’This Fluid Situation’: Sequencing the Cybernetic Highway at Ciudad Guayana, 1961-1976

November 17, 2021

12pm Virtual | USC Doheny Memorial Library 241

Location: Virtual or attend in person at the USC Doheny Memorial Library 241 or via Zoom.

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This talk traverses circuits of expertise set up after World War II to codify interdisciplinary styles of “organized research” on urban life, urban form, and their conjoined futures as seen from a moment of putative crisis. It does so by way of one group, the Harvard–MIT Joint Center for Urban Studies, from 1959 the major institution keeping this intellectual infrastructure in working order and brokering new methodologies that might join city and regional planning with the social sciences; one place, Ciudad Guayana, an industrial New Town the Center built on contract in Venezuela and attempted to use as a laboratory from which to infer higher truths about the metropolis as a settlement type; and, at its narrowest, one piece of infrastructure, Avenida Guayana, the high-speed road that physically anchored this polycentric city and made it scrutable to a transnational network of observers. Out of this encounter emerged new understandings of the timing and staging of urban development, indeed of the very temporality of what it is to plan.

The event is co-sponsored by the USC Center on Science, Technology, and Public Life, the Berggruen Institute, the USC Spatial Sciences Institute, USC Department of History, and the USC Spatial History Research Group.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.

RAVE (IRCAM 2021) https://github.com/acids-ircam/RAVE