To accompany Vladislav Delay and Eivind Aarset’s collaboration song, ‘Single 22’, audiovisual artist AGF used Hydra, a browser-based open source video synthesizer to create live-coded generative visuals.
As Lawrence English of Room40 notes, it’s no surprise that Sasu Ripatti and Eivind Aarset end up seeing each other. Both artists have challenged the rules of their respective musical fields, Ripatti during his genre-defining career as Vladislav Delay and Aarset with a relentless effort to squeeze every note, shadow and mood of the sound from the guitar, an approach that led to important collaborations with innovators such as Jon Hassell. and David Sylvian. Together, as Delay/Aarset, the artists probe further beyond the boundaries of improvised sound, folding massive slabs of radioactive feedback and low weight over transcendent electronics and empty drones. Like the echolocation of alien monoliths in pitch-dark depths, their composition forms through the steady cumulative pressure and pulse of energy from experimental sonic excursions, transmissions sent outward to be enveloped back into ever-evolving textures, flickering in and out of focus. It is a voice that defies description, music to be felt, a quality that belies the visceral practice of each of these artists. It makes sense, then, that Ripatti’s partner and regular collaborator Antye Greie, audiovisual artist AGF, would seek an equally difficult visual system to accompany ‘Single 22,’ a highlight from Delay and Aarset’s collaboration album for Room40, Singles.
“I attended a workshop during the pandemic led by Olivia Jack demonstrating her Hydra project to us online and it was a lot of fun,” explains AGF. “I love the generous browser-based concept, accessibility and translation of math into color and movement. I found the live coding community great, a true community, not the one currently being used to market businesses. I thought I’d try my first work based on a sketch. To me the value is accessibility, post aesthetics.” Combining the results of research practice exploring the aesthetics of distributed networks, feedback, collaboration, and chaos, Hydra is an open source, browser-based platform for live coding visuals. Built with the aim of enabling real-time online peer-to-peer collaboration and inspired by analogue modular synthesis, Hydra enables connected browsers, devices, and people to output signals or stream videos and to receive and modify streams from browsers, other devices and people. Various visual sources, including oscillators, cameras, application windows and other connected windows, can be transformed, modulated, and composed through a combination of sequences of functions. The code for these functions is displayed on the screen, the open source nature of the code being projected out of the browser window.
Building on the idea of using a modular synthesizer as a web understanding model, Hydra reconfigures web pages as sites for performance, re-coding the browser window where the pages are presented as a distributed stage that everyone can share using Hydra to connect to a performative network. “Instead of thinking of web pages as ‘pages’, ‘sites’, or ‘places’ that you can ‘go to’, what if we think of them as streams of information where you can configure connections in real time? Jack asked in a 2019 interview at CDM. “I love the browser as a place to share creative ideas – anyone can load it without having to go to the gallery or install anything.” By converting a browser page into a single node of a generative feedback loop, Jack creates a distributed non-hierarchical collaboration space, where each node influences and interprets the other. It is this non-hierarchical model that is given the name Hydra, a reference to the distributed nervous system of hydra organisms. Just as AGF is interested in accessibility, post-aesthetic processes using Hydra, so are Delay and Aarset’s voices each ebb and flow to each other throughout the Single, suffused with a collaborative feedback system. The eerie sound of ‘Single 22’ is given shape via Olivia Jack’s code, a jagged glacier of fault and torn pixels guided in and out of existence by AGF, an indefinable Delay and Aarset texture embodied in an intangible mathematical form.
‘Single 22’ is taken from Singles, which hits Room40 on July 8. You can find AGF and Olivia Jack on Instagram.
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