COMPOSER AND BEHAVIOURAL FINANCE EXPERT CREATE ‘REALITY’ OPERA BASED ON OPEN OUTCRY STOCK TRADING FLOOR

London, 6th December 2012, PRNewswire – Reality TV is an old concept which we’re all familiar with. However, Alexis Kirke, a leading composer at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research at Plymouth University , and Dr Greg B Davies, Head of Behavioural and Quantitative Finance at Barclays, have taken reality performances to another level by partnering with Barclays to produce a reality opera. The performance, which was held on the 15th November 2012 at Egyptian Hall, Mansion House, focused on the drama unfolding on an “open outcry” stock trading floor, the type of trading floor on which traditionally traders shout and use hand-signals.

Thanks to melodies carefully crafted with evolutionary computer algorithms, during the performance singers sang what they wanted, when they wanted, within certain rules, just like the freedom people have in reality TV programmes. However, like a traditional opera, music was used alongside singers to demonstrate the emotion of the story.

The concept was conceived by Alexis and the opera brought to life in collaboration with Dr Greg B Davies, Head of Behavioural and Quantitative Finance at Barclays. Alexis created the music while Greg applied his behavioural finance expertise to create the market within which the singer-traders were responding, generating the ebb and flow of emotion and money on a trading floor. Furthermore, the performance was directed by Alessandro Talevi, former winner of the European Opera Directing Prize.

To enable the music to express the emotional activity on the trading floor, Kirke composed what he calls “trading phrases” such that when most singers were buying, the harmonies between them were pleasant, and when most were selling, the harmonies clashed. When two performers sang ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ melodies for the same asset, the two sounded in time and harmonious.

‘Open Outcry’ featured 12 singers and a cellist, Joseph Spooner. The audience sat at tables among the “traders” (in the trading pit), and the conductor rang a bell to signify the market opening. As the cellist played, large screens displayed stock information and the conductor guided some aspects of the permissible actions of the singers. The performers sang one musical phrase to buy each asset and another to sell. The prices were largely driven by random market movements generated by a computer model, though the conductor did have some power to influence stock prices, as did the effect of the “trading” between the singers themselves.

Greg Davies comments: “This project was so interesting because of its complexity. Real stock markets are incredibly complex. However, creating a musical market and depicting how it feels when it gains or loses money presented many new challenges that we don’t often come across in the financial world. The spontaneous behaviours of the singers/traders depicted the volatile markets that real traders operate in. However, doing this whilst making sure it sounded good musically and ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ melodies for the same stocks were harmonious really pushed the boundaries in creativity and gave people an opportunity to see how creative and complex financial markets can be.”

For further information, please contact:

Will Bowen, Media Relations, Barclays wealth and investment management
+44(0)20-3134-7744
will.bowen@barclays.com

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Alexis Kirke
Dr Greg B Davies
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