In 1977, the two Voyager space probes were launched, each carrying a golden record with music, sounds, and voices from Earth — just in case. The records also feature over a hundred digital images encoded as sounds. If an alien civilization picked up one of the Voyager probes a million years from now, what would they make of the information on the record? They probably wouldn’t think they way we do. They might try to taste the disk, or try to find meaning in the way it feels when they rub their fingers on the grooves. Or they might try to decode the ancient, degraded images onto a forty-meter-long tapestry.
sound sculpture for Caramoor’s Garden of Sonic Delights, installed at the Neuberger Museum, SUNY Purchase College, New York. The sound changes slowly as the stones settle, and also responds to the weather.
The sound art festival’s opening at Caramoor on June 7th, and Stone Song will have a reception at SUNY Purchase on June 20th.
My toy dog always barks 26 times in a row. I asked composers to contribute microscores for piano, each 26 beats long, to be synchronized to the chihuahua’s voice. Fifteen composers wrote about sixty scores, which were performed by the mechanical dog at the Qubit Machine Music festival at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center in New York in February 2014.
Composers: Ranjit Bhatnagar, Jason Charney, RP Collier, Langdon Crawford, Christi Denton, Rachael Forsyth, Ben Houge, Lem Jay Ignacio, Bryan Jacobs, James Joslin, Ari Lacenski, Tony Marasco, Kala Pierson, Erik Satie (adapted by Ranjit Bhatnagar), Isaac Schankler, and Schuyler Thum.
Machine Music is Qubit’s focal point of the 2014 season, highlighting the interstices of a variety of contemporary currents, including cutting-edge computer technologies, improvisatory instrumental practice and experimental sound installations.
This festival of music played by and with machines is coming to NYC this Wednesday through Friday, February 12-14. Come join us! All the details at qubitmusic.com/machine-music.html.
Last month I sent out a call for microscores, 26 beats long, to be played on Disklavier robot piano under the control of my little toy dog. I’ve received almost 40 scores for Short Ride in a Fast Chihuahua, and there’s still room for more, if you’d like to send some of your own. Kala Pierson explained the rules better than I ever did, here. Come to the Machine Music festival to see the chihuahua in action!
I’ll be participating in two of the three nights of the festival: On Thursday the 12th, Margaret Leng Tan and I will present the first public performance on Speak-and-Play, a new instrument, with selections from John Cage’s Indeterminacy. On Saturday the 14th, my toy piano robot Vexbot will continue its important work of playing Satie’s Vexations over and over so that human pianists don’t have to.
Selections from Indeterminacy by John Cage
Adapted for Speak-and-Play by Margaret Leng Tan and Ranjit Bhatnagar
Margaret Leng Tan: Speak-and-Play, vocals
Ranjit Bhatnagar: Sound objects, vocals
Speak-and-Play is a musical instrument created by Ranjit Bhatnagar which turns language into music and music into language. Each key on the keyboard corresponds to one of 40 fundamental sounds in the English language. A computer program converts English text into a piano score which can then be played to speak the original text which generated it. The same score can also be interpreted as melody, giving every word and phrase its own unique note pattern. With practice, a pianist can say anything in English entirely through the Speak-and-Play keyboard.
We will perform five selections from John Cage’s Indeterminacy. Each is an anecdote intended to be read in exactly one minute, along with auxilliary sounds and an unspecified musical accompaniment. For this Indeterminacy performance, Cage’s words will at times be heard through Speak-and-Play along with the music that encodes the language; at other times, just the music generated by the text will accompany the live human narration.
Today (Thursday May 9) is the last day to see my installation Singing Room for a Shy Person at Clocktower Gallery in Manhattan. Your next chance to see it will probably be at the Tinguely Museum in Switzerland this Fall.