Synthetic Listening (with Florian Hecker)

Text for the third volume (bilingual En/Fr) of Spectres (Shelter Press), on algorithms as ‘ghosts in the machine’ in FAVN and Inspection.

Our two collaborative electroacoustic pieces, FAVN (2016) and Inspection (Maida Vale Project) / Inspection II (2016/2018), draw upon current research in machine listening and Music Information Retrieval (MIR), where the ‘ghosts in the machine’ are unsupervised convolutional operators designed to extract auditory features from signal.

Experimental deployment of these virtual listening agents has only just begun, and these pieces initiate a general research programme which, rather than short-circuiting our encounter with Artificial intelligence (AI)-like technologies by placing them in traditional compositional or performer roles, seeks instead to open a dialogue with these spectral operators, moving between analysis and synthesis, between discriminative and generative models, in order to render audible their intelligence signature, the signal trace of their nonhuman brain-ear…