Professor Craig Vear

Job: Professor of Digital Performance (Music)

Faculty: Arts, Design and Humanities

School/department: School of Visual and Performing Arts

Research group(s): Music Technology and Innovation; Performance and Digital Media

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, UK, LE1 9BH

T: +44 (0)116 207 8131



Personal profile

For more than two decades Professor Craig Vear has established himself as an internationally recognised composer of experimental music with technology, and recently as a scholar of digital performance and music. He is currently running two research projects: The Living Score which investigates the changes in musicianship and creativity afforded by digital technology and its transformation of "the score". This ranges from images of paper-scores shown on iPad's through to robotics and A.I. embedded in software generating scores. And Embodied Intelligence in Music that investigates the meeting point of embodied cognition, artificial intelligence, music composition and performance, game and software philosophy, and R&D for the entertainment industry.

His research is practice-Based and operates on a dual thematic axis of 1) digital creativity in music performance, and 2) innovation in the use of digital music in performance. Peer reviews of his contribution to this field have commented on how his research is ‘a major point of reference in computer music interactivity, live composition and improvisation’; ‘enhance practice by creators and researchers in interactive composition’ … ‘particularly in the case of ensembles involving human and computer performers’; ‘will enhance thinking and practice by creators and researchers’.

Vear has performed his monograph compositions widely throughout the world. His entire collection of software scores (2008-16) are published through Composers Edition (CE) a music publishing company specializing in living composers of international significance. International organizations have commissioned his monograph compositions as exemplars of innovation. 2003 Stretch music and sound installation, commissioned by Chicago Humanities Festival (the largest annual festival for arts and humanities, since 1990 has become the largest organization of its kind in the world). 2005 Falklands Project large-scale composition for musicians and digital technology, commissioned by Falkland Islands Government. 2009 Superfield Mumbai electroacoustic composition, commissioned by Mumbai Festival, India (largest 10-day festival of International Culture and art in Maharashtra). 2012 Like a Fish out of Water soundtrack for iPad app performance, commissioned by 2012 Cultural Olympiad/ English National Ballet. 2012 Poetry Parnassus solo sound installation, by 2012 Cultural Olympiad /South Bank Centre (SBC est. 1.5 million audience). 2012 Three Last Letters large-scale composition for 9 musicians, commissioned by Vale of Glamorgan International Festival (festival of contemporary music since 1969, known for its engagement with significant international living composers). 2011 A Sentimental Journey a Digital Opera commissioned by Arts Council England, Laurence Sterne Trust and published by Composers Edition, was cited in the Cambridge Companion to Opera Studies (Till, N ed. 2014) as an exemplar of how ‘the future may involve very different concepts of the performance space of opera, and of what constitutes an operatic audience or an operatic event’.

He has published his scholarly texts exclusively in leading international peer-reviewed journals such as Digital Creativity and International Journal of Performance Art and Digital Media. He is a member of the editorial board for the International Journal of Performance and Digital Media, and guest reviewer for International Journal of Creative Computing; Research in Drama Education; PeerJ and Organised Sound. In 2012 he was guest editor of a special Digital Opera edition of IJPADM. From 2016 he is a member of the AHRC Peer Review College.

He has a successful funding portfolio in excess of £400k. In 2014 he was awarded £105,000 as PI on a Digital R&D for the Arts research project that developed an innovative mixed reality system that enabled children and young people to engage in creative digital play for enhanced learning and communication skill development. The funding was granted through a consortium of AHRC, National Endowment for Science and the Arts, and Arts Council England

