Ground Breaking + Live Algorithms

185757-groundbreakingc.jpgGround Breaking – Experience Past Landscapes in Grains and Pixels by Paul Adderley & Michael Young: In this installation, a computer explores and represents nearly 10,000 years of soil records, revealing them in different colours and perspectives.

Landscapes reflect the lives and histories of the people who live in them. Scientific analysis of the soil can be used to examine how people lived in the past and provide lessons for future management of landscapes in extreme or fragile environments. We invite you to become part of the shifting scenes of the Sahel in image and sound and reflect upon its presence and history…

Soils can store information recording the way people have affected the land over thousands of years. Microscopic fragments of different objects found in the soil can tell us about past landscapes. The colour, size and number of fragments offer further clues about the management of landscapes. The latest advances in visual and sonic technologies allow us to illuminate and make audible these ancient landscapes. Sounds of the Sahel, and sounds made afresh are recalled and shaped by the computer using scientific information taken from the soil itself. The Sahel in Africa is an area at the fringe of the Sahara desert. It is one of the world’s most marginal environments yet is home to over 50 million people. With a dry season lasting eight months of the year and unreliable rainfall, survival is hard for farming communities. Climate change is keenly felt in the Sahel. Understanding how people managed this landscape during past periods of climate change is essential in developing successful responses to future changes.

Live Algorithms [PDF] by Tim Blackwell and Michael Young, Depts Computing and Music, Goldsmiths College, London:

“The EPSRC-funded Live Algorithms for Music (LAM) research network is establishing an inter-disciplinary community of musicians, software engineers and cognitive scientists. Our aim is to investigate autonomous computers in music.

The use of computers in live music is not new; the fields of generative (algorithmic) composition and live electronics are of particular interest to LAM. A key discriminator between these is the degree of interaction with the performer. Interaction is intrinsic to live electronics: a performer may jam with commercial or custom software; a ‘laptop-as-instrument’ paradigm, in which the computer is controlled directly. Another approach links players of traditional instruments with computers: incoming sound or data is analysed by software and a resultant reaction (e.g. a new sound event) is determined by pre-arranged processes. Such ‘reflex-systems’ can accompany performance but might also utilise stochasticity to effect surprise; as determined by organizational decisions made by the composer /designer. We would term such a system ‘weakly interactive’ because there is only an illusion of integrated performer-machine interaction, feigned by the designer. Algorithmic composition generates music off-line, although can be used in real-time.

Algorithms from such fields as fractals, chaos theory, neural networks and evolutionary computing have been exploited by composers for their patterning properties.1 Such systems are not interactive, since all the parameters needed for sound generation are pre-determined. In contrast, strong interaction is exemplified in the human-only practice of ‘free’ improvisation. This music rejects top-down organisation (a priori agreements, explicit or tacit) in favour of open, developing patterns of behaviour.2 Social theories describe experiences with a sense of certainty, and with a unified artistic intent, as ‘becoming situated’. An ‘interactional semiotics’ has been proposed, stemming from Meade’s idea of emergence: an ensemble as single entity exhibiting self-organising behaviours (see 1. for references).

LAM is interested in computer systems that might interact strongly with musicians, in both a supportive and a creative capacity and the research agenda is a marrying of algorithmic music, live electronics and free improvisation. Properties of human performance – and therefore of a live algorithm (LA) – include strong interactivity, autonomy, innovation, idiosyncrasy and comprehensibility. Strong interactivity depends on instigation and surprise as well as response. Individual decision-making is immediate, necessary and basic: when to play or not, when to modify activity in any number of parameters (loudness, pitch, tone quality), when to imitate or ignore another participant, when to ‘agree’ the performance is concluding. When to make a decision. And why. Without the capacity to innovate, listeners would lose the belief that the LA was truly engaged with the performance instead of merely accompanying it. The iterative, generative, idiosyncratic world of algorithmic organisation must be accessed, but the mechanical and the predictable must be avoided. It is the ability to innovate that distinguishes automation from autonomy. It is not hard to generate music of great complexity. Harder, though, is to ensure that these contributions are comprehensible to fellow performers in real-time who might be hearing these ideas for the first time. (But an incomprehensible, opaque system can be contrasted with a transparent one where the association between input and output is too trivial.)

Such considerations show the research goal is prescient, but there are reasons to believe that it is imminent too. The authors’ own Swarm Music/Granulator systems implement a model of interactivity derived from the organisation of social insects.3 These systems embody our idea of a proxy environment which holds meaningless sonic events. The system (human or machine) explores the environment, discovering and manipulating found sonic objects. Long term organisation can develop, just as it does in termite nest construction. Within this framework, we envisage a modular system comprising of analysis (P) and synthesis (Q) functions which interface and interpret the sonic environment and relay parameters to a hidden patterning algorithm (F) (analogous to listening, playing and musical thinking enjoyed by a human performer). This picture integrates interaction with algorithmic composition and exploits recent developments in real time music analysis/synthesis.

