional organisation and need to cover their costs.”

Council will tonight consider approving more than $46,000 in funding for seven community-based carols events in Hobart.

Topics: carnivals-and-festivals, christianity, events, religion-and-beliefs, local-government, arts-and-entertainment, community-and-multicultural-festivals, hobart-7000

First posted August 21, 2017 15:04:31

Adelaide to ‘celebrate failure’ and keep festival barge floating on Torrens

Posted August 09, 2017 08:50:01

The Adelaide City Council has decided to “celebrate failure” and allow the Adelaide Festival to keep its Riverbank Palais barge on the River Torrens until April 2019.

The structure will be refurbished to make it more attractive and useful for other city events and festivals.

The “unsightly” barge has drawn widespread criticism after staying in place — in a deconstructed form — for several months following the end of the 2017 festival.

The barge had supported a night club alongside the bank of the River Torrens in Elder Park.

On Tuesday evening, the Adelaide City Council agreed to allow the barge to remain, on the condition that festival organisers re-clad the structure and made it available for other events.

Councillor Houssam Abiad said while keeping the barge on the Torrens was not council’s original plan, it was now hopeful the structure would help to attract more visitors to the area.

“I think what was promised initially, and what was delivered on, is completely at odds,” Mr Abiad said.

“However, the [festival] is a very important asset and contributor to the social and economic development of the city.

“We have an obligation as a council to be able to, to some degree, celebrate failure and to assist organisations so they are financially stable [and] able to deliver such events.”

Mr Abiad said he was confident other event organisers would take advantage of the structure in the future.

“The plan that we’ve seen … clearly showcases that the [festival] is taking this very seriously,” he said.

“They are planning to clad and beautify the pontoon and connect it better to the riverbank, but also they are looking at a plan to be able to activate that precinct.”

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, local-government, carnivals-and-festivals, adelaide-5000

Jack Charles reflects on how Bastardy and its director ‘saved my life’

Posted August 09, 2017 07:00:00

In one of the first scenes of 2008 documentary Bastardy, Jack Charles shoots up heroin, declaring it is what he “lives for”.

Speaking ahead of tonight’s re-screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), the acclaimed actor and member of the Stolen Generations said neither he nor director Amiel Courtin-Wilson knew then how the film would end.

“We never knew whether I’d survive,” Charles said matter-of-factly.

Courtin-Wilson followed Charles for six years “existing on the streets of Collingwood and Fitzroy, a struggling homeless, addicted, well-known cat burglar”.

“I do remember having to con $50 out of him so I could get a whack.”

Bastardy could have been the story of a human tragedy, but when Charles quit heroin it became a story “with a wonderful happy ending” that resulted in an “outpouring of love” for Charles, Courtin-Wilson said.

The man the people of Melbourne now know as Uncle Jack was humbled by the experience.

“People contacted me, on the street, tripping over themselves on the street to engage with me, speaking to me on public transport, writing me little notes saying that they saw Bastardy.”

Charles said the documentary became “a useful tool” for him to reinvigorate his acting career.

“People in the industry … realised that I was performing nowadays, from the time of Bastardy, with no poo in my system.

“It was the documentary that actually saved my life, and I’ve often embarrassed the poor bugger Amiel by saying he was my saviour.”

Director’s unorthodox working methods

When Bastardy premiered at MIFF, Courtin-Wilson was living in a caravan in the corner of a rented Melbourne warehouse.

In 2013 he decided to concentrate on making films overseas and has since found it “easier to just not have a house at all”.

“I’ve pretty much been a homeless nomad for the last nigh on four years,” he said.

Courtin-Wilson followed Bastardy with the short film Cicada, which was selected for the Cannes Film Festival.

That, he said, made it easier to finance his feature film projects despite his unorthodox working methods.

His work since include experimental feature films Hail (2011) and Ruin (2013) and a documentary on Australian pop star Ben Lee.

“[I am] really trying to push myself formally, personally, philosophically into a space that feels really unsafe and unknown and see what happens.”

Courtin-Wilson’s latest film The Silent Eye, also screening this year at MIFF, documents a collaboration between 72-year-old Japanese butoh dancer Min Tanaka and 88-year-old free jazz pianist Cecil Taylor.

Shot entirely in Taylor’s music room, the film alternates between the pair’s improvised performance and slow-motion vignettes featuring extreme close-ups and dancing shadows.

