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What Is The Sound Of One Eye Browsing?

posted Jan 25, 2014, 12:46 AM by Ellen Pearlman


All photos from the video “Chorus” by Akihiko Taniguchi

Usually this blog is concerned with the world of 3D visualization. However, I found this method of music composition by artist Holly Herndon, a self-professed “club kid” who is now pursuing a Ph.D. at Stanford’s CCRMA so compelling I decided to write about it.

12” Chorus is essentially the electronica version of John Cage’s “Water Walk" broadcast on the TV show I’ve Got A Secret from the 1950’s. Its got a lot of middle Europe electronica (it has a synthesized beat) but it is actually based on  Herndon’s  experience of continuous partial attention in online browsing using audio samples. She’s a savvy enough composer to refer to it as using musique concrète techniques. 


I especially like the parts where she cuts off her words interrupted by hard edits and sings on top of those edits as if the voice was “struggling through a Skype connection.” She also credits a “net concrete” system built in Max/MSP by Mat Dryhurst that samples content from your browser.

She made an accompanying video with programmer and artist Akihiko Taniguchi, that uses his Study of real-time 3D internet experiment. It sets up an environment where you can use your own desktop in real time with a combination of the Kinect for a two dimensional screen morphing into a 3D environment, openFrameworks for a still state, and Syphon Recorderwhich uses an individual’s screen interaction recorded within the actual scene. 


Herdon also delves into theory big time, trying to grasp what can make the composer and audience share a palpable experience simultaneously.  She bulked up by reading the theories of N. Katherine Hayles which crystallized the difference between ”recording as the inscription of symbols and performance as the incorporation of symbols.”