Brazilian makes duet music with fungus

Brazilian makes duet music with fungus

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Composer Eduardo Miranda uses mold cultures as a central component of a biocomputer that receives sound signals and sends responses.

A Brazilian musician performed an unprecedented duet in Britain: on the piano he interacted with a fungus. And mold plays music? In the hands of Eduardo Miranda, yes.

A computer music expert, he turned decomposition into composition: his new work uses fungal cultures Physarum polycephalum as a central component of an interactive biocomputer, which receives sound signals and sends back responses.

Biocomputer with mold plays duet with piano.

"The composition, Biocomputer Music, develops as an interaction between me and the Physarum machine," said Miranda.

"I play something, the system listens, plays something back, and then I answer, and so on."

Brazilian from Porto Alegre, Miranda teaches at the University of Plymouth, England. He told the BBC Brazil that Heitor Villa-Lobos has a great influence on his work and would like to take the Biocomputer presentation to Brazil, but for now, technical issues prevent him from traveling with the equipment.

Computer sound has 'ethereal' trace

The mold Physarum It forms a living, mutant electronic component in a circuit that processes sounds picked up by a piano-trained microphone.

Small tubes formed by the Physarum They have the electrical property of acting as a variable resistance that changes according to previously applied voltages, according to Ed Braund, a doctoral student at the Interdisciplinary Center for Computer Music Research at Plymouth University.

"Piano notes are transformed into a complex electric wave that we send through one of these tubules Physarum. The resistance Physarum changes depending on the previous inputs, and the musical notes then become a new output which is then sent back to the piano. The biocomputer acts as a memory device, "adds Miranda.

"When you tell him to play again, he will shuffle the sent notes. It may even generate some sounds that were not in the notes played. The machine has a bit of 'creativity'."

While the pianist plays the piano in the conventional manner using the keys, the biocomputer induces notes by small electromagnets that hover millimeters above the metal strings, imbibing the music with an ethereal tone.

Miranda compares her use of a biocomputer with the "random" techniques of American avant-garde composer John Cage (1912-1992), who turned to the Chinese book of i-ching changes and the release of data to control parts of his compositions.

"John Cage believed in chance but not randomness. He wanted to enjoy the structure that was beyond his control. Here we have the effect, programmed into a living machine. I think this is John Cage's dream come true."

Miranda has been exploring the use of computers for interactive pieces of electronic compositions for some time, but values ​​the simplicity of the processor. Physarum.

"What I hear is very different from having a digital computer programmed with data strings. It's not smart, but it's alive. What's interesting…"

The premiere of Biocomputer Music took place at the Peninsular Arts Contemporary Music Festival "Biomusic" on March 1st.