Courtin-Wilson said the film was “a love letter to Cecil”, who the director lived with as his carer for a year-and-a-half.

He is now working on a larger film on Taylor which he described as “a free jazz time travel biopic”.

“That film is probably a good year or two off, so I just wanted to make something about Cecil and one of his collaborators that could be very confined and shot very quickly, but also that I could show to Cecil as a gift of sorts.”

Self-proclaimed ‘Cleverman’

These days Charles describes himself as a “self-proclaimed Cleverman”, and is Facebook friends with one of the police officers who used to pursue him for burglary.

His play, Jack Charles Vs The Crown, documented his struggle to return to prisons as a mentor for Aboriginal inmates, a struggle which is just now bearing fruit through his work with the Archie Roach Foundation.

“It’s only come to light in the last year that I’ve been allowed to sneak in under the radar on the goodwill of the governors of prisons, management, staff and crims,” he said.

“We want to make a play to have a permanent presence of paid elders to go into our institutions … to re-light the burning embers of many a blackfella’s Dreaming — drugged-up, grogged-up, locked-up, mucked-up dreamings.”

So now that he is free from heroin, what does Charles live for?

“I live to be the keeper of culture and law, and to return to prisons.”

ABC Radio Melbourne is a media partner of the Melbourne International Film Festival, which runs until August 20.

Topics: documentary, indigenous-culture, carnivals-and-festivals, stolen-generations, drugs-and-substance-abuse, prisons-and-punishment, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, melbourne-3000

Daniel Radcliffe enters the Jungle in life beyond Harry Potter

Posted August 04, 2017 11:09:28

Daniel Radcliffe says his role in the new film Jungle is part of his mission to play as many varied roles as possible after finishing up with Harry Potter.

The British actor told ABC Radio Melbourne‘s Lindy Burns that as the series wound up, being typecast as the teenage wizard “was obviously a concern”.

“It wasn’t so much a concern of ‘I think that’s going to happen’, as it was ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen, and that’s a possibility’,” he said.

Radcliffe said while some directors might be turned off by his history of playing Potter, “others are intrigued by it”.

“For as many directors as there probably are out there … who essentially saw me as just that one thing, there were a lot of other people who were equally excited by the prospect of being the one who reinvents me, or shows me in a different light.”

“My mission from when I came out of Potter was to, [with] every opportunity somebody gave me to do something different and show something different — just take it.”

That is exactly what Radcliffe did when offered the role of adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg in Jungle.

Jungle, by Wolf Creek director Greg McLean, is based on Ghinsberg’s true story of becoming stranded in the Amazon rainforest for three weeks in 1981.

The film had its world premiere at the opening night of the Melbourne International Film Festival on Thursday.

Radcliffe became ’emaciated’

Making the film required shooting in remote locations in sometimes difficult conditions.

“I hesitate to, when talking about this film, to say, ‘Oh my God it was so hard’,” Radcliffe said.

“It’s based on a true story of a guy who suffered way more than I did.”

McLean said Radcliffe worked with his trainer to bring his body weight down to “an emaciated state” for the film.

“This speaks to his integrity and his commitment as an actor to be truthful to Yossi’s story,” McLean told ABC Radio Melbourne’s Ali Moore.

“He was eating a boiled egg or an energy bar a day.”

Radcliffe had to bring his body weight down twice for separate scenes shot in Colombia and Queensland.

“When we finished shooting the scenes in Queensland, he went to the local Thai food restaurant and ordered about $300 worth of curries and noodles,” McLean said.

‘More than I bargained for’

Before filming started on Jungle, Radcliffe read Ghinsberg’s best-selling book about his ordeal and then had two long video chats with the adventurer.

“They were just me picking his brains, asking about any details I could,” he said.

He said Ghinsberg’s story was compelling because he “was not in any way a survivalist”.

“There was nothing really in his background that equipped him for this,” he said.

Ghinsberg said he went into the Amazon because he wanted to explore uncharted territory, find a remote Indigenous tribe and marry into them.

“It was a naive dream that was based on a lot of reading of adventure books,” Ghinsberg said.

“Only problem, I got much more than I bargained for.”

Ghinsberg said he was “privileged” to have Radcliffe play him in the film.

Topics: actor, carnivals-and-festivals, biography-film, film-movies, melbourne-3000