Music composed by Evan X. Merz. Sculpture and Stage by Sudhu Tewari. Movement by Nuria Bowart and Shira Yaziv.
When I saw J. Dearden Holmes’ 3D pictures from the 1920s presented as animated gifs, I was struck by the incongruity between the images and their presentation. These were photographs shot in the 1920s that were meant to be viewed on a stereoscope. Yet they were being presented online as animated gifs, a format that didn’t come into existence until the 1990s. This incongruity inspired me to write incongruous music. So I embedded multiple incongruities in the music: incongruities between the music and itself, as well as incongruities between the music and the images.
Search by Image is being played at Currents Sante Fe this month.
A multimedia piece generated by pushing the same buffer to both the speakers and the screen (as a line drawing). The live generative version is slightly better than the YouTube render below.
“Cannot Connect” is a problem for both computers and for people. When dealing with technology, we receive this message when we try to use something new. For people, this can be a problem in every sort of relationship.
The keyboard is a tool that people use every day to try to connect with other people. Through blogs, tweets, prose and poetry, we try to engage other humans through our work at the keyboard.
In this piece, the performer attempts to connect to both the computer and the audience through the keyboard. The software presents a randomized electronic instrument each time it is started. It selects from a palette of samples, synthesizers and signal processing effects. The performer must feel out the new performance environment and use it to connect to the audience by typing free association verse.
“Sonifying Processing: The Beads Tutorial” shows students and artists how to bring sound into their Processing programs. Veteran sound artist Evan X. Merz introduces the black art of audio in Processing through the versatile and easy-to-use Beads Library. The topic of audio is largely absent from other Processing books, but “Sonifying Processing” shows that Processing is a powerful multimedia platform that rivals Max. Each section of the book explains a sound programming concept then demonstrates it in code. The examples build from simple synthesizers in the first few chapters, to more complex sound-manglers as the book progresses. Each step of the way is examined at a level that is simple enough for new learners, and comfortable for more experienced programmers.
Becoming is an algorithmic composition program written in java, that builds upon some of John Cage’s frequently employed compositional processes. Cage often used the idea of a “gamut” in his compositions. A gamut could be a collection of musical fragments, or a collection of sounds, or a collection of instruments. Often, he would arrange the gamut visually on a graph, then use that graph to piece together the final output of a piece. Early in his career, he often used a set of rules or equations to determine how the output would relate to the graph. Around 1949, during the composition of the piano concerto, he began using chance to decide how music would be assembled from the graph and gamut.
In Becoming, I directly borrow Cage’s gamut and graph concepts; however, the software assembles music using concepts from the AI subfield of swarm intelligence. I place a number of agents on the graph and, rather than dictating their motions from a top-down rule-based approach, the music grows in a bottom-up fashion based on local decisions made by each agent. Each agent has preferences that determine their movement around the graph. These values dictate how likely the agent is to move toward food, how likely the agent is to move toward the swarm, and how likely the performer is to avoid the predator.
I wrote the score for this terrific toon by Mike Kalec and Ryan Kemp.