a guide to the ruins: Computer
David Jaffe's Impossible Animals: great piece. The pitch-to-vowel mapping is always in effect, even during extremely rapid trills, giving trills a natural, un-mechanistic sound. For additional variety, I changed the set of vowels as the music progressed, as if the imaginary animal were pronouncing different words in some unknown language. Once the evolving map of pitches to vowels was set up, I re-synthesized the data into a new and greatly transformed rendition of the original wren's song. The result is a true hybrid, as if the brain of a Winter Wren had been transplanted inside a wildly-gifted human singer.
Alvin Curran's Electric Rags II: for Rova Saxophone Quartet and electronics. The music itself, like an experimental voyage, sets out to see what, if anything, lies beyond "improvisation". To this end both determinate and indeterminate notations are employed together with a special interactive system, which can reproduce electronically anything the players play - as they play it, or any time after, and in some cases even before.
Jaron Lanier: The Sound of One Hand: A live improvisation on musical instruments that exist only in virtual reality. The piece is performed by a single hand in a DataGlove. The audience sees a projection of the performer's point-of-view. The instruments are somewhat autonomous, and occasionally fight back. The music changes dramatically from one performance to the next. The piece also demonstrates a variety of interface designs for hand-held virtual tools.
Laetitia Sonami: "Wilfred Wants You To Remember Us (Vertical Scanning)". Her windows opened, onto (1) loud knocks that moved quadrophonically around the room; (2) screeches, approaching and receding like a car that barely missed you; (3) a low, pulsing tone on different pitches; (4) two misty chords alternating a fifth apart; and (5) an anxious electric piano sequence (aptly called Blues in Hell) preplayed by Jerry Hunt. Sonami opened most of the windows via computer, but one was a story by Melody Sumner that, amid all the activity, Sonami read in her wonderful, French-inflected, deadpan voice.
Tim Perkis: OpenField is an experiment in setting up a virtual "acoustic ecology". Each user designs a sound which is at once distinct from the other voices sounding, and in harmony with them in the sense of basing its nature on the acoustic world the other voices define. The entire mix is continuously multicast on the internet and can be monitored with VAT (the video & audio teleconferencing tool) at any site having an MBONE connection.
Carter Scholz: Lattice: A chord of six tones, starting at a unison, evolves in a seven-dimensional (17-limit) space according to mutation, distance, and evaluation functions. A custom HMSL screen gives the performer interactive control over maximum and minimum metric thresholds, register, tempo, mutation and metric functions, and mutation probabilities by dimension.
Larry Polansky: The Theory Of Impossible Melody Art 1004. Great CD. "Simple Actions/Rules of Compossiblity": an improvisation for solo performer and computer. This realization adds a poet, Chris Mann. The HMSL program is based on Minsky's "society of mind" idea: complex intelligences are often the result of the interaction of simple individual intelligences ("agents") that share a common informational terrain. The performer activates, deactivates, and shapes the behavior of hundreds of these interacting musical "critters."
Brian Reinbolt: It's Not That Simple Art 1005 "Urban Lake Music": After a particularly brain-numbing week, the electronic music composer wanders unambitiously to the urban lake near his home. Laying down on the dry grass, surrounded by a detailed fall clearness, he half listens to the inside-outside world. His mind, following the pattern of the world around him, disconnects into a filtered sonic dream. Urban Lake Music was written in an attempt to use the compositional format that is heard in nature, i.e., a collection of musical events, each with its own musical timing and purpose, combined in a continuous sound collage.
Mark Trayle: Etudes and Bagatelles ART 1010 "Seven Gates" is an interactive computer music composition with a touch of virtual reality. I use a Mattel PowerGlove to manipulate invisible "sonic souvenirs", audio samples from AM and FM radio (imagine driving around California with your car radio stuck on "scan" mode). The piece has seven sections ranging in length from two to five minutes: it's a set of "bagatelles". In live performance the stage is divided into two areas: a "sample space" with invisible "shelves" and a "play space". Separating the two areas is an invisible "fence". The performer, wearing the glove, reaches through a "gate" in the fence to grab a sample from a shelf, then brings it back through the gate to the play space where its sound can be modulated by moving the glove around.
