Spawn is an artificial neural network that has been initially trained to recognize and reproduce the sounds of her parents' voices and the voices of others. Spawn is a fast learner, and once she has constructed a concept of a sound, she can improvise and create abstract compositions based on what she understands that sound to be, and what she anticipates it might do next. For this first training ceremony, our ensemble members will lead exercises to help Spawn model and understand the world around her. We will recite text together, sing and emote together, and collectively produce sounds for her to witness, understand, and later interpret for an installed piece in the Hexadome. The training will be run by a cast of characters modelled to represent emerging and competing archetypes within contemporary battles over data collection and network training, so that Spawn might gather a greater understanding of the new world in which she has been born. This process challenges us to ask ourselves, are we the parents or the children in this new epoch? Are we training our own systems to enact our ideals, or are we rather being retrained to serve the opaque purposes of others? We encourage your full hearted participation in this performance and piece, and promise that no personal identifying information will be collected in the process or exhibited in the final work.
Holly Herndon became a leading light in contemporary music by experimenting at the outer reaches of dance music and pop songwriting possibilities. Born in Tennessee, Herndon spent her formative years in Berlin’s techno scene and repatriated to San Francisco, where she’s a PhD candidate at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics.
Mat Dryhurst is an artist who releases music and artworks solo and in conjunction with Holly Herndon and the record label PAN. As well as collaborating to create the album Platform, he released the decentralized publishing framework Saga, which enables creators to claim ownership of each space in which their work appears online, and a number of audio plays that derive their narrative from the personal information of listeners. He lectures on issues of music, technology, and ideology at NYU, and advises the blockchain-based platform co-operative Resonate.is.