Video of Premiere
A 12 minute piece for flute and live hallucinations, by Alexis Kirke and Joel Eaton commissioned by Peninsula Arts, Plymouth University.
Premiere 8pm 10th Feb 2012 at PACMF2012 (www.pacmf.co.uk) with Simon Deshorger on flute and Alexis Kirke on halluciphone.
Below you will find photos, excerpts from the score and score simulations. This page is divided into 3 parts: one about the Halluciphone, one about the Flute Score, and one about the Electronics Score.
Alexis has the visual symptoms of Palinopsia which cause exaggerated after-images. He explains they are “a little like the effect people see after staring at a bright light, but much intensified. For example sometimes a moving hand will leave a trail of after-images behind it in my vision.”
The Halluciphone is an audiovisual iPad device to make hallucinations visible to the audience. Alexis has worked with technologist Joel Eaton, a PhD student at the ICCMR, to produce an augmented reality application which can be made to "hallucinate" in ways similar to his own vision. Whatever the iPad camera is seeing can be manipulated by hand using the multi-touch screen. (Halluciphone early protoype shown below: first picture = reality, second picture = afterimage hallucination.)
Effects Alexis will control include areas of the screen leave trails and afterimages of what the camera is seeing, or having groups of pixels randomly switch on and off. This is based on a simple interface to allow him to indicate where he is seeing patterns and images by touching the screen. The iPad screen will then be projected onstage for the audience to see. The Palinopsia Foundation in the US, speaking of the new iPad software said: “The therapeutic uses for this application are endless. It could significantly help spread awareness of Palinopsia and understanding for those living with Palinopsia.” (Halluciphone early protoype shown below: first picture = reality, second picture = afterimage hallucination trail.)
A computer music algorithm will be set up on a laptop and the iPad will transmit wirelessly to the electronic sound producer on the laptop, which will "musify" the hallucinations (according to an electronics score described below). Musical moods will veer from ambient relaxation, to darkly mysterious sounds, to loud bass-lines. The innovative and accomplished flute player, Simon Desorgher, will play along from Alexis' score.
Asked how he knows he will hallucinate, Alexis says, “after the rehearsals I expect to be tired with a high stress level, and these together with the dim lighting in the concert hall “will make it a field-day for Palinopsia effects!”
Section 2 of the flute score is more minimalist and is inspired by trance-like pop music bass lines from the 1980s.
DJ Pierre discovered the wonders of filter-sweeping for popular music. In Insight it is applied to a classical flute part. To do this the composer first did an analysis of this bass-line from the first acid house record release. DJ Pierre was interested with the Insight project and agreed to help out. He provided Alexis with an acappella version Acid Trax (excerpt here).
Below are the amplitude and frequency analyses of the bass-line provided by Pierre. They do not capture all of the filter but help with some of the electroacoustic analysis.
These were traced off Alexis' iPad onto an approximate filter score.
Alexis then used various versions of the Acid Trax basslines in part 2 of the Insight score, with a notation for the flautist to use in simulating some of the filter effects. A segment of the notes for this score is shown below.
The type of sounds being used in the electronics score which accompanies the flute include Binaural Beats, Subbass and Pure Noise, as well as samples and more traditional electronic accompaniments (though no percussion).
BInarual Beats are caused by two sine waves very close to each other in frequency, and then a beating is heard in the ears. Alexis is using them in Insight both for their sound and to induce a meditative or trance state in himself to encourage hallucinations. An MP3 of an example binaural beat is here.
Subbass is a deep pure sine wave that is almost inaudible and more felt than heard. It has a strong resonant effect on Alexis' mental state and that is one reason for its usage. No example is given here as most computers and headphones will not have a speaker system which can "hear" the subbass suffciently.
Pure Noise is a pure random sound. This means that all frequencies are randomly triggered like aural snow from a detuned analogue TV screen. There are different types of pure noise depending on slight variations on the statistics of the randomness. This is an MP3 of "White Noise" followed by some "Brown Noise". Once again Alexis has from past experience found these to be effective for the hallucinatory state.
The prevalence of one of these sound-types over any other will change in different parts of the 3 part score. Also the frequency and loudness characteristics of these will be adjusted by what is being "seen" on the Halluciphone. So Alexis' hallucinations during the performance will influence and be represented by the electronic sounds.
A FINAL COMMENT FROM ALEXIS
The following question and answer from an interview with Alexis explains his core inspiration behind this performance.
SI: OK, one last thing I wanted to ask: many people will be most familiar with you from your piece “Sunlight Symphony”, in which you used light sensors and a computer to turn a large building into a musical instrument played by the rising sun. I've seen information about some of your other upcoming pieces which also involve large scale performances, Insight seems to be a bit of a departure from this doesn't it?
AK: Not at all. My work is not about size, it's about beauty. In particular it's about the beauty Einstein talked about “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious – the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” The rising of the sun, the cycles of day and night and the stability of large architecture are mysteries to most people. But the greatest mysteries to me are: what is personal experience, and how do I know I'm not alone in the Universe? How can I ever know what you are feeling, or that you even feel? The internal subjective experience of another, this is the great secret. And Insight helps me get a little closer to experiencing that mystery. I can actually share with the audience something which I used to consider impossible to share. And this has been made possible at the interface of science, technology and music. Without the scientist's classification and analysis of Palinoptic type symptoms, Joel's programming on the iPad, and my own envisioning of an artistic environment including flute interaction which could unify myself, the vision, the sound and the audience - we could not have investigated this particular version of Einstein's “beautiful experience”.