Memetic Orchestras (2009-2010)
Following up on my series of Genetic Orchestra pieces, I've recently worked on two ensemble pieces for acoustic instruments and electronics. The idea is that each sonic gesture is a meme that enters into a system and whose general gestural character evolves over generations, "cross-breeding" with the sounds of fellow performers.
Memetic Orchestra #1 was written for Triple Point and an early version of the FILTER system. It was premiered at the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival in April 2009. The work explores the use of timbral/textural analysis, gesture recognition and evolutionary algorithms. The sound qualities of the sax and accordion are analyzed and the 'sonic gestures' are recognized on the fly by an artificial 'agent' who then steers a genetic algorithm, influencing Van Nort's software performance system. Therefore, acoustic performers influence an agent, who in turn influences the software system that is being performed by a laptop performer who influences the listening of the agent and all are influenced by the overall sound output.
In the first few minutes of this piece the agent controls the sound processing with minor human tuning, and then over the final 7-8 minutes the laptop performer first plays in concert with the agent before taking over to play the GREIS system as well as the evolutionary process itself.
While the piece does explore complex systems and some heavy algorithms (the power of two laptops were needed to run all software), at its heart it is really about listening for all three performers - to the electronic/acoustic balance, to the role of the agent, to the intentions past and present, to the evolutionary trajectory, and so on.
Memetic Orchestra #2 was written for an ensemble of instruments and cross-synthesis algorithms. It was invited for a performance at the Flea Theatre's "Music with a View" series in November 2009. An exploration in textural transformation and timbral sustain, the piece extracts audio qualities from each player to provide a form within which players articulate subtle inflections, their timbres merging to form a sometimes sparse, sometimes dense collage of each sound's internal matter.
Performers for this premiere included:
Van Nort, harmonica
NF Chase, Bowed Music Stand
Jonathan Chen, Violin
Cristyn Magnus, Melodica
Al Margolis, Clarinet and Toys
Jefferson Pitcher, Electric Guitar
(image by Time Out New York)