Markets in everything, high-frequency trading opera edition

by on December 12, 2012 at 4:38 am in Economics, Music | Permalink

London, 7th 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.

To view the Multimedia News Release, please click:

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 are 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.

I believe that is the only press release I have ever covered on this blog.  In general you press release people, unless you have something as important as Markets in Everything High-Frequency Trading Opera Edition, I don’t give a damn about what you send me!  You all bore me!  Really.

1 Saturos December 12, 2012 at 6:37 am

This sounds like one of the best things ever.

2 Claudia December 12, 2012 at 7:10 am

Video in the release is well worth watching … incentivized trader-singers and beautiful finance art were two extra bits I liked. More serious take away…there is an emotion and energy in market and market transactions that is stripped from our more standard analyses…to the detriment of our understanding.

3 Nick December 12, 2012 at 8:30 am

Ahhh Tyler, the moral hazard you have just created by posting this w.r.t. the media releases you will now receive in the future. I notice you tried to wind this back at the end, kind of like the protestations that bank bailouts will be a one-off!

Resistance is futile!

4 londenio December 13, 2012 at 3:52 am

The “unless” part of the sentence is very problematic. Sending press releases is cheap. Solve for equilibrium.

5 John December 12, 2012 at 8:52 am

Not really high-frequency trading opera; definitely low-frequency trading opera. The HFT part was just click bait. Still awesome.

6 mkt December 12, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Right, a less misleading title would’ve been “Markets in everything: Open Outcry – the Opera”. Nonetheless, an awesome idea.

I forget if it was here or on an email list where I read of a sort of dance performance on a stage where spotlights were the scarce resource that the dancers competed for. I forget if it was the audience or the dancers who determined the “allocation” of spotlights. IIRC the organizers set it up so that the floodlights had common property attributes (e.g. another dancer could move into a lit spot already being occupied by a dancer, thus consuming some of the limited light; something like that, I forget the details). Really clever idea although IIRC it had the dancers all act as individuals; there certainly are solo dance performers but a whole lot of dance (and music) is based on ensembles: collective action rather than individual action. Someone who hogs the spotlight or decides to break into an impromptu solo, in a performance designed for ensemble, is going to quickly find himself or herself booted out of the group. And then you have art forms such as jazz where one typically sees an ensemble performing, but giving a shifting focus to individuals.

7 Jonathan December 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm

“what they (the singers) take home in pay for the performance… depends on how well they trade”

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