Friday, January 17, 2014

The Enchantress of Numbers

The Enchantress of Numbers
Princess of Parallelograms
with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO;
procedure Hello is
   Put_Line ("Hello WORLD!");
end Hello;

The ancient Greek smithy god Hephaestus built tripods that would aid him in this work. With the Ada Project Conrad Shawcross takes this one step further, in that he has made a tripod which aids in generating inspiration. Conrad Shawcross and Ken Farmer designed and built a five metre high robot arm that when programmed will trace intricate mathematical designs and three dimensional shapes. The large metal arm can stretch out, and never tiring, never forgetting repeating the dance shape over and over ad infinitum.

The name of this project comes from the Ada Lovelace the Victorian pioneer of the general purpose computer. Extending the idea of the Jacquard card Ada and her colleague Charles Babbage designed an 'analytical engine' that could solve equations. An early type of computer. Ada Lovelace went on to write the first computer program. This program calculated Bernoulli numbers. She was able however to see that with the ability to write and store programs on cards the engine could perform a great many tasks, saying “The Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns, just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.”

The Ada Project has given us a machine which weaves inspiration. A hypnotic machine that moves and sways through three dimensional space producing a specific pattern. A bright light is attached to the robot arm. This allows the movements to be captured on film, showing the completed shape. This moving light casts strange ebbing and flowing shadows as the robot dances.

Composers were invited to live with and immerse themselves in the choreography of the robot arm. Composing a piece of music for a binary dance. The result was the world premier of four short scores to compliment and interpret the jerky grace of the robot.

From a slow sinuous glacial arc to the soaring purity of the soprano voice, each piece was an attempt to interpret the splines made. Each response as unique as the robot actions are controlled.

Beatrice Dillion & Rupert Clervaux built up a percussive tachycardia crescendo combining recursive (F(n) = F(n − 1) + F(n − 2)) recordings of the re-imagined welding robot working with drum with piano with harpsichord.

Holly Herndan found a different, more alien sounding palette, making a science fiction sound which tumbled a jumble of falling down sort of rhythm beat and half heard phrases carried by the wind.

Tamara & Mylo combined voice and machine to explore the incurable cancer laudanum hallucinations of the last years of Ada Lovelace's short, unhappy, exhilarating, visionary life. Hallucinating the ecstasy of number.

Mira Calix explored the tension arising from the machine being able to do only what it is told and no more, and our dreamy desire to make a machine that can surprise, or enjoy strawberries & cream. This poem was sung by soprano Teresa Duddy.

The machine whirs and comes to life the arm swings up, the great noontide, and the arms swings down singing an end of the day song. The machines moves casting steel shadows on the walls. The clouds chase the sun across the beach.

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