d9-tgoc_aCVPsG, the acronym of diagrams9 — the_gesture_of_creation;
audioControlledVideoPlayer and simpleGranulator, is an interactive audiovisual installation, in which visitors use the sounds they themselves make to control the playback of several video clips showing me “creating” diagrams9; what they hear, meanwhile, is their own input transformed. technically speaking, 2 microphones capture the sounds of the space in which the installation takes place, and with the aid of an envelope follower, the loudness of the sounds controls the frame of the video that is shown. simultaneously, the sounds are also recorded into a 2-second-long buffer, from which short grains of 8 to 832 ms are played back by 2 loudspeakers, creating a sort of feedback loop, as what comes out of the loudspeakers is also captured by the microphones, recorded into the buffer and comes out of the loudspeakers again (while also driving the video). this feedback loop, as well as other aspects of d9-tgoc_aCVPsG (see the scare quotes surrounding the word “creating” in the description at the beginning of this paragraph), is the result of a conscious symbolic thinking, which is discussed below.
d9-tgoc_aCVPsG was first presented on March 15, 2016, in the framework of the event Gesten der zeitgenössischen Musik – Komposition und Wissenschaft im Dialog at the Musikwissenschaftliches Seminar der Universität Basel, whose program consisted of 6 lectures and a short concert followed by a discussion, all related to the subject of gestures in contemporary music. in the program notes, d9-tgoc_aCVPsG was described simply as a video-piece (no additional info was given), and i was curious to see how the audience would react to it, and if anyone would figure out the major role that was given to her/him in influencing what is seen and heard by all of us. unfortunately, because i barely had enough time to set up on stage and absolutely no time to calibrate the equipment correctly – the feedback loop described above requires careful tuning of the input and output levels in order to work reliably – the potential risk that the loop will just feed itself, making the actual input negligible, materialized. the quietest rustles in the hall quickly became louder and louder, driving the video hectically without giving the audience even the slightest chance to understand that it is interactive. below is a recording of the sounds that came out of the loudspeakers (the video was not recorded because of another technical problem), and even though i wished for something completely different (and technically this presentation was a failure), i found the unintended musical outcome quite interesting and unique.
3 months later, at Music for Oneself, the event i created for my master’s recital for an MA in Composition and Music Theory at the Hochschule für Musik Basel, d9-tgoc_aCVPsG was presented to an audience again, this time as one of the 5 “images” in which the notion of music for oneself was manifested. there, it was installed in a hall of its own, ran for the whole duration of the event, and visitors could interact with it in their own time. the video below is a documentation of the whole 1 hour, 20 minutes and 40 seconds during which it was active, showing when and to what extent the visitors engaged with the installation, and giving an impression of the kinds of sounds they produced in order to drive it (notice that the audio of both d9-tgoc_aCVPsG_160315 and d9-tgoc_aCVPsG_160604 consists of only the sounds that came out of the loudspeakers; the original input was not recorded).
as mentioned above, d9-tgoc_aCVPsG was created with a conscious symbolic meaning. of course, this does not mean that other interpretations of it are wrong or that it is impossible to understand d9-tgoc_aCVPsG differently. moreover, a symbolic meaning is often the result of an interpretation emphasizing some details while ignoring others (and this is also the case here). still, i do think that describing how i originally conceived d9-tgoc_aCVPsG is worthwhile, because in order to explain the logic behind the installation’s behaviour, that is, why and how it changes over time, it is necessary to explain the symbols on which it is based.
the first, quite obvious symbol is the image of a man (the artist) holding a hammer, a reference to the (mythical) blacksmith who forges metal in order to create something out of it. the video d9-tgoc (diagrams9 – the_gesture_of_creation) from which the clips that are used in the installation are taken, consists of single blows of a hammer, which, symbolically speaking, represent single gestures of creation. when one of these gestures is repeated and varied (corresponding to the sounds produced by the visitors), it becomes an activity, a representation of the creative process, and each single blow of the hammer that reaches the table, represents progress in the creative process. proceeding with this symbolic line of thought, progress in the creative process may turn out to be significant or insignificant, and significant progress may lead to a breakthrough. what does a breakthrough mean? in d9-tgoc_aCVPsG, it means either a paradigm shift (a change in perspective, a different diagram, a different processing of the recorded sounds) or a withdrawal (a black screen). in other words, the narrative of the creative process (as it is represented in d9-tgoc_aCVPsG) is made up of endless paradigm shifts that follow one another and are occasionally intermitted by withdrawals. because artistically, no paradigm is better than the other (only different) and all the paradigms are temporary, the artistic creative process is circular, purposeless, and infinite. the progress mentioned above is subjective, a contextual illusion, an ephemeral anecdote.
furthermore, the interaction between the visitors and the installation was devised symbolically as well, as the technical feedback loop described above represents a conceptual feedback loop: the way in which the visitors experience the installation depends on what the installation produces, and what the installation produces depends on the sounds that the visitors produce, which again, depend on how the visitors experience the installation. in the end, the visitors listen to themselves and watch the influence of their own sounds. if the movement of my hand in the video represents the creative process, the visitors do not only observe it, they are part of it.
finally, here is a third realization of d9-tgoc_aCVPsG. this is a web-based version of the installation, programmed using the Web Audio API (at present, this version is supported only in Google Chrome and does not work on mobile phones or tablets). after loading the page, you will be asked to allow the browser to use your microphone. do so (it is required) and set the volume to a low level. click “OK” in the popup dialog box, make some sounds, and raise the volume slowly and carefully to avoid too much feedback (do not use headphones).