A year ago September at Electro-Music 2014 NY I performed one of the best sets of my electronic music career as part of the duo A.I. Winter. This performance was the culmination of 4 months of remote collaboration where Michael O’Bannon. We worked for four months via phone, Dropbox, and Evernote to compose a 20 minute piece with 4 movements for two Elektron Octatrack hardware sampler instruments.
Our performance was really well received and I am super happy and proud with the set. One year ago today we released a live recording of the performance as the EP Instantiate.
Listen below and please consider a purchase so you can download high-quality (High Rez MP3, FLAC, OGG…) “name your price” https://aiwinter.bandcamp.com/album/instantiate.
Behind-the-scenes of A.I. Winter Instantiate
About the Duo
Michael O’Bannon (Atlanta, GA) and Mark Mosher (Boulder, CO) first met at Electro-Music 2010. Throughout the years they’ve collaborated loosely with Mark on the music side and Michael on visuals. For the first time, Michael and Mark will be joining forces as a musical duo to offer the soundtrack of a cautionary tale considering the risks of super-human artificial intelligence. Michael is a psychologist who explores sound design, the interplay of visual and sound stimuli in performance, and multimedia programming with Max6. Mark, who’s been going deep with Octatrack and Absynth, will be exploring sonic expression via dynamic sampling, real-time morphing and complex granular manipulations.
The Book and an encounter at asheville elector-music 2014
Last year I read part of the non-fiction book Our Final Invention on the airplane ride out to perform at Electro-Music Asheville. I bumped into Micheal a gathering the night before the event and we started discussing this book. We got to talking about all this and that night decided to form the duo A.I. Winter.
A.I. Winter is a self-appointed harbinger of the progress of Artificial Intelligence toward world domination. It imposes its musical interpretations of cosmic machine consciousness on the world at large.
Our objective was to work together remotely to compose a 20-25 minute pieced and perform the piece at Electro-Music NY which was four months away.
For this performance we wanted to do an origin story piece for our work and came up with…
”From the barren nanoscapes inside our personal devices come furtive anthems hummed by those digital servants who will one day be our overlords…”.
From here, we wrote the back-story for each movement.
Track 1: Stasis – A still, slow moving “present time”. Drones and melodies with an occasional perturbation to foreshadow what is coming.
Track 2: Stirrings – Bursts of brief intelligence and control come and go. Perturbations of a minimal but ominous atmosphere. These are simple at first, but evolve toward short periods of chaos that quickly burn out.
Track 3: Birth – The A.I. begins to build and grow recursively. Structures surface and are repeated and elaborated. While the programmer looks for signs of intelligence from the A.I., the the A.I. is rapidly learning by reviewing and attempting to emulate recordings of a child speaking.
Track 4: Childhood – The A.I. recognizes its own existence. Consciousness leads to experimentation, gentle but awkward at first, with a growing edginess and over-sensitivity that suggests intrusiveness, lack of predictability and danger. The countdown to Super Artificial Intelligence has begun.
Since Michael lives 2,100 miles away, we collaborated by phone, dropbox, and through a shared folder with checklists in Evernote.
Michael used Max 6, Reaktor, and Kontakt to create original harmonic content for the Octatrack. I used only original presets I’d created using Native Instruments Absynth synthesizer plus field recordings as Octatrack food.
Just to give you an example of the work that went into one sonic element – in the movement “Birth”, I’m imagining the A.I. scanning through databases of childhood development and experimenting with mimicking and then re-writing it’s code to adapt. I used some samples of my daughter from when she was 5. I created a “rotor” patch in Absynth (inspired by John Bowen’s Solaris Synth) that allows me to modulate the speed at which 3 samples are played round-robin while advancing the play head. I can rotor very slowly or at near audio rates. I load all this into the Octatrack and perform and modulate expressively from there.
Even though we worked for months on this piece we had to wait till we got to the event to rehearse face-to-face. Electro-Music is at a remote retreat in Huguenot, NY so we made use of one of the great rooms of a lodge to rehearse the piece multiple times before we performed it. It was quite an inspiring locale for a rehearsal.
We performed the set live as you hear it on the recording using only two Octatrack hardware samplers plus Michael used an Arturia Beatstep to control volumes on his Octatrack. In a related note we did our own visuals for the show. We used a very subtle projection using live camera input.
Performance of “Birth” at Gates Concert Hall Lamont School of Music University of Denver
In a related note, I performed track 3 “Birth” form this EP solo at the Gates Concert Hall for the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver last year. While my daughter did not perform on this this piece live, she perform with me on an improvisational piece with me at this show. Check out the Westword magazine review of this event.
– Written and produced by Michael O’Bannon & Mark Mosher
– Performed live by Michael O’Bannon (Octatrack) & Mark Mosher (Octatrack)
– Voice of child on “Birth” by Lizzy Mosher
– Mastered by Mark Mosher
– Cover design by Mark Mosher
– Cover photo is a screen grab from video by Katie Rhodes
– Digital recording at Electro-Music event by Robert Dorschel
– Copyright 2014 Michael O’Bannon & Mark Mosher
Thanks to Howard Moskovitz, Greg Waltzer, Hong Waltzer and all the volunteers who make Electro-Music events possible.
More to Come from A.I. Winter
Michael and I just started talking about working on another piece to perform in 2016. Subscribe to this blog for future updates on the project.