Denis Therien

Denis Therien

Vice-President Research Partnership in R&D, Element AI


Dr. Denis Thérien recently joined the Montréal start-up Element AI as Vice-President Research and Partnerships. He was previously occupying a similar position at CIFAR (Canadian Institute for Advanced Research) since 2011, after serving as Vice Principal of Research and International Relations at McGill University, from 2005 to 2010. Dr. Thérien was also a researcher and a Professor at McGill for 40 years, before taking his new role. Dr. Thérien received his B.Sc. from the Université de Montréal; M.Sc., and Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo. He began his career at McGill in 1978, and was appointed Director of the School of Computer Science in 1997. Dr. Thérien was awarded a James McGill Chair in 2002 and the Forschungpsreise (research prize) from the Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation in 2000. He has published over 100 research articles on computational complexity in top-tier journals and is a respected expert conference speaker.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.