Niccolo Milanese

Niccolo Milanese

Philosopher, Writer, 2023 Berggruen Europe Fellow


Niccolo Milanese is a philosopher and writer. He is a founding director of European Alternatives, a trailblazing and prize-winning organisation active for over 15 years across the European continent exploring and promoting democracy, equality and culture beyond the nation state. He was educated in philosophy Cambridge, Siena and Paris, and has held research fellowships in Oxford, Mexico City, Rio De Janeiro and Vienna. At the European University Institute he is one of the convenors of the Forum on Transnational Democracy, which brings together practitioners, politicians, civil servants and academics. As a leading civic educator, he is involved in developing a new critical, posthuman and planetary approach to citizenship education in hundreds of schools across Europe. He is currently a lead researcher in transnational research projects on how feminist movements are leading democratic innovation; in movement education and political imagination; and in the rights and agency of migrant workers. Together with Lorenzo Marsili he published Citizens of NowhereSaving Europe from Itself (2019 – Zed Books); and with Katarina Kolozova edited Illiberal Democracies in Europe: an authoritarian response to the crisis of liberalism (2022 – Washington State University Press). With Alberto Alemanno and Kalypso Nicolaidis he is currently drafting Citizen Power Europe to appear in 2024.

At the Berggruen Institute Europe, he will be working on how Europe could bring about a paradigm shift in what political power means, and on a nomadic, polyvocal approach to universalism.

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.