Natural Machines



Natural Machines is a project where I explore the intersection, in music, between natural and mechanical processes. I improvise at the piano, and programs I've written on my computer interact with me in real-time as I'm playing, both musically and visually.

I'm playing on the Yamaha Disklavier. It's an acoustic piano with extra abilities: when I play, it sends data to my computer, and when my computer sends it data, it plays by moving the keys on its own. The sound the computer makes, through the piano, is exactly the same sound that I make myself.

In Natural Machines, instead of composing a piece, I decide the way a piece works. I program simple rules for the computer to follow when responding to what I play. Since I'm improvising, I'm always listening to what the computer is playing and responding to it as well. So the rules end up affecting me, too.

The visualizations I've made are intended to reveal the underlying musical structure of each piece. They're generated in real-time as I play. Everything on the screen is a direct representation of some aspect of the music: pitch, dynamics, rhythm, harmony.

I've programmed the musical algorithms in SuperCollider, and the visuals in Processing.

Thanks to Yamaha for letting me film and record in their artist space in New York, on the DCFX Enspire piano.

And thank you for watching.

--Dan