The network has some 70 members, including representatives from France, Portugal, USA and Australia. Activities include an open meeting and two network workshops each year. Each event features invited speakers, contributions from LAM project teams and performances. The next meeting will be December 19-20 2005, with an international conference in December 2006. LAM warmly encourages AISB readers to participate: please see”

1. E. Miranda. Composing Music With Computers. Focal Press, 2001
2. T.M.Blackwell and M.Young. Self-Organised Music. Organised Sound 9(2): 123–136, 2004.
3. T.M.Blackwell T.M. and M.Young. Swarm Granulator. Applications of Evolutionary Computing EuroWorkshops 2004, Proceedings, LNCS 3005, Springer-Verlag (2004) 399-408

Nov 15, 2007
Trackback URL

One Response

  1. digital aesthetics | Ground Breaking + Live Algorithms:

    […] Originally from Networked Music Review by jo reBlogged by michael on Nov 15, 2007, 9:07AM […]

Leave a comment


Current interview:
Robin Meier, Ali Momeni and the sound of insects

Previous Interviews:


livestage music sound performance calls + opps installation audio/visual radio festival instrument networked audio interactive experimental electronic workshop video participatory writings event mobile exhibition concert live collaboration electroacoustic environment nature reblog distributed soundscape field recording net_music_weekly improvisation software history locative media space public noise recording immersion voice acoustic sonification lecture generative conference body tool sound sculpture net art art + science VJ/DJ light diy remix site-specific perception mapping film visualization listening laptop algorithmic multimedia city urban data wearable architecture open source game virtual biotechnology sound walk spatialization webcast hacktivism robotic image score platform electromagnetic new media cinema ecology found news composer telematic interface streaming residency interviews/other sensor dance circuit bending synesthesia physical political notation intervention object controller broadcasts conversation narrative second life responsive mashup place technology ambient social network symposium motion tracking hybrid intermedia augmented spoken word livecoding text phonography auralization acousmatic upgrade! gesture opera aesthetics mixed reality resource theory processing 8bit orchestra nmr_commission wireless device toy wireless network theater web 2.0 presentation community surveillance p2p 3D copyright soundtrack research podcast sample feedback psychogeography social chance interdisciplinary tactile recycle interview language systems code emergence presence cassette privacy free/libre software media play chiptune newsletter place-specific archives avatar education haptics activist surround sound audio tour glitch hardware tactical identity bioart asynchronous business tv tangible composition animation jazz transmission arts apps tag e-literature collective microsound relational synchronous Artificial Intelligence conductor convergence reuse simulation ubiquitous synthesizers im/material
3D 8bit acousmatic acoustic activist aesthetics algorithmic ambient animation apps architecture archives art + science Artificial Intelligence asynchronous audio audio/visual audio tour augmented auralization avatar bioart biotechnology body broadcasts business calls + opps cassette chance chiptune cinema circuit bending city code collaboration collective community composer composition concert conductor conference controller convergence conversation copyright dance data distributed diy e-literature ecology education electroacoustic electromagnetic electronic emergence environment event exhibition experimental feedback festival field recording film found free/libre software game generative gesture glitch hacktivism haptics hardware history hybrid identity im/material image immersion improvisation installation instrument interactive interdisciplinary interface intermedia intervention interview interviews/other jazz language laptop lecture light listening live livecoding livestage locative media mapping mashup media microsound mixed reality mobile motion tracking multimedia music narrative nature net art networked net_music_weekly new media news newsletter nmr_commission noise notation object open source opera orchestra p2p participatory perception performance phonography physical place place-specific platform play podcast political presence presentation privacy processing psychogeography public radio reblog recording recycle relational remix research residency resource responsive reuse robotic sample score second life sensor simulation site-specific social social network software sonification sound soundscape sound sculpture soundtrack sound walk space spatialization spoken word streaming surround sound surveillance symposium synchronous synesthesia synthesizers systems tactical tactile tag tangible technology telematic text theater theory tool toy transmission arts tv ubiquitous upgrade! urban video virtual visualization VJ/DJ voice wearable web 2.0 webcast wireless device wireless network workshop writings



Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan


Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan


Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan


Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan


Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan


Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan


Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan


Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan


Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan


Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan


Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan


Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan


Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan


Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan


Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan


Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul

What is this?

Networked_Music_Review (NMR) is a research blog that focuses on emerging networked musical explorations.


NMR Commissions

NMR commissioned the following artists to create new sound art works. More...
More NMR Commissions


"Two Trains" by Data-Driven DJ aka Brian Foo

Two Trains: Sonification of Income Inequality on the NYC Subway by Data-Driven DJ aka Brian Foo: The goal of this song is to emulate a ride on the New York City Subway's 2 Train ... Read more
Previous N_M_Weeklies


Guest Bloggers:


Massachusetts Cultural Council
Networked: a (networked_book) about (networked_art)
New American Radio
New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc.
New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency
New York State Music Fund
Upgrade! Boston

Turbulence Works