Flou: A Co-Compositional Attempt at Algorithmic Embodiment

DOI  https://doi.org/10.51191/issn.2637-1898.2023.6.10.124

Kenrick Ho (https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2141-6251)

School of Music, Faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Cultures, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom

Author’s contact information: mckkkh@leeds.ac.uk

  INSAM Journal of Contemporary Music, Art and Technology Main Theme of the Issue: Technological Aspects of Contemporary Artistic and Scientific Research

Publisher: INSAM Institute for Contemporary Artistic Music, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina  


Abstract: My composition, Flou for solo violin, is an attempt at cocomposition between the composer and the performer at embodying otherwise unidiomatic machine-learning generated materials. The piece touches on a broader compositional problem where historically, when algorithms were used as a means in itself, composers were often faced with tensions between the algorithm, the composer, and the performer. To contextualize further, Cage, Xenakis, and Boulez each came up with their own algorithmic processes and dealt with these tensions differently. Upon scrutinizing these composers’ methods, I observe that these tensions are usually resolved by enabling agency for either side of the humans involved. As in, Boulez deviates from his algorithm to follow his compositional instincts, Cage creates indeterminate scores for performers to interpret, and Xenakis adds ‘human touches’ to his ‘incomplete’ algorithm. Considering these kinds of tensions, Flou uses an open score with only algorithmic pitch notated, which I ask to be played using an octave-lower scordatura. The open score affords the performer’s freedom to react to the instability of the scordatura in non-pitch ways, and it is this tantalizing physical attempt at trying to play the algorithmic pitch that foregrounds the performer’s bodily presence in the performance.

Keywords: algorithmic music, musical embodiment, phenomenology, acoustic composition, contemporary music.


9. INSAM Journal 10, Ho

ISSN 2637 – 1898
On the cover: Photo from the premiere of the opera Third Bullet by Vojislav Vučković, generated with DALL-E, initiated by Milan Milojković
Design and layout: Milan Šuput, Bojana Radovanović