PhD scholarship

INTENT - ERC Funded Project:
Intelligent Instruments: Understanding 21st Century AI Through Creative Music Technologies

The Intelligent Instruments Lab at the Iceland University of the Arts, in collaboration with the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies at the University of Iceland, invites applications for a PhD scholarship as part an European Research Council funded project called “Intelligent Instruments: Understanding 21st Century AI Through Creative Music Technologies.” We seek applications from highly qualified and motivated people to perform research on musical performance with intelligent instruments. The successful candidate will undertake a 3-year PhD programme working on individual research within the frame of the ERC project. The project explores how artificial intelligence is embedded in musical instruments and conducts a study in the phenomenology of such instruments, the psychology of performing, and how we can foster an understanding of the internals of new intelligent technologies. The candidate will have a musical background (formal or not), experience in curating diverse musical events and collaborations, as well as an experience in the analysis and evaluation of musical performance.
The position is for three years and it is expected that the candidate will start on September 1st, 2022. Director of Studies: Prof. Thor Magnusson.
The research programme
Artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly human-like and it is now proficient in a key human activity: musical creativity. The Intelligent Instruments project takes a novel approach in creative AI research by answering how new AI transforms our relationships with technology and other people. We seek to understand how creative AI changes our notions of art, culture and society, through developing new musical instruments as a vehicle for interdisciplinary collaboration.
This project aims to use music as a platform to establish a public understanding of AI. Through technology development, we will create the conditions to study higher-level theoretical questions on the meaning of creative AI in contemporary culture. Three respective work packages will develop: 1) instruments with creative AI; 2) human-AI collaboration in music; and 3) sonic instruments as scientific instruments. This PhD post applies to the 2nd work package. The project initiates a public discourse on creative AI and develops a theoretical framework describing the transformed notions of self, others and knowledge when we adopt intelligent instruments in our work.
The Intelligent Instruments project is interdisciplinary in nature. Through a new research collaboration protocol, we will summon researchers from diverse disciplines to conduct frontier science on
intelligent instruments as boundary objects. Through open science methods the outcomes will address: a) the role of creative AI in embodied technologies, and b) the understanding and reflection of artificial intelligence in future society. Grounded equally in technology development and the humanities, the project will benefit diverse disciplines by developing a theoretical framework of creative AI, initiating a discourse around human-centred creative AI, and defining principles of human- AI relations in services and products.
The research environment
The candidate will work in the Intelligent Instruments Lab at the Iceland University of the Arts in Reykjavik for the duration of the 3-year scholarship. Other lab members are the principal investigator (Prof Thor Magnusson), two postdocs (Dr Jack Armitage and Dr Kit Braybrooke), three PhD students (the first one being Victor Shepardson, and the second one is the position advertised here), an instrument maker (Halldor Ulfarsson) and our project manager (Esther Yr Thorvaldsdottir). Other lab members include visiting researchers, MA students, together with local and international collaborators. In addition to the lab’s technical workshop, the candidate will have access to our music studio, concert hall, the university workshops, including 3D printing, laser cutting and CNC. The candidate will be registered for a PhD in Cultural Studies at the University of Iceland and receive academic training through the university’s doctoral studies infrastructure. The supervisors will be Prof Thor Magnusson (45% - Iceland University of the Arts), Dr Einar Torfi Einarsson (45% - Iceland University of the Arts), and Prof Kate O’Riordan (10% - Dean of Media, Arts and Humanities at the University of Sussex).
Working in the Intelligent Instruments Lab will involve a close collaboration with the lab team on technical and theoretical development, communicating both practical and theoretical findings in concerts, symposia and conferences as well as in written form. The post will involve organising and participating in experiments in musical performance, equally in the lab and on the musical stage. It will involve working with international researchers of excellence in our experimental setup, and include travel and participation in residencies at international research institutions.
Salary: The scholarship is a 3-year full-time employment contract. The salary is 440,000 ISK per month before tax, or approx. € 3,100 EUR at today’s exchange rate.
The Intelligent Instruments Lab website can be found here: Qualification requirements
The candidate will have a musical background (formal or not), experience in curating diverse musical events and collaborations, as well as an experience in the analysis and evaluation of musical performance. A suitable candidate should:
  • Hold a Master’s degree in one of the following fields: music, sociology, musicology, cultural studies, cognitive science, psychology, philosophy, computer science or music information retrieval. Comparable degrees in related fields will be considered.
  • Have a grounded experience in musical performance, instrumental practice, composition, improvisation, organising ensembles and bands, and the curation and production of musical events and recordings.
  • Have some practical experience of music technology and enthusiasm to learn how to operate a recording studio, do live sound, run a record label, etc.
  • Demonstrate an experience or awareness of conducting experiments with musicains and audiences, using appropriate methodological tools, such as discourse analysis, interviewing, video analysis, thematic analysis, semantic analysis, etc.
  • Have a passion for music, especially with regards to developing an exciting, friendly, collaborative and inclusive music community.
  • Be highly motivated, independent, organised and have a personal commitment to the success of the research project as a whole.
  • Be a good team worker, ready to collaborate with the PI/Director of Studies, postdocs, other PhD students, as well as visiting artists and MA students on shared goals and experiment design.
  • Have an excellent command of written and spoken English.
We are committed to providing an inclusive working environment and we strongly encourage people of diverse backgrounds to apply, especially people who consider themselves underrepresented in this research field.
Application process
The application should include the following documents and information. All documents should be submitted in English.
  1. A one-page cover letter describing your academic and professional background and how these make you suitable for the position.
  2. A project proposal. In the proposal you describe what you aim to research under the rubric of the Intelligent Instruments research programme. We seek projects that engage with artificial intelligence in new musical instruments with a phenomenological approach. A good proposal will include a clear contextualisation, research questions, research methods to answer those questions, a description of outputs, a 3-year work plan and a bibliography. Please use the Proposal Template we supply.
  3. A CV (max 4-pages). Any publications or conference presentations should be listed.
  4. Degree certificates of your Bachelor's and Master's degrees.
  5. The names of two referees with contact information.
All applications will be answered and a selection of applicants will be invited for an interview to be held virtually.

The deadline for submission is Monday, May 2nd, 2022.

Candidates will be shortlisted in late May and interviews will take place in the first week of June. The appointment will be decided shortly thereafter.
Applications should be sent in a compressed folder to intent-admin [at]
The post is a collaboration between the Iceland University of the Arts and the University of Iceland. Appointments are made in consideration of the Equal Rights Policy of the University of Iceland.
Any further information about the post can be provided by the PI – thor.magnusson [at] Information about working in Iceland can be found here: students