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Hello Future (Outside In Music), the sophomore album from pianist-composer Jorn Swart’s forward-looking trio, Malnoia, is rooted in the deep conversations shared by Swart and bandmates Benni von Gutzeit (viola) and Lucas Pino (bass clarinet) about the crossroads between artificial intelligence (AI), humanity, technology and the arts. Inspired by the oeuvre of science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov, Swart tasked three authors, as well as himself, to craft short, delicate yet emotionally stirring narrative vignettes corresponding to each of the album’s 11 tracks, the only guideline being that their theme center around the future of humanity in a world increasingly reliant on AI. Swart recorded Hello Future two years ago in Amsterdam, and composed most of the tracks the year before. The one exception is the beautifully haunting “Tears in Rain,” a rendering of the score from the film Blade Runner’s final scene, illustrating an emotional moment of convergence between human and machine. The bandleader describes his story-centered approach to making music that inspires a narrative, and not the opposite, as reverse film score writing. “People would tell us often that they thought our music sounded cinematic,” Swart says. “I thought, ‘How can I use this idea?’ In the end, to me, it comes down to telling a story. Even though I’m drawn to complexity and finding ways to make music really interesting, I wanted to retain this element of storytelling or at least to have there be a concept, something that the listener can hold on to.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TxZSHRWqm8 Malnoia’s unconventional trio formation of piano, bass clarinet and viola proves an apt vehicle with which to transcend the boundaries between jazz and chamber music, as well as to smudge the limits that define narrative, the visual arts and the labels others might impose. Swart was also determined to dismantle how the music industry promotes and streams a musician’s output by adding a third interactive element to his album. He cut out the middle man and created a free, six-day, online virtual experience that explores the album, the stories shaped by the music, and the people behind them. “I get to build a relationship with the listener where it’s not like a black box where I don’t know who’s listening to my music on Spotify,” he says. “I get to try to create a community around my music.” [caption id="attachment_38748" align="alignleft" width="809"] Lucas Pino (bass clarinet), Swart and Benni von Gutzeit (viola) (Photo: Courtesy the artists)[/caption] In so doing, Swart answers the existential question posed by the album: What role will humans play in the creation and consumption of art in a not-so-distant world run by AI? It’s a query poignantly addressed near the close of the album on “Prelude to Singularity.” Inhabited by wistful piano, von Gutzeit’s foreboding viola and Pino’s contemplative woodwinds, the track accompanies the story of a man who is faced with the unfathomable reality that a concert that had made an indelible impact on his life had been created by an algorithm.“I think for humans it’s very important that we know that there’s a human on the other side who’s trying to communicate something with us,” Swart says. “I think that’s why maybe art and music will be the last to remain standing in this sort of automation revolution, because of the fact that we want to feel that we’re experiencing something that’s made by a human.” — Lissette Corsa