project space gallery melbourne 18.08.03 - 05.09.03
The new listener project began in 2001. Its goal was to create different kinds of software for playing music - software that would allow listeners to determine the final shape, or character of a musical piece. Here, the music is "adjusted by the listener" to preference, rather than "performed" by a performer.
I wrote three music programs to serve as models for software that could provide broader listener control over different kinds of musical attributes. Each of the pieces included a screen interface, through which the listener could intervene in the sounding process in more or less direct ways.
One of these for example, the select machine, allowed listeners to choose words from pull-down menus and create short poems, perhaps describing their current feeling or mood. The model presented is one of listeners programming their moods into the music player and hearing a piece of music in return, rendered in a particular version to reflect their choice of words.
The three pieces presented in this exhibition are part of a larger collection that is being developed for the internet. All are adjusted in a more direct way than described above, and are in fact variations on a single theme. Each uses the acoustic phenomenon of beating tones (known as frequency modulation) to create continuous sounds of adjustable complexity.
The pieces embody some of the simplest rhythmic, harmonic and timbral phemomena described in acoustics. They provide in one sense straightforward demonstrations of acoustical physics, while in another, the basic elements of a musical language.
One difference between these pieces and laboratory demonstrations is that each has been designed to realise a kind of performance, regardless of the simple means provided. Each makes possible a set of performance gestures - or series of adjustments - that can add new subtlety to the basic function of the software.
In this project, the role of the listener is brought into focus, as once-fixed sound relationships gain a new flexibility. The pieces recontextualise the relationship between author and listener through the characteristics of the instrument.
Note: these pieces require a java plugin, v 1.3.1 or later to be installed in your browser. Many modern computers already have built-in java support, but if yours is not one of these you will be automatically directed to the free download site. The following pages use high quality sound samples (16-bit, 44.1kHz), and a set of good loudspeakers attached to your computer is recommended!
The new listener pieces were first exhibited aug 18 - sept 5, 2003 at RMIT Project Space gallery and Spare Room (manager/curator Louiseann Zahra). They were devised as part of an Australia Council New Media Arts Fellowship program during 2002/3. The select machine was devised as part of an Arts Victoria new ideas project. A version of this text appeared on an invitation for the Project Space gallery exhibition. © Rainer Linz 2003.