simulacrum chamber orchestra

Duo Hellqvist & Amaral - NMH - Oslo - 2013

Simulacrum Chamber Orchestra (SChO) is an audiovisual live performance that tries to establish a dialogue with chamber music in the field of “media art.” It creates an environment on the stage that includes acoustic instruments, computers, video cameras, and screens.

The goal of this work was to create an interactive environment where the gestures of the musicians would be recorded (by cameras and microphones) while they played a piece of their repertoire. Each computer stored a framework coordinated and arranged by a meta-score, creating a special situation of interaction between music and the simulacra musicians. The aim was to emulate a Simulacrum Chamber Orchestra (SChO), constituted by simulacra musicians.


Simulacrum Chamber Orchestra (SChO)

The SChO is a hybrid group founded by musicians and simulacra musicians. Each simulacrum will store a framework that will be coordinated and arranged by a "script-score" managed by the master computer to create interactions between musicians and the simulacra. The SChO is sketched below as a group that consists of two musicians and two simulacra. In principle there is no fixed number of musicians and simulacra; this project is thus a flexible proposal in the sense that could include different kinds of group formats. 


Simulacrum Musician

Each musician has their respective simulacrum. The simulacrum musician is embodied physically by an audiovisual system, which consists of a computer, camera, TV, mic, sound-card, and speaker. This audiovisual system displays the image (television screen) and sound (speaker) of the musician recorded live and remixed during the performance.



In some ways this project is a continuation of experimentations that I’ve been developed with Alexandre Fenerich on the project Duo N-1, in which we appropriate different technologies, gathering video and sound to integrate in music live performance. SChO seeks to extend the concept of the meta-instrument—explored in the installations Lanhouse Concert and Laptop Choir—which considers the computer and LAN (Local Area Network) as multimedia instrument.



Using devices already included in computers (laptops)—sound-cards (microphone and speakers), video-cards (camera and screens), and network communication (wireless connection) – Simulacrum Chamber Orchestra explores the computer as a simulacrum musician. 

As a meta-instrument that combines different medias and software, the computer could be thought of as platform that can operate as an audiovisual studio in real time (recording, transmitting, sampling, cutting, editing, synthesizing sound and image, and displaying scores as well as generating them). 

In these ways, computers merge operations as well as functions (meta-media) via the recording, transmission, reception, and reproduction of audiovisual material. The computer can thus be considered a kind of performative simulacrum that melts the notion of instrument and instrumentalist in a hybrid interactive environment combining human and nonhuman aspects.


Version for violin and piano 

SChO was created after an invitation of the duo Hellvist & Amaral (violin and piano). I asked the duo to choose one of the pieces of their repertoire that could be interesting in terms of gesture (visually and sonically). Based on those recommendations, they chose the piece Dikhthas (1979) by Iannis Xenakis.


Process and parts

The SChO uses properties included in the Dikhthas score for the performance that is divided into five parts. 1) At first the duo plays the Xenakis’ piece while the computers record the performance (image and sound). 2) when the piece is finished, the simulacra musicians start to perform an audio-visual remix with the material recorded and the musicians leave the stage. 3) The simulacra play samples, displaying only images on the screens. The duo returns to stage to play, imitating (sounding) the gestures displayed on the screens. 4) The simulacra play image or sound, as in the 3rd part the musician follows the image of themselves displayed on the screens, while at other times they remain silent when the simulacra makes sounds (via speakers). 5) The simulacra play (sound and image), while the musicians follow the gestures (sound and image). The duration of the simulacra (2nd to 5th parts) is the same as the Dikhthas piece (1st part). 



Score / metascore

The Xenakis’ score acquires a double function: first as a primary score for the musicians; and second as a meta-score for the simulacra. The metascore re-articulates the data flow of the audio and video data grabbed. For instance, the moments and the duration (were the simulacrum piano, simulacrum violin and both musician play) follow the sequence and the proportion of time of the instruments in Dikhthas’ score. Additionally, other parameters are extracted from the Dikhthas’ score to control how the samples are played during the performance. For instance, the ratios that exist on the Xenakis score are used to control the size of each sampler of simulacra as well as the proportion of them. The Xenakis score was used as a meta-score or score-tool to create another script-score that coordinates how the simulacra play. 

Beyond the score function that provides instructions for the musicians for the performance (live), the Dikhthas’ score has been used to articulated the stored data material (sound and image stored on the computer’s memory). This aspect prompts us to consider the Dikhthas score as a meta-score (source of metadata) that is used to re-combine the samples stored on the memories (computer-simulacrum) as well as a reference to co-ordinate the data flow of the data. 


Hybrid environment / open group formats

Following the concept of the meta-instrument, the simulacra mixes functions of record, play, generate process, random score, data store, coordinating distributed process of data flow via network, etc. During the 3rd part, the simulacrum works at the same time as a visual score for the musicians, as the musicians imitate the gestures of themselves displayed on the screens. Other times it plays like a musician coordinating samples of the previous performance (4-5th part). The possibilities of combinations of functions creates a kind of environment with different layers of interactions that guide the performance. The purpose of the SChO is to deal with some strategies that merge and remediate the performance on the stage. The main work aimed to create a stable system (Simulacrum Orchestra) capable of bringing to life a mixed performance on the stage—a hybrid environment with human and nonhuman actors that furthermore could be transposable to diverse instrumental groups with different formats.


dikhthas / dual entity / simulacrum 

"This piece is like a personage made up of two natures, it is like a dual entity (dikhthas). Indeed these two natures contradict each other although sometimes they merge in rhythm and harmony. This confrontation is realized in a variable dynamic flux which exploits the specific traits of the two instruments." (Xenakis 1979 - Score of Dikhthas)

The piece explores the simulacrum as a personage of the musician—a double of them that seems contradictory, but somehow merged. The simulacrum is a doubler of the musician, as well as an extension.