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  • Date
    26 JULY 2023
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    Harry Yeff AKA Reeps100 About Voice Technology, AI + Tech-Based Performance Art

    Harry Yeff aka Reeps100 is a London born neuro-divergent artist and technologist specializing in voice, A.I. and tech-based performance art. Yeff has been visualizing the voice for 15 years and is globally celebrated as a leader in a new wave of voice technology focused experimentation. Yeff rose to fame as arguably one the greatest beatboxers of all time, his almost inhuman vocal ability opened up a slew of voice, technology and academic collaboration. To this day he continues to build on a world-class skill set, specialising in voice and tech-based performance. His role as an ambassador for art, technology and voice, is highlighted by a global lecture portfolio with notable talks on creativity, the arts and innovation at Google Exec, Davos, United Nations, SXSW, Art Basel Hong Kong, Glastonbury Pyramid Stage and Nike Global.

    Yeff harnesses innovative technologies to enhance his creative process and artistic expansion, as demonstrated in his work “Second Self” whereby Yeff’s expression augmented in response to his Second Self’s ability to create new vocal expression. In his latest work and meditation VOICE GEMS, Yeff not only preserves some of the most precious, extraordinary and critically endangered voices on earth, but envisions the future of connection and vocal expression at the center of emerging technologies. He has completed three artist residencies at Harvard University, is a culture leader at The World Economic Forum, and has followed in the footsteps of John Cage and Rauschenberg by joining the legendary Experiments in Art and Technology program at Bell Labs. His multidisciplinary new-media spectacles and theory have established artist in residence roles at Factory Berlin and Sonar Barcelona. In 2020 Yeff won the Arts and Science Breakthrough with the Falling Walls Foundation for his ongoing portfolio of cutting edge voice and technology experimentation.

    Yeff has exhibited internationally, from the Museum of Art and Design in New York to the Tate Britain in London, as well as Milan, London and Tokyo Design weeks, SXSW, Miami Art Basel, Davos 2020, United Nations Geneva and Sundance film festival. His latest talk and performance at the TED Countdown Summit went live in March 2022. In 2021 Yeff was appointed as the executive curator of the A.I. Visionary Initiative for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), part of the United Nations agency for Information & Communication Technologies.

    Recently, the Oper Leipzig presented FUSION, a multidisciplinary ballet production pushing the boundaries of art and technology. Performed by Leipzig Ballet from the 29th May - 8th July 2023, the ballet was co-directed and composed by Harry Yeff (known as Reeps100), to produce the world’s first A.I. ballet, using generative A.I. to inspire all aspects of the work from the concept, to the music and the set. 

    Yeff’s live musical performances intertwine the realms of humanity, machine, and nature to explore the harmonious coexistence of these elements. With its gripping narrative and innovative approach, "FUSION" promises to captivate audiences and redefine the possibilities of contemporary ballet. 

    At the heart of FUSION lies the remarkable music composed and co-directed by Harry Yeff in collaboration with associate composer Gadi Sassoon and contemporary classical composer Teddy Riley. Since 2020, Yeff collaborated with Sassoon, Riley, and dramaturge Thilo Reinhardt to discuss and develop this work, creating a fusion of traditional and experimental elements. The music, specifically composed for this ballet, combines contemporary classical compositions, electronica, and cutting-edge beatbox techniques. Audiences will be immersed in a symphony of sound that stretches the boundaries of vocal capabilities. 

    The narrative of FUSION delves into the intricate dynamics between humanity, artificial intelligence, and nature. The thought-provoking story takes inspiration from Plato's concept of the divided self, where humanity yearns for unity and balance. Through choreography by Mario Schroder and stage design by Paul Zoller, the ballet visually represents the journey towards harmony, exploring the interplay of light, water, and shadows. 

    One of the key highlights of FUSION is the incorporation of AI technology. Harry Yeff's own voice serves as the catalyst for the exploration, with generative synthetic voices contributing to the ethereal musical landscape. Yeff has trained for over a thousand hours with voice and A.I. technology to achieve an almost post-human and machine-like control of his voice. This integration of A.I. in the creative process showcases the ballet's visionary approach, opening new realms of artistic expression and offering a glimpse into the future of performance art. 

