On-to-Genesis (2012)

I wrote this piece for the Composers Inside Electronics (CIE), premiered at Roulette on October 2nd, 2012. The performers were John Driscoll, Tom Hamilton and Doug Van Nort. The piece is for an ensemble of laptops that control the evolution of a genetic algorithm, which in turn shapes many layers of sonic textures and gestures that fly about the room – and in this case across the venue’s eight-channel sound system. An additional player is a machine entity that remembers the sequence of sonic actions throughout the performance, recalling certain sections at particular moments of the piece and recombining this past sonic memory while spatializing this throughout the room. In this way the piece strikes a balance between the immediacy of the evolving group decisions and a larger structure for the piece.

As I often like to do, for On-to-genesis I composed both a software instrument and a score. The instrument contains the GA process, a series of granular synthesis sound modules and presets that constrain possible sound materials and saved sonic states. I like this approach as it allows me to provide compositional constraints (e.g. begin from preset X in section Y) yet maintains a focus on listening that turns a lot of improvisational control over to the performer. Part of the performer’s control is that they define what is the most “fit” state of the system, which biases the evolution of the algorithm and in turn the internal sonic structure that emerges from this. You might say that I provide a larger form and constraints on the process, and the internal structure emerges from within this. The following is a video that shows the instrument in action. If you would like to see a longer video that demonstrates how the patch/algorithm works it can be found here.

The result from the premiere was an immersive experience that sounded quite good in the hall. The following is a recording of the final 9 minutes of this 20 minute composition. You can hear some of the spatial motion; imagine yourself in a beautiful theatre surrounded by an 8.2 channel sound system.

The piece is scalable to more performers. As with most of my pieces created for laptop ensembles, while it is written for good listeners with sonic/musical sensitivity, it does not presuppose any musical training.