Machine Listening is an important and complex field, focusing on teaching machines (or having them learn) to listen and parse sound. But what about machines for listening, things that invite us to listen, teach us to listen?
These nine sketches are intended as active listening guides for bitKlavier, a kind of digital musical machine configured in specific ways to process the operator's input and generate sound. Each "listening machine" has specific settings and interconnections that yield sometime unexpected rhythms and textures, but are in fact completely deterministic — anything that seems like randomness is a product of the specific interactions between operator and machine.
These are "open form" sketches, providing seeds, specific materials, and intentions for the operator to work with, strictly or loosely. They can be open ended, used at home as listening meditations, or can be the starting points for collaborations with other listeners and instrumentalists, perhaps through collaborative recording, or even live performance. The "operator" may also choose to integrate other instruments or machines into the process, occasionally feeding the listening machines and then reaching out with these others to contribute and listen more deeply.
Machines for Listening were sketched during June of 2020, with the world in imperfect lockdown and raging against centuries of racial injustice: silence is not an option, but listening is required. I'm indebted of course to the legacy of Pauline Oliveros, whom I had the pleasure of playing with many times years ago, and whose "machines for listening" are monumental. The cover is from a piece by my mother, Judy Trueman, that she used for her holiday card in the year 2000, a month after my daughter was born in Kingston NJ; in it she wrote "Happy Holidays to you two, the Princess of Kingston, the World, and the Universe." We are in this together, after all.