Created by Playmodes, ‘FORMS – String Quartet’ is a live multimedia performance for a string quartet, electronic music and panoramic visuals, in the field of visual sonification. The project originates from a real-time visual music score generator created by Playmodes, that is designed with a set of rules using graphic generation, driven by randomness and probability.
The realtime visual score generator, know as “The Streaming Bot“, permanently streams on the Playmodes’ Twitch channel. These scores can be framed within the “tradition” of graphic musical notation that gained strength among twentieth-century composers (John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Mestres Quadreny, Gyorgi Ligetti …), and which allowed music to be released from the rigidity of classic staves. The resulting graphics are transformed into sound using spectral synthesis algorithms, with a header running through the image from left to right, interpreting that small vertical fragment of the image. The luminance captured by this header is transformed into bass (if at the bottom of the image) and treble (if at the top of the image).
Before becoming a performance, the project also found its from via a series of ‘generative visual music jukeboxes’, titled ‘Screen Ensemble‘. In this iteration, and driven by chance and probability, this generative system creates endless, unrepeatable graphic scores that are immediately transformed into sound. Images become sound spectrums, making it possible to hear what you see. Each screen of this networked ensemble plays a particular instrumental role: Rhythm, Harmony or Texture.
The most recent iteration – ‘FORMS – String Quartet’, invites musicians on the stage to interpret a series of graphic scores that in turn build up the visual scenery, offering the audience the experience of being able to anticipate the “music to come”. A color code is used to identify each instrument on the score, white being the random engine itself. This performance, made in collaboration with Brossa String Quartet, was recorded at Barcelona’s CosmoCaixa Science Museum in April 2021, during the art+science NEO cycle, curated by Irma Vilà and Pau Alsina.
Software, ie the generative graphics were coded in Processing whereas the image sonification was done in Max/MSP. Hardware in the performance is comprised of a 3840*1080 pixels LED screen, a Macbook Pro with RME Fireface UCX soundcard, stereo sound system + subwoofers, a series of DPA 4099 microphones and two violins, one viola and a cello.