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Electronic music pioneer Halim El-Dabh
Electronic music pioneer Halim El-Dabh
Maha ElNabawi

CAIRO — Last week I shocked a musician friend in Cairo by telling him the first maker of electronic music wasn’t German, as he thought, but the then-23-year-old Halim El-Dabh, who manipulated recordings of an ancient healing ceremony in the early 1940s.

In this hypnotic two-minute excerpt expand=1], known as “Wire Recorder Piece,” a distant, distorted, chant-like vocal reverberates out of an echo chamber, looping over itself again and again like a coiling snake with an occasional pause for breath — only to unravel as a spiraling howl. A longer version, titled “The Expression of Zaar,” was transferred to magnetic tape and presented to the public in 1944 at a Cairo art gallery, the name of which now seems to be lost.

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Future

Robot Artists And Us: Who Decides The Aesthetics Of AI?

Ai-Da is touted as the first bonafide robot artist. But should we consider her paintings and poetry original or creative? Is this even art at all?

Ai-Da at work

Leah Henrickson and Simone Natale

Ai-Da sits behind a desk, paintbrush in hand. She looks up at the person posing for her, and then back down as she dabs another blob of paint onto the canvas. A lifelike portrait is taking shape. If you didn’t know a robot produced it, this portrait could pass as the work of a human artist.

Ai-Da is touted as the “first robot to paint like an artist”, and an exhibition of her work called Leaping into the Metaverse opened at the Venice Biennale.

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