The League of Automatic Music Composers present our music not as entertainment but as an example of how nature operates when we perceive it as cooperative, democratic and musical. We have constructed a multi-computer based network of non-hierarchical, interactive, simultaneous processes that are open to information from larger environments. As these processes overlap and interact they generate mutual contexts for sonic motions. Sometimes when the system enters a strong interactive mode, its activities may be heard as if there is a unified mentality improvising or composing. Because the semantics of whether we can ascribe intentional acts to nonliving entities seems to be open, we can choose to consider that we have invented a (partially guided) musical artificial intelligence.
McCall.DEM is a collaborative work by Scot Gresham-Lancaster and Bill Thibault. It derives melodic, timbral, visual and rhythmic materials from a computer representation of terrain. We went to the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif. and obtained the "McCall Idaho Sampler". This contained data files of several types including a grid of elevations measured at 30 meter intervals over an area of approximately 100 square miles. The first try was to simply run the rows of data directly to the sound hardware. The result was a noisy, somewhat periodic (pitched) squack. This didn't correspond to a traveler's path, however. To extract elevations from the data along a path, I decided to first break down each path into a series of straight lines. This would allow the use of a fast, well-known procedure for travelling a grid along a line between any two grid points: Bresenham's Algorithm.
The Hub: Tonight's show is a live performance from KPFA's sound studio of "HubRenga", an audience-interactive, music/poetry piece made possible by the communication between two computer networks. The collaborators in the creation of this piece are the Bay Area computer music band The Hub, novelist and musician Ramon Sender, and poets from the poetry conference on the Well. During the performance poets will submit poetry through the Well and Ramon will browse through the submissions, reading them aloud as a part of the music. Key words in the poetry trigger specific musical responses from The Hub. Renga poets will be shaping the piece while they are listening to it over the radio.
David Wessel: I have a real allergy to the word sample. We don't do sampling. We analyze real live sounds, and then if we want to duplicate them in their original form, we resynthesize. But we want a plastic intermediate representation of a "form" that we can manipulate and expressivly play.
CCRMA: A significant visitor, was Kazukiyo Ishimura, a young engineer sent to Stanford by Yamaha, the largest maker of musical instruments in the world. It took Ishimura just 10 minutes to understand the principle of FM synthesis, and its potential. As Ishimura, who today is Yamaha's managing director, recalls, "We believed that this technology might be the future of music."
Fictional account of a CCRMA outdoor concert and a run-amuck A.I. called SOCRATES! Above the perpetual haze of Silicon Valley, the night sky was intensely starry, cut only by the sharp outline of the immense telescope dish. The music would be produced by four huge black speaker cases, each larger than a refrigerator, barely visible at the corners of the grassy field, with a perimeter twice that of a basketball court. Already several hundred people were sitting, randomly, on folding chairs and on the ground within the speaker array. Steinberg set out a plaid blanket, approximately in the middle of the four speakers. Martha sat, folding her thin legs beneath her, and glanced around, eyes bright. "It's beautiful up here" she said. The music began with the sounds of small bells and finger cymbals, apparently floating on the breeze around the audience, occasionally receding into the distance, then rushing through, then moving in rapid circles. The audience, nearly as one, seemed almost to stop breathing. Martha unconsciously reached over and touched Steinberg's knee.
Don Buchla's Lightning II: "Lightning is as musically intuitive as it is theatrically powerful. Buchla continues to roll back the frontiers of innovative real time control." -Robert Moog. "As Don plays, virtual instruments magically appear." -John Chowning. "Lightning is expressive, immediate, deep and fun - in short, exactly what a musical instrument should be." -Robert Rich. "Don is easily among the most advanced and imaginative of the instrument builders of the 20th century." -Morton Subotnick.