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September 08, 2005



Sonic Incubator

Alvin, by Jamie O'Shea, is a cellular automaton. Eight different cells produce sound. The sound one cell produces is determined by what sound the other cells are making. This kind of interrelated input and output scheme is an artificial neural network; a simulation of a brain. Alvin imitates living organisms in another way, because the sound circuits are actually built and destroyed by one another, rather than just turned on or off. The sound jiggles metal powder just like heat jiggles chemicals in a living cell. It is a way of making dynamic order out of randomness.

The sounds Alvin can make are pseudosine waves between .5 hz and 100 hz. When a cell has only a little input, it is subsonic, and can be seen moving. As it gets more input, the tone increases in frequency. At about 100 hz, it can jostle components for new sound circuits, sending "outputs" to the other cells. Eventually, the cells kill each other and start over. Once a pattern has been started, it can evolve in this way for a long time, changing in complex and unpredictable ways. It is a bit like the sound of a computer dreaming. Alvin will be on view at Circuit #1, September 9 - 10, 2005, Fri-Sat, 12-6pm, Eyebeam, 540 W. 21st St., New York.

Posted by jo at September 8, 2005 03:58 PM