Research group affiliations

Publications and outputs 

  • Seven Pleasures of Pris (2019) Improvising Ai robot duo with Multi-Layered Perceptron Neural Nets
    Seven Pleasures of Pris (2019) Improvising Ai robot duo with Multi-Layered Perceptron Neural Nets Vear, Craig Seven Pleasures of Pris (2019) was an album project created by two performing robots embedded with a substrate AI architecture fed by the embodied music dataset discussed in Vear 2018. The two robots were programmed to respond to the other's sound and to contribute to the ongoing improvisation live and in realtime. Each robot was controlled by its own AI and created music without any human intervention. Key to the implementation of the AI was the design and development of an affect module, a system of rules, together with a non-hierarchical design in the substrate AI. The results of this experiment found that the robots were listening to each other and co-creating, and crucially doing something inside musicking that was beyond mimicry or symbolic behavioural response.
  • ReRoROS: Recycled Robot Operating System
    ReRoROS: Recycled Robot Operating System Vear, Craig; Dubovitskiy, Dmitry A. This is a basic operating system for a recycled robot based on the Pioneer series of robots e.g. Pioneer 3 and Peoplebot. The original onboard computer from the Pioneer machines were replaced with Jetson Nano's. These were connected to the Hitachi driver processors using a serial connection via the Jetson's USB. The operating system was wrote in Python as an expandable, easily modified system for basic motion and server reporting.
  • On Junitaki Falls. Trio for solo instrument and two AI performers
    On Junitaki Falls. Trio for solo instrument and two AI performers Vear, Craig On Junitaki Falls is a digital score characterized by the use of intelligent computational systems. There are several different approaches to the implementation of computational intelligence within the digital score with each offering differing degrees of felt co-operation, presence and autonomy. This composition explored the musicianship and creativity in digital scores employing artificial intelligence (A.I.). The musician at the centre of this exploration was Christopher Redgate, a musician-researcher who investigates the contemporary oboe. On Junitaki Falls is concerned with creating a thinking-machine counterpart that worked co-operatively with the musician within the flow of musicking. After a period of several months practice with this score, the pieces were performed at Tempo Reale festival in Florence, Italy in December 2017, as part of the 30th anniversary of Berio’s studio.
  • Human-Centred and Creative AI in Performative Robots
    Human-Centred and Creative AI in Performative Robots Vear, Craig; Poltronieri, Fabrizio Augusto This chapter discusses two performative robot projects that share a core ethos about the nature of human- centred and creative AI: Embodied Robots for Music (2018 – present) by Craig Vear and Amigóide (2010 – present) by Fabrizio Augusto Poltronieri. Human-centred AI (HC-AI) focuses on the design, development and deployment of intelligent systems that co-operate with humans in real-time in a ‘deep and meaningful way’ (MIT 2019). HC-AI is ‘defined by two goals: (1) the AI system must continually improve by learning from humans while (2) creating an effective and fulfilling human-robot interaction experience’ (Ibid.). The two projects discussed in this chapter both apply these core goals as a central philosophy from which the concepts of Creative AI and Experiential Learning in the context of performative robots are developed. At the centre of this discussion is the articulation of a shift in thinking of what constitutes Creative AI and new HC-AI forms of machine learning from inside the flow of the shared experience between robot and human. The first case study is Embodied Robots for Music which investigates the technical solutions and artistic potential of AI driven robots co-creating with an improvising human musician in real-time. The second Amigóide performs a range of functions according to a predetermined set of coded instructions in search of humans to engage into friendships. These projects are ongoing and are part of the Creative AI ResearchGroup in the Institute of Creative Technologies at De Montfort University .
  • Postcards (2017) Creative AI mixed-media compositional system for live performance with a human musician
    Postcards (2017) Creative AI mixed-media compositional system for live performance with a human musician Vear, Craig; Poltronieri, Fabrizio Augusto The aim of this research project was to develop a Creative AI compositional system for live performance with a human musician. The resulting composition Postcards centred around a central computer system controlling and generating multiple streams of media into a cohesive experience. The software environment at the centre of this score is embedded with autonomous or generative behaviour that actively composes the work in real-time and evokes the presence of the composer(s) in the flow of musicking. Additionally, the Creative AI was driving a central dramaturgy (flow of narrative) with the system articulating/ exploring/ exposing or revealing this through time.
  • Designing and Building a 1st stage dataset for embodied music-making (musicking).
    Designing and Building a 1st stage dataset for embodied music-making (musicking). Vear, Craig The aim of this research project was to design and develop a dataset that captured embodied music-making (hereafter musicking (Small 1989)) for use in human-computer interaction between AI and human musicians. The proposed solution to this challenge was to capture embodied musicking through data harvesting of physical and sonic elements from a musician embodied in the flow of musicking. This report describes the small-scale, first stage proof-of- concept design, development and deployment of such a system. The hard question here was to develop a dataset that could inform perception of music-AI so that it could co-create within the realtime flow of musicking with other machines and/or human musicians. The results highlight the importance that any modes of capture other than real-world musicking, would be a setup for failure.
  • Nautilus: composition for bass flute and neural net (2020)
