AXIS Ballymun, Dublin
28 October 2021

Dublin Sound Lab

Super_Human is a concert-length work for violin, cello, interactive audio and projected video, in which the forces combine unpredictably across multiple movements and multiple media to interrogate the relationship between technology, control and creativity.

In this post-digital era, pervasive technology informs our worldview and our assumed technological prowess. Like a later-day King Canute, we command the (viral) tides to be still; like Doctor Frankenstein, we invent then destroy new life forms; when we gaze at the heavens we don't see gods but billionaires racing in low Earth orbit.

Even that most human of impulses, the creative act, has become a drudgery to be conquered and automated by artificial intelligence. In this age of super-human feats, what does it mean to create, to shape or control the world around us? What do our creations say about us? What would they say if spoke to us? Would they, like Frankenstein's creature, bite back accusingly at their creator and condemn us for our arrogance? Will they ultimately prove, like Canute, that even kings (and billionaires) are only human?

In Super_Human the live instrumentalists interact with computer sounds through a series of simple signal analysis and processing techniques. Sometimes these sound worlds are closely coupled, sometimes the connection is less clear. The impression remains of a changing ambiguous relationship between the two. At times, the computer part seems to take on a life of its own and emerge beyond the control of the musicians, while the instrumentalists seem to provoke recorded voices into a fitful barbed commentary on the unfolding music.

The musical material itself is constructed from warped harmonic series, which are overlaid, projected or refolded on the instrumental ranges. The resulting 'harmonies' seem to contradict the real-time computer-generated 'harmonies'; impossible instrumental parts appear at the same time in the computer, as if the music is cannibalising itself and reassembling itself at the moment of sounding, as if the music refuses to obey the musicians, or refuses to be created.

Michael Cummins, violin
Ilse de Ziah, cello
Frank Corcoran, vocal recordings
Cormac Plunkett Walsh, vocal recordings and acting
Mihai Cucu, video recording and projection

Thanks to Mark O'Brien, Niamh Ní Chonchubhair and Aifric Ní Ruairc at Axis Ballymun for their production support.