Intersubjective Soundings (2017-present)
This ongoing project integrates two MYO muscle-sensing armbands, shared-signal sound processing of an electro-acoustic ensemble and gestural recognition of Soundpainting-style conducting. In the project, the Soundpainter shifts modes between guiding performers, collaborating through movement/sound improvisation, and explicitly processing the sonic output of performers through their movements. These shifting modes of interaction require all performers to become attentive to the tensions between acoustic and electronic sources, between their origination point (instrumentalist vs. Soundpainter) and between bottom-up structured improvisation and top-down guiding via conducting. These continuums are amplified and explored through another layer of shared articulation, as machine learning is applied to recognition of the composer/conductors gestures, with symbolic recognition opening up channels of electronic processing and discrete states of potential sound transformation, . The underlying machine learning system is also trained on continuous mappings between conducted motion and sonic transformations, allowing the Soundpainter to perform these transformations through their (now free and unconstrained) movements, continuously co-shaping the output with a given performer. The presence of these two distinct modes of machine-mediation create a tension between the symbology of conducted instruction and that of continuously co-constructed sound, with the Soundpainter and performer sharing signals and intentional resonance in performance.
Intersubjective Soundings narrows in on this collective experience as a compositional parameter, allowing for moments of getting “lost” in one another’s sound world and gestural intentions, while needing to pull back to the symbology of soundpainting-based conducting. The work therefore traverses the spectrum of embodied listening-in-the-moment at one extreme, and a reflexive consideration of musical meaning at the other, with both of these modes being mirrored in the movement of the conducting language. This project has been developed in the context of the Electro-Acoustic Orchestra and was premiered at the 2017 International Conference on Movement and Computing (MOCO), with myself at Deptford Town Hall at Goldsmiths University in London, and the EAO at the DisPerSion Lab in Toronto. In this piece, the sense of “listening across” that occurs between instrumental performer and conductor/performer was further heightened through the introduction of a telematic connection between sites.
Diagram with overview of the interaction between human/machine performers:
Doug Van Nort, Conducting the In-Between: Improvisation and Intersubjective Engagement in Soundpainted Electro/Acoustic Ensemble Performance, Digital Creativity, 29(1), 68-81, 2018.