    Nautilus: composition for bass flute and neural net (2020) Vear, Craig On an artistic level this piece is inspired by an imaginery deep-sea journey of a nautilus mollusc, as it navigates coral reefs and deep water trenches across the oceans. The music describes this journey with the bass flute and generative sound-design highlighting the topography of the oceans and vast openess of the depths. The name 'nautilus' also works a couple of meta levels too: on the one hand the word dervies from the ancient greek for 'sailor'; here the musician is navigating around the uncharted ocean of sound that emerges through the genertive processes of this piece. On the other hand, the word originally referred to the paper nautiluses of the genus Argonauta, and also hints at Captain Nemo's submarine journey that lastes 20,000 leagues and explored new and wonderful under-sea worlds. On a technical level, this piece was created using Deep Learning processes, and in performance uses a neural net to make in-the-flow decisions about how the music is to be shaped. The compositional process started with an imporovisation by Carla on the idea of the nautilus' journey (originally the cephalopod). This improvisation then became the source material for machine learning processes and the sound-design manipulation that is heard during the performance. A neural network was trained using TensorFlow methods and a dataset of transcribed jazz improvisations. At the start of each iteration of the piece random notes from Carla's original improv are passed through this neural net that in turn outputs a notated improvisation based on the input note choices. This notation forms part of the digital score for live interpretation. Another element of the digital score is the generative sound design, which uses the audio recording of the original improvisation as its source material. A decision was made early on to make this composition distributable through Carla's publishing network, and therefore playable by others without the need for the composer/ programmer to be present and guide the technical setup of each performance. As such, it is a closed loop composition that does not listen to the live performance. The advantage of this is that many characteristics of the original improv remain intact while still being open to new iterations through machine earning and generative processes. As such, each new performance, by each new musician will be different, but still a version of the original. Nautilus was commissioned by Carla Rees. Dedicated to Carla Rees
  • The Voight-Kampff Test: Boxing match music performance for four Neural Nets
    The Voight-Kampff Test: Boxing match music performance for four Neural Nets Vear, Craig This album was created with a process of AI and machine learning called Embodied Intelligence. This uses Creative AI datasets and algorithms to make music from the inside. A single AI-bot was developed to control the interaction of this free improvising garage band featuring sax, bass and drums. No human intervention was used, and the tracks are presented almost as they were recorded, with a minute amount of editing and mastering. Embodied Intelligence differs from other Music-AI approaches insofar that it is not using AI to construct the physical phenomena of music (i.e. the sound wave), nor the meta-workings of music composition (i.e. the organisation and sequencing of music theory). Instead the Creative AI is powering the realtime generation of core ideas and impetus from within the flow of music-making, which intern is translated into sound. Embodied AI does not have a model of what it wants to sound like, instead the characteristics of each AI-bot is determined by a front-end translation module. The AI uses Rodney Brooks' approach to robots and 'intelligence without representation' to create a bot that is 'coping in a dynamic and changing world' and 'doing something in this world'.
  • On Junitaki Falls: trio for solo instrument and two A.I. performers
    On Junitaki Falls: trio for solo instrument and two A.I. performers Vear, Craig On Junitaki Falls is a composition for live instrument and two artificial intelligent performers controlled by a central computer system that also operates as the score. Although Junitaki Falls exists as a geological feature in Japan, the reference to it as the title of this piece is inspired by Haruki Murakami’s book ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’. In this book a smaller story exists within the larger novel, with its presence felt throughout the book. In the piece, a smaller song exists within the larger composition, and like the novel it alters the whole music through its constant presence, even if we never hear it as itself. This smaller song exists as fragments of manuscript from Roger Jannotta’s transcription of Eric Dolphy’s bass clarinet solo of God Bless the Child composed by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog, Jr. in 1939. Already this is the start of a complex matryoshka (‘Russian’) doll of layered interpretation. Add to this the process each individual performer of this work must complete in order to grow their score: months of feeding the AI system with progressively abstract layers of interpretation. The end result is much like the cascading mini falls that make up the whole of Junitaki’s geological feature.
  • The Feather: Digital Score for improvising violin and voice. (Alt version for improvising quartet.)
    The Feather: Digital Score for improvising violin and voice. (Alt version for improvising quartet.) Vear, Craig 'The Feather' and 'The Feather Quartet' are digital scores for an improvising violin and voice (which can be the same musician), and improvising quartet. It is inspired by an extract from a Tove Jansson short story The Scolder from her book The Summer Book. In this extract an elderly grandmother is lying down on a quiet beach looking at a tiny piece of down caught in barbs of a plant leaf. She describes in great detail this feather and how it moves with the slight breeze. Her description evokes a sense of beauty in this minute event and draws attention to the profundity of concentrating on such small details. This profound seeking is at the heart of this piece; the musicians are instructed to seek such detail in the score, and the audience are invited into a careful listening experience that acts as a metaphor for the feather caught momentarily in the plant leaf on a deserted beach.

