Thursday, 08.06.2023, 6:15 p.m. //

Medientheater, Georgenstr. 47, room 0.01

Expression and automation are often placed at opposite ends of a spectrum of the ancient conflict between the human and the machine, or the natural and the synthetic. But today’s performance practices, from music, to theatre, to cinema, and virtual reality, implies that we share materiality and agency, objectness and expression with the synthetic. In a way this obliterates any appeal to a ‘natural’ order of any kind, the synthetic can be an autonomous expressive agent. For me, this offers a poetics of combinatorial agency. One of the implications that I hope to tease out suggests that creative expression can lie at nodes of distribution of expressive agency and those nodes exist in computational systems. Does computation transform this relationship and is expressive agency distributed differently? For me this is a central question for understanding the relationship between expression and automation as manifest in the performance practice—where is the intersection of the performer and computation—both corporally and aurally. 

The musical instrument is one place to explore this notion. Even a cursory view of a traditional acoustic musical instrument will yield this observation—it is clear that the generation of vibration is created by a kind of musician-instrument complex—the ecstasy, compulsion, mania, and spirituality we associate with music is shared through this distributive process. Musicianship and expression is developed at what we might call nodes of agency, the touch of the pianist’s finger, the embouchure of the clarinetist. These nodes activate the mechanical aspects of the instrument that create sound. Where are those nodes in the computer music instrument? Said another way, if we can hear, as listeners, as musicians, as vibrating bodies that the clearly synthetic, fabricated and prearranged cannot just be expressive, but share in agency, then ontological categories become blurred.

Kevin Patton is a designer, musician, and creative technologist whose projects often include novel approaches to physical and computational interaction in expressive contexts. His research interests include expressive technological systems, automation and agency, visualization, musical thinking, and human centered design. Recent projects include developing immersive web experiences, leading community design initiatives, and composing electroacoustic music. Kevin is the founder of Studio Orpiment, an interactive design studio with a focus on immersive sound and music mixing and mastering.


Thursday, 08.06.2023, 6:15 p.m.


Medientheater, Georgenstr. 47, room 0.01