The live algorithm performance of “Tactical Temporalities” is a study in
minimalist rhythmical structures. The work is a semi-improvised musical
performance that is a practical outcome of research into musical structures
and their succinct description as computational algorithms. The work focuses
on subtle shifts in musical texture designed to induce an engaging but largely
uninterrupted flow of attention underscored by a consistent trance-like pulse
that affords ‘dancability’ in the Algorave context for which the work was first
created and presented at xCoAx 2014 (the Second conference on
Computation, Communication, Aesthetics and X) in Portugal. Elements of the
algorithm are accessed for modulation and variation by the performer via
touch screen interface and on-the-fly code rewrite. These include sound
timbre, rhythmic complexity, melodic contour, harmonic stability, textural
density and more. As is typical with a live coding performance the music is
described and managed as a textual representation in a general purpose
computer programming language.
The music is pulse-based and, in keeping with Western music theory, the
algorithms exploit the fact that durations are generally simple multiples or
divisors of a pulse. In music psychology the phenomenon of pulse, and
durations that are simple ratios of pulse, have been demonstrated to exist
outside of any cultural music context by various ‘tapping’ tests (e.g., Fraise
1984). This performance leverages these simple mathematical and perceptual
properties of musical rhythm to create and vary onset and durational
characteristics of musical parts.
Live algorithm performances challenge our understanding of creative
agency—the opportunities and responsibilities for decisions and actions in
creative activities—which is reshaped by the live coding relationship with the
computer where creative control is shared with a semi-autonomous computer
system. The interactive relationship established in this performance where the
computer is a musical instrument is differentiated from acoustic instrumental
performance, where the ‘material agency’ of the technology is usually fixed
prior to performance. The Live Coding context allows the performer to
experiment with what Pickering (1995) refers to as the “dance of agency” and
is a example of emerging digital arts practices that explore what Picking
suggests is a fundamental aspect of the human condition.
The work was originally programmed in the Impromptu environment, but was
ported in 2015 to Extempore (extempore.moso.com.au
parameters are manipulated through code and a MIDI control surface during
live performance as a way of guiding the large scale temporal structure.
Sounds are generated by various virtual synthesizers and samplers.
xCoAx 2014 - 2014.xcoax.org
Fraise, P. (1984). Perception and Estimation of Time. Annual Review of
Psychology, 35, 1–7.
Pickering, A. (1995). The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency and Practice.
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.