Click here to view a full listing of Craig Vear's publications and outputs.

Research interests/expertise

Intermedia composition, digital opera, sound theatre, experimental composition, interdisciplinary music.

Areas of teaching

Intermediality, digital performance, human-computer interaction, AI and performance


1992 BA (Hons) Performing Arts (Music) – De Montfort University (nee Leicester Polytechnic)

2006 PGCE – University of Huddersfield

2011 Ph. D. – composition portfolio – University of Salford

Courses taught

  • Performing Arts BA (Hons) 

Honours and awards

2011    Winner OLIVIER Award Best Entertainment (as core design team for Railway Children)

2011    Nomination OLIVIER Award Best Sound Design

2011    Nomination Canadian DORA Award for Best sound design and composition (with Christopher Madin)

2009    Finalist VII CONFLUENCIAS – electroacoustic competition 2009

2008    Longlist: PRSF New Music Award 2008

2007    Leverhulme Artist in Residence – Centre for Environmental and Marine Sciences (University of Hull) 

Membership of external committees

Member of AHRC Peer Review College

Membership of professional associations and societies

PRS/MCPS; Jan 2002, Full membership


Forthcoming events

2012 Three Last Letters (composition for live sextet, voices and diffused soundscape)
Commissioned by Vale of Glamorgan Festival
Premiere: Barry Arts Depot (7th May 2012)
Duration: 35’

2012 Like A Fish Out of Water
Commissioned by English National Ballet, Cultural Olympiad 2012, in association with Seven Sisters Group
Premiere: Brockwell Lido, July 23rd 2012
Duration: 35’

Conference attendance

Symposium co-organiser (with Dr Áine Sheil Department of Music, University of York) Digital Opera: New Means and New Meanings 9-10 May 2011, University of York Music Research Centre

‘Exploring a Theatre of Sounds and Memory’ + performance of Superfield [Mumbai] TaPRA, University of Plymouth, 8 September 2009

‘Superfield [Mumbai] - the see-hearing dimension of sound art’ I Hear Too (Improving Heritage Experience through Acoustic Reality and Audio Research) conference at the British Library 18 May 2009

‘The acoustic DNA of Mumbai and Antarctica’ Theatre Noise conference, Central School of Speech and Drama, 25 April 2009

‘Staging Sounds: The Intersection of Music and Theatre’ RMA research Students Conference, Kings College, London, 9 January 2009

Popular Music Research Centre Colloquium, University of Salford, 30 October 2008

Externally funded research grants information

2012 Three Last Letters commission PI

2012 A Sentimental Journey premiere PI (including York Theatre Royal funding  

2011 Found Voices Tipping Point Commission, R&D (PI with Joe Duddell)  

2011 Found Voices BBC Philharmonic commitment (PI with Joe Duddell)  

2010 A Sentimental Journey R&D – ACE Grants for the Arts:  

2009 Superfield [Mumbai] commission, Bradford City Council:  

2008 Research Bursary University of Salford:

Case studies

2010-12 The Railway Children (as core production member: Sound Designer/ multi speaker diffusion)

  • Simultaneous performances London (2010, 11), Toronto (2011)
  • Audience numbers IRO 500,000
  • Olivier award for Best Entertainment 2011 LINK
  • Olivier nomination for Best Sound Design 2011 LINK
  • Canadian DORA Award nomination for best sound design/ composition 2011 LINK

Publication on CD

2012 Esk (Album). Craig Vear 3Leaves. Reviews at

2011 Antarctica (Album). Craig Vear, Gruenrekorder Digital Download. Reviews at 

2010 Summer Houses. (Album). Craig Vear, Mille Plateuax MPCLU01. Reviews at  Total sales IRO 600

2010 Aud Raplh Roas’le (Album). Craig Vear, Gruenrekorder. Reviews at  Limited Edition Sold Out

Additionally, from 2010 Earth Ear are the distributor for Antarctica DVD/Book/CD in North America and Asia , and from 2012 Gruenrekorder will distribute to Europe and Africa. Total 

2012 Raghu Dixit unplugged in York - Producer of live album. Release spring 2012 estimated sales IRO 20,000+

2010 Big Meeting by David Lumsdaine (as mastering producer). Reviews at LINK sales IRO 700

Craig Vear

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