Circular Sound is similar to my other recent mobile instruments in that it combines a sampler with custom digital signal processing, and a unique interface. Sounds can be loaded from a configurable directory on the device, or you can play around with the default sounds, which are from freesound.org. Then they are loaded into spheres that are arranged in a circle on the left half of the screen. The left half of the screen is the source audio mixer, while the right half is used to control effects. The effects include waveshaping, granulation, delay, and modulation.
The goal of Circular Sound is to give a simple access point into generating various types of noise that is related in some way to the source sounds provided by the user.
“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.
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.