Forty-eight to Sixteen
Saturday, January 26, 2013, 5pm
For nearly six years, I biked nearly every day from Brooklyn to work in midtown Manhattan. The route and the routine became fundamental to how I’ve come to feel about New York and all its glorious and aggravating quirks. Biking for me is about a certain productive antagonism with the city, it’s about the freedom granted by the urban flow, and an accumulative kinetic memory.
As such, photography, or even video, are too reductive a means of documentation – they are blind to the rhythms of my physical effort as it encounters and is inscribed on the city. But considered as a musical process, something more of the experience is evinced. The intermediate medium, of course, is data, and my recent work has been concerned with the subjective qualities of data and the aesthetics of mapping data to sound.
Forty-eight to Sixteen (2012) documents one instance of my commute with sensors for my heart rate and the cadence of my pedaling (via a Garmin device), and my breathing (via a custom iPhone audio processing app), along with chest-mounted video (Contour camera). Each of the three biometric sources dictates the timing of a voice in a minimalist composition. The harmonic material is a chord cycle that follows my spatial progress through the city.
The musicians interpret each voice of the piece via custom score display software that adapts to the irregular timing of the data, an interface that calls to mind rhythm games like Guitar Hero. Having instrumentalists experience the data I generated emphasizes that the data are not so much objective as lived. I am interested in my and the ensemble’s divergent but equally physical relationship to the information, and in general the notion of ‘performing’ data as music.
Forty-eight to Sixteen is concerned with the musicality of the information technology that is becoming pervasive (and personally invasive), and recent trends in media culture toward first-person viewpoints and the integration of biometrics into documentary. It is about the city and its rhythms, how we embody temporal memories, and how music continues to be a powerful and empathic means of interpreting the dynamics of everyday life.
The title of the piece reflects the gear ratio of my bike.
Concept, data, code, and composition
Bass / heart
Cello / pedals
Flute / breath
Biking time: 35’
Supported by Eyebeam Art & Technology Center
Special thanks to The New York Times Research and Development Lab