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The Eternal Golden Braid: Gödel Escher Bach

Could an algorithm ever write music to rival Bach? The audience decides in this performance lecture with Marcus du Sautoy, harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani and composer Robert Thomas.

In a pre-recorded interview with Douglas Hofstadter, whose book Gödel, Escher, Bach inspired this event, Du Sautoy posits Bach as a musical coder, applying rules to musical material to grow something complex and beautiful. His works are then fed through a machine learning process created by computational artist Parag K Mital, which uses the data in Bach’s writing to ‘compose’ a piece of its own. Here’s where you, the audience come in. Arranged next to real Bach pieces and new pieces by composers Robert Thomas and Robert Laidlow will you be able to tell the difference?

Alongside Esfahani’s performance, a small ensemble of musicians from the London Contemporary Orchestra perform a piece which you help compose on the spot as the music, formed from composition both by AI and Thomas, will react to audience feedback in the moment.


This performance will start promptly at 8pm.

Running time 90 minutes, no interval

All times are approximate and subject to change

Part of Life Rewired

A season exploring what it means to be human when technology is changing everything


triptych photo of marcus ben and robert

Barbican Meets: Marcus du Sautoy + Ben Kreukniet + Robert Thomas

What is the future of technology and the arts? We meet mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, composer Robert Thomas and artist Ben Kreukniet to find out.

photo of marcus du sautoy

Watch: Marcus du Sautoy on Machine Learning


Mathematician, Professor Marcus Du Sautoy answers your social media questions on machine learning.

With thanks

The Royal Society

Supported by The Simonyi Fund

Barbican Hall