"Portraying music" by Fiammetta Ghedini

On the occasion of the french national music day, DiscovHER gives the speech to Fiammetta Ghedini, musician, drawer and Communication Officer at the SONY Computer Science Laboratory in Paris.
As Frank Zappa said: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

And yet my job is exactly that: talking about music! Or more specifically, finding original and effective methods of scientific dissemination for musical research projects.


Previously I had written a thesis on optical illusions: what’s happening in our brain when we see an image that can be perceived in two distinct ways, like the famous Rubin’s vase, and the woman who is simultaneously young and old?


This of course has nothing to do with music, as my passion was actually drawing – understanding it and doing it – and a desire for a change in direction in my career after the thesis, particularly towards science communication.


Now I work with the Flow Machines team led by François Pachet, the director of SONY CSL in Paris. Flow Machines is a project at a crossroad between music and artificial intelligence, aiming to build the computational tools to stimulate musicians’ creativity. With powerful algorithms it’s possible to model the style of any composer, and allow anyone to play with them. How can such a project be presented in an understandable and captivating way?


Inspired by Flow Machines, I myself tried to find my own style. By combining my experience in science and my passion for drawing I created animations, videos, and illustrations, and also explored other forms of expression such as graphic facilitation. What I found out is that communication activities can lead to high-quality collaboration and cause rewarding discussion amongst scientists themselves. Communication means recombining the way we think about a thing, and not necessarily simplifying it. In my research group, working with communication activities, we found ourselves exploring paths that were able to influence actual research activities. It is perhaps due to these meaningful interactions that the videos I’ve made for Flow Machines received three awards at two of the most important artificial intelligence conferences.




This journey into imagery gradually gave me the idea for a more ambitious project: putting music into comics, inspired by artificial intelligence tools which allow for different styles to be played with, and for one’s own creativity to be stimulated.


Comics appear to be a medium that is quite distant from music, but it is in fact flexible enough to adapt to all kinds of content. The result is Max Order, a story about an artist in search of her own style. As with all artists who were able to invent their own style, she begins by imitating the style of others until something fresh and interesting emerges – in Max’s case, it’s also thanks to the help of a mysterious parrot called Flowy. Max Order is also a reflection on creation itself, as we place the authors and illustrators at the same level, assisted by creative software.

So, rather than acting as a challenge, Frank Zappa’s famous quote served me as a stimulating source of innovation!

L’Oréal–UNESCO
For Women in Science

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