The Welcome Chorus is an interactive installation that brings together sound, sculpture and artificial intelligence (AI). Commissioned by Turner Contemporary for Margate NOW festival, the sculpture consists of twelve horns, each representing a different district of Kent. Each horn continually sings lyrics which are generated live by a uniquely trained, site-specific piece of AI software. Symbolically and aesthetically, these sculptural forms reference the origin of the word ‘Kent’; thought to derive from the word ‘kanto’, meaning horn or hook.
Through an inclusive democratic process of workshops and gatherings at Kent Libraries, people from all over the county contributed lyrics reflecting on their Kentish experience to the AI data bank. Generated lyrics and sound bites, on the history of Kent, its landscapes and estuaries, changes to industry and services, the relationship between urban and rural areas and perceptions around journeying, migration and movement, were all submitted. The colours of each horn were selected by library staff from the varying areas of Kent.
Onsite, visitors speak or sing into a unique ‘conductor’ sculpture—their words will then be heard in the immediate soundscape and added to the ongoing machine learning. The AI continues to evolve throughout the course of the exhibition, resulting in novel and unexpected exchanges between participant and machine.