Shunong Bai

Shunong Bai

Biologist, 2020-2021 Berggruen China Center Fellow


Shu-Nong Bai is a Professor of Plant Biology of School of Life Science, Peking University. He has worked on plant developmental biology since 1983. Following his empirical investigation on various plant developmental events, he has developed an alternative perspective to revive the classic view to treat a plant as a colony of individuals, rather as an individual. In his newly proposed theory, “plant morphogenesis 123”, he has integrated some concepts he proposed previously including “plant developmental unit”, “sexual reproduction cycle”, and “plant developmental program”. To understand the underlying driving force of plant development, he was fascinated by the question “what is life”. Eventually, he realized that the question should be instead addressed as “what is live”. In collaboration with two mathematicians, he is able to define the “live” or “living” as a “structure for energy cycle”. At Berggruen, Bai will be working on interpreting human behavior following the “Logic of Life”, deduced from the “structure for energy” law.

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.