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Reality TV is an old concept which we're all familiar with. However,
Alexis Kirke, a leading composer at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research at
Plymouth University , and Dr Greg B Davies, Head of Behavioural and Quantitative Finance at Barclays, have taken reality performances to another level by partnering with
Barclays to produce a reality opera. The performance, which was held on the
15th November 2012 at Egyptian Hall, Mansion House, focused on the drama unfolding on an "open outcry" stock trading floor, the type of trading floor on which traditionally traders shout and use hand-signals.
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Thanks to melodies carefully crafted with evolutionary computer algorithms, during the performance singers sang what they wanted, when they wanted, within certain rules, just like the freedom people have in reality TV programmes. However, like a traditional opera, music was used alongside singers to demonstrate the emotion of the story.
The concept was conceived by Alexis and the opera brought to life in collaboration with
Dr Greg B Davies, Head of Behavioural and Quantitative Finance at
Barclays. Alexis created the music while Greg applied his behavioural finance expertise to create the market within which the singer-traders were responding, generating the ebb and flow of emotion and money on a trading floor. Furthermore, the performance was directed by
Alessandro Talevi, former winner of the European Opera Directing Prize.
To enable the music to express the emotional activity on the trading floor, Kirke composed what he calls "trading phrases" such that when most singers were buying, the harmonies between them were pleasant, and when most are selling, the harmonies clashed. When two performers sang 'buy' and 'sell' melodies for the same asset, the two sounded in time and harmonious.