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Artist interview: Sofia Maria & Casimir

In the coming weeks we will share interviews with the artists who will be experimenting live with the latest AI, AR and Avatar technology as part of Open Cultuur Tech's Test Program. Together with designers and programmers, they are given free rein to develop their own show in which they can explore the creative possibilities of technology.

The series of interviews kicks off with Sofia Schuijt and Cas Mulder – better known as Sofia Maria and Casimir, an up-and-coming DJ duo from Amsterdam.

Sofia Maria and Casimir regularly perform together at festivals and clubs throughout the Netherlands. As a duo they have only been playing together for a few years, yet they already have a number of major festivals under their belt. Always from behind a digital turntable and often in front of a broad audience. From Amsterdam Dance Event to Best Kept Secret. They play a variety of styles between house, electro and a touch of breakbeat here and there.

Why Sofia Maria and Casimir signed up for Open Cultuur Tech's Testing Program? If you ask Casimir, it is because it is necessary to stay informed of the latest developments. “This ensures that you can stay in touch with a broad younger target group.” In addition to being a DJ, Casimir is also a filmmaker and has a great interest in theater. He sees that the theater sector has a lot of difficulty filling the halls and reaching a young new audience, which means that there are mainly older people in the audience.

New technology can offer a solution for this. Take augmented reality (AR), for example. This technology is perhaps best known to a younger target group in the form of AR filters on TikTok and Snapchat. You therefore see that more and more major pop artists are collaborating with these apps to release their own AR filters for use during live concerts. In this way, many pop artists involve the perception of the younger target group in their live show.

But Sofia Maria and Casimir also notice that many artists are reluctant to adopt new technology. Especially when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI). The idea that in the future there will be computers that can make exactly the same music as humans is of course frightening. Yet Sofia Maria and Casimir are not worried at all. “Music, and any other form of art, is about interpreting the human experience, regardless of the medium through which you deliver it. AI can never describe this human experience better than a human itself because it is simply not human.”

Despite their down-to-earth attitude, Sofia Maria and Casimir are extremely curious about the possibilities of artificial intelligence. For example, they are involved in the development of WAIVE Studio, a series of AI tools that can generate live drum beats and samples based on audio archive material from Sound and Vision in Hilversum. It is a unique way for them to add distinctive sounds to their music and explore how they can further develop in the rapidly changing music industry.

But for Sofia Maria and Casimir, their interest in artificial intelligence does not stop there. For example, Casimir would also find it interesting if a computer could help him match the pitches or BPMs of tracks and, for example, make suggestions. “You better become good friends with it.” Even though Sofia Maria is less enthusiastic about this, Casimir would still be interested. “In my opinion, receiving help from an AI does not detract from the artistic freedom of the artist.”

Both DJs agree about using AI for visual elements in a live show. The lack of budget often forces them to create visual elements themselves, but they do not always have the time to do so. For example, Casimir uses Midjourney, a simple AI tool that generates images based on text prompt, to generate header visuals for SoundCloud. But both DJs would benefit most from an AI that could process their music in real-time into VJ visuals. Sofia Maria is especially curious about the possibility of AI-generated projections on the walls in the venue during their shows or on the outside wall of the club.

When we ask Sofia Maria and Casimir what they think the DJ profession will look like in 10 years, we get a carefree answer. Both agree that their own way of working, from a human experience, will not change much. The new technology will offer many new possibilities. Just as the rise of digital audio gave many more people access to music. Luckily, the vinyl record still exists, but the vast majority of people listen to music via streaming. “The DJ will probably be cut back at some point in commercial venues on Rembrandtplein. But I don't know if that's a bad thing in the end."

They have a clear image in mind for their own Open Cultuur Tech live show. It must be a spectacle in which the boundaries between theater and club become blurred. In which theatrical elements are used to push the boundaries and the DJ becomes a conductor who not only plays the music, but also plays the visuals and audience.


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