    Hello, welcome to RED EYE Metazine,  living in London and traveling worldwide. How do you perceive the difference between different cultures and people’s approach to voice technology + A.I? 

    5 years ago it was predominantly institutions and tech business and government that had. bearing on the power of emerging tech. Looking forward we are now living in a sea of accessible AI, driving new use cases and exploration. Vocalists, poets, artists and experts embracing augmentation with these tools is driving a new movement of storytellers, minorities and neuro divergents reaching new pipelines and workflows.

    How has your cultural background had an impact on the person that you are today and when did you decide to explore morte the divergent structures of music composition ? 

    I grew up on a council estate into a family with little support, it was the music around me that generated my overall aesthetic approach. 

    I am ADD and Dyslexic diagnosed, this means the narrative of non linear process has been with me as long as I can remember. I grew up on a council estate and it was chess that gave me my first introduction to A.I. sense of ownership or faith in my own ideas. Playing chess engines taught me that technology can unwaveringly support you. 

    How challenging was the start for you and looking back to that moment, what advice would you give to yourself now? 

    It’s ok to feel like no one understands your vision. And that working hard and being obsessed with something will always separate you from others, the key is to keep pushing. Digging deep and finding a home in your craft can parent you better than most things. In the ups and downs your craft can support you, and that's ok. 

    You have a strong and clear identity, how would you describe your approach to research when it comes to creating a new project?

    VOICE and tech leads all I do, it’s helping the world see the voice in a new way that means I accept or pursue a project. I’m sometimes critical of this, but I am always seeking something new. What has never happened with the human voice, what method of technology has never been paired with the human voice, what concept has never been explored. Global novelty is a huge factor for me. 

    How has your vision developed over time and what significant discoveries have you made? How do you envision the future of connection and vocal expression at the center of emerging technologies?

    I was focused solely on my voice, 30 000 hours of practice on vocal technique and machine-like control. Now I love all voices, thinking about how we can visualise and understand collective voices. Going from Artist to differing allowed me to explore bigger visions. Bring in bigger teams for bigger ideas. 

    Share with us a few highlights about your life living in London as a creative. How important is the educational background for you? What are your thoughts about the future creative generations in A.I?

    I have no formal education but I’ve ended speaking and working at many of the world's top institutions. This is how today it's your portfolio and ability to be novel that can open doors. Using AI to improve your craft regardless of what you do, if you can be showcased in a powerful and novel way it’s possible to use your lived experience with a technology to push your career forward. 

    The best things are usually created when people follow their own vision rather than just pursuing success or money for its own sake. How challenging is the business part for you as creatives?

    Making money can be hard, but it’s all about the integrity of partnerships. Finding your niche and knowing your value allows you to start exploring collaboration authenticity. Residencies, grants, brands and self producing paid events are all possible, but keep your vision clean of what you are getting. Doing anything and everything is not good for the soul. 

    What is your relation with nature? What about dreams?

    Voice is nature. Nature has a voice. Helping the world hear the voice of nature is a dream. 

    Speaking about your collaboration with Leipzig International Ballet, the FUSION project is a story of balance between the archetypes of human, machine, and nature. How did you explore new ways of composition and aesthetic narratives? Walk us through the inspiration process a little bit.

    Fusion is a work where at every eleven AI was incorporated. Costume, set, movement, voice, all had an AI assisted counterpart. The idea what to generate synthetic feedback loops of human and AI that fed the human creativity. Sample RNN, Chat GPT3 + GPT4 , Midjourney, stable diffusion and more where intergrated into the writing of the work. I was even inspired to turn my microphone in to a sculpture for a different look and feel. A try human and AI augmented work. 

    Who is your favorite music producer? Name us a few creatives that you would like to collaborate with?

    Aphex Twin, Venetian Snares, Kubrick, Marcel Duchamp, Sophie, Virgil Abloh. John Cage. 

    How do you see your future in a few words?

    The human voice is the gateway to all things and all possibilities. My job is to see how far I can take it. 

    Interview by Mira Wanderlust

    Image Courtesy Reeps100