The “improvisationSimulator” is a project developed over several months in the Spring of 2015. After learning the basics of the Processing programming language and IDE, I began work on a program that would randomly draw music notes on a music staff, with the idea that a musician could then play the composition as it was written. The idea that computer programs can create art is unsettling to some, but I intended the project to be an expression of how human-computer symbiosis – in randomly drawing notes on a page, the computer might stumble across an unusual or novel melody, one that can only be appreciated by a human ear and can be given meaning by the emotive performance of a human musician.
However, later versions of the code gave more control to the program, imbuing it with a voice to perform the music itself, as it was writing it. Various iterations of the program diverged in musical and visual style from the stuffy, steady quarter notes and black lines on a white page. Eventually I found myself with a number of versions of the program all open on my desktop at once, and began experimenting with letting them “play” together. What resulted was a sort of harsh, digital improvisation. But I realized, having lost all human elements of the performance, that an improvisational trio would be far superior.
The improvisationSimulator, also called the Triphonic Improvulator, was displayed at the first annual Georgetown MediaFest. By presenting the two programs on either side of a piano, the goal was to invite the audience to “join the band” and improvise along with the cacophonous digital audio. Many attendees were hesitant at first, assuming that the programs were themselves somehow playing the keyboard. However, after some explanation and encouragement, many good jams were had.