thought music

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2019 Installation Project in collaboration with Ryan Black at Habits Exhibition at Parallax Lab in Chicago, Illinois

NAE Thought Music started with the idea to record every songwriting idea, melodic line, or soundscape I wrote throughout the month of February. I wanted to record at least one track per day, often using my voice recorder in my phone to record audio. I made recordings in my car, while discussing topics with friends, and when teaching class, and I recorded myself in my studio at the keyboards. Many days, I recorded several times as an idea evolved, or had multiple disparate ideas on the same day. There were also several days when I did not record anything. I recorded about 70 ideas over 28 days.

For NAE Thought Music, Pure Data was utilized to manipulate the concepts of time in the same way that a calendar allows one to interact with an entire month of time in a single visual frame. NAE Thought Music, the program, presents 28 days of audio time in this constrained time period which is based on how long the user wears the headphones.

In continuing an exploration of the creative process and the idea of time as a construct of the human mind, the program allows that user to go into the system and manipulate the incoming data – not just interpret it. In this way, the art and the process in which is is perceived is unique for each person who experiences NAE Thought Music.

Ryan’s concept and philosophy in building systems is that a system should be built to be re-used, re-invented, and re-deployed with new and different source material, which means there is a way for anyone to create a unique, beautiful, and experiential project only having access to basic phone recordings. Like in the process of designing a trumpet, a designed trumpet can be played, recorded, listened to by anyone as a discreet experience (both in performance and in listening), even though there are thousands of other trumpets in the world.

NAE (JaNae Contag), Artist

Ryan Black, Producer and Creative Programmer

NAE Thought Music by JaNae Contag
Above: NAE Thought Music – Program Interaction Demo Video
NAE Thought Music pedestal by JaNae Contag and Ryan Black
Viewers engaged with the audio by approaching an illuminated pedestal, where they interacted with the MIDI controls linked to the audio.
NAE Thought Music MIDI Control Device by JaNae Contag and Ryan Black
Viewers put on white gloves as they touched the white control knobs for the device.
NAE Thought Music Projection by JaNae Contag and Ryan Black
Each knob corresponded with a named setting. Instead of using traditional names for the effects (like reverb, delay, etc), the artist renamed effects to reflect their affective / emotional qualities.
NAE Thought Music Pure Data document by Ryan Black and JaNae Contag
Viewers could “read” the data architecture outlined in the master patching document. Song lyrics from the project were dispersed throughout the document.

Pure data is an object-oriented programming language that allows data and signal processing systems to be constructed and manipulated via small blocks on the screen that interact through the digital path cables that interconnect them. In this way, Pure Data is a blank slate on which any concept of interaction between a user and the data or between the data within the system can be manipulated and created.

The entire NAE Thought Music program is called a patch. Within that, there are many (1-2 dozen) sub-patches. Each of those patches allows a critical function of the entire system and can also be manipulated or dealt with separately. This document (which you can download below) shows a series of constituent parts that work together to create the experience viewed on the projected screen.

NAE Thought Music Pure Data patching example by Ryan Black and JaNae Contag
Excerpt from our programming document.

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