Setec Astronomy

sound in generative art


Sound plays a decisive role in several turning points of the film Sneakers, directed by Phil Alden Robinson in 1992. Led by a blind phone phreak Whistler (David Strathairn), the team analyzes sound in a video recording to find the ultimate code-breaking device they are after. Then they synthesize sound to reconstruct an almost unresolvable trajectory to the building of Bishop’s (Robert Redford) kidnapping, and transcode sound to locate the office in which the stolen device was kept. Finally, to recover the device, they hack the voice-detection security system by editing the covertly recorded sound. The perceptiveness, versatility and wit of their approach to sound make Sneakers a pop-cultural embodiment of generative sound art.

Generative artists explore the physical, cognitive and emotional qualities of sound playfully and intelligently, broaden our perspectives for the appreciation of sonic phenomena in everyday life, and contribute to the auditory culture in general. Discussing the conceptual, methodological and poetic qualities of the exemplary projects in two sections (Play: Generated Sound and Generate: Sound as Generator), this paper outlines the roles and values of sound in generative art.

Keywords: AI, Chance, Complexity, Generative Art, Indeterminacy, Sound, Sound Art, Sonification, Transcoding.

Publication: Media Art Histories Re:Sound conference proceedings. Aalborg, 2019 (forthcoming).