|He’s on a boat|
New startup Suspension has received Series A funding for a plan to reinvigorate and revolutionize the world of classical music and opera.
The tech world has not shown a great deal of interest in traditional arts, philanthropic or otherwise, but Suspension CEO Adam Jones’s 4-year old daughter recently started Suzuki viola and he believes it to be an untapped market. “Let’s disrupt opera!” he said.
At the Suspension TechCrunch presentation, Jones began casually, “I was so surprised to discover that all the music Ava plays on her viola is by dead composers.” (Artistic advisor Mason Bates seemed to be glowering at this point.) “So,” Jones continued, “what if they… weren’t dead?”
The presentation’s video flashed from black to white to black and the opening of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 rang out.
“Recently, curators at a small museum in Torre del Lago were rummaging through a closet and found an old smoking jacket. Roll over, Beethoven’s hair, it’s time for Puccini’s fingernail clippings!” The audio obligingly played the opening phrases of Turandot.
The company has already sequenced the composer’s DNA and plans to have a baby Puccini by the end of 2016. It will take a while for him to mature, Jones said, but “these guys start early, right?” Musical styles might change in the intervening time, but Puccini 1.0’s music, Jones said, would surely remain popular.
“We’re planning on raising him on a diet of John Williams and Nicholas Sparks to shape his compositional style,” Jones added, noting that they were going to be careful about letting Puccini 2.0 hear some of Puccini 1.0’s weirder moments because “he’s not important because of Fanciulla.” The effort is being co-sponsored by the opera houses of New York, San Francisco, Chicago, London, Paris, Milan, Vienna, and Barcelona. Puccini 2.0’s first project is a co-commissioned opera based on Gone Girl.
But before Puccini 2.0 will be able to tackle that subject, he reportedly already has a contract to participate in a forthcoming production of Madama Butterfly at the Oper Stuttgart. The house proclaimed themselves uninterested in his compositions but noted that a director wished to cast him as Trouble alongside Michael Volle as Peter Gelb/Sharpless, Anja Harteros as the Ghost of Maria Callas/the Spirit of Opera/Cio-Cio San, and Roberto Alagna.
Another branch of Suspension, in conjunction with Opera Extra-Rara, is working on an algorithm that will comb through primo ottocento literature and compose a new Donizetti opera approximately every six weeks. The project employs two musicology postdocs who unwisely claimed digital humanities expertise on their CVs and have to add ornamentation for a personal touch. The project also has two additional musicology postdocs to study the new works’ authenticity and two more postdocs to produce critical editions of the new works.
While Puccini 2.0 matures, the company plans to release an Über-like app, Viola, which will allow users to summon a violist to play for any occasion, such as a party, big presentation, or insomnia. The plan currently only offers violists but if successful or even if not successful will deploy bassoonists next. “The gig economy is nothing new for musicians,” Jones said.