Report: Bow Corpse – Swarm Software


The Bow Corpse is a commisioned work for BIT20 Ensemble, with 12 performers, using realtime flocking simulators to create swarms of ghost clones of the musicians. Premiere is June 1st. A short report on the sounds and software currently in development!

The video above gives a short introduction to the source and idea behind the sounds. We have recorded thousands of micro-sounds from the orchestra, tiny invisible sounds you usually never hear during a performance. Fingers touching the instrument body, the hairs of a bow coming in contact with a string, feet shuffling into position, breath through pipes, etc.

These sounds are then controlled en masse in realtime by flocking software, which again are being controlled by the musicians playing their instrument. The effect being that each musician has a swarm of their own ghost clones, huge clouds of their own microscopic trash.

This second video above shows a few examples of various ghost sounds performed through flocking and pheromone movement. The software is almost finished, it’s running stable. It has been developed over the last half a year together with genius developer Joao Fonseca.

App Screenshot 150110

The concept is simple, an artificial swarm of agents is excited and attracted to a pheromone. Like ants. Once these agents are excited, they start controlling and manipulating the microsounds. When the pheromone disappears, the agents fall back. The pheromone is controlled in realtime by the playing of a musician (not heard in this video).

Recording the output of the swarm looks something like this in a sequencer:

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 09.18.58

The score for the orchestra (the notes for the musicians) is almost finished. The score has been created with genius co-composer and arranger Craig Farr. The music for the orchestra has to be written for, with and supportive of, the swarms. And the swarms need to support the orchestra. It’s a delicate balance. In February we will have a workshop performance with the full orchestra, beta-testing the score, the software and the performance setup for the first time.

I just spent a week at BEK, Bergen Center For Electronic Arts figuring out some of our bigger issues, and trying out the swarm software in a multi-computer setup. The main challenges now are figuring out how to make the swarms react and perform simulatenously and synchronized.

At the end of the week I had a brief presentation of the concept behind the piece, and demonstrated the current state of the software. I also gave a short prototype-performance using temp scores, to try out the software and the sketched music in realtime in front of an audience. You can watch a full video of the presentation (3o minutes) below.



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