Secret Rhythms – Artificiel’s Three Pieces with Titles

True to form, Three Pieces With Titles contains three musical movements and each is controlled by the manipulation of distinct objects under the watchful gaze of a custom camera rig. In the opening movement, a score of tense violin and alto bow strikes is accented and processed based on the placement of archival photographs. Documenting the birth of the Manhattan Project and related nuclear experiments, the photos depict grinning scientists and foreboding test sites; each one has been unceremoniously ‘tagged’ with a marker for optimal recognition by the computer vision system. Arranged as a tryptich, photos are pulled in and out of the camera’s field of view on an underlying light table. Each subtle movement of an image triggers new sounds, effects, and alters the mix. Imgaes are added, removed, swapped-out, tilted, tossed aside – the duo’s fumbling hands are part of the show. “The project returns to the idea of using an apparatus live on stage in a manner that is analogous to acoustic instruments,” says Burton of the notable presence of their hands within the work. In an era of immaterial software and figures onstage hunched over laptops – it makes sense. “One of the analogies we want to maintain is the visible readability of the relation between gestures and results.”

The second movement is a musique concrète megamix constructed on an ad hoc step sequencer. Starting simple with left-to-right loops, the duo quickly constructs a palette of disjointed longer and shorter spans with a playhead zooming across the screen plinking out beats and notes each time it strikes a disc that has been manually placed within the scene. “The current version of the step sequencer slices the view in seven tracks, each can be divided up to sixteen times, and a speed multiplier can be applied to each track’s individual playhead – creating asynchronous polyrhythmic patterns. It’s a binarisation of the image, updated every camera frame so if a slot is mostly black it’s ON and otherwise it’s OFF. The time is controlled by a sound file playing in Ableton Live – essentially a phasor going from zero to one over the period we want to be the ‘base sixteen beats’ ... the playhead signal is ‘querying’ the image analysis which triggers back MIDI note messages.”

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