video from the DYNASTY exhibition at Palais de Tokyo in Paris summer 2010
Truce: Strategies for Post-Apocalyptic Computation by Robin Meier and Ali Momeni
In their seminal paper “Flying in Tune: Sexual recognition in mosquitoes,” University of Greenwich researchers Gabriella Gibson and and Ian Russell note an inspiring phenomenon: To find a partner of the right species type, male and female mosquitoes rely on their ability to “sing” in tune.
Mosquitoes vary the buzzing sounds they produce by changing the frequency of their wing beats in flight. This phenomenon synchronizes the male and female wing beats to within a millisecond or less, allowing a harmonized buzz and mid-flight copulation. Truce harnesses the mosquitoesʼ natural synchronization behavior to engage them in song — creating reciprocal musical interactions between insect and computer.
The computer produces a stimulus sound derived from the North Indian classical vocal tradition of Dhrupad.
Our three mosquitoes independently tune their buzz to the sound. Triggered by the buzz, the computer produces three separate electronic voices — one for each mosquito — at the same pitch. These three electronic voices move in and out of harmony with one another depending on the insectsʼ ability to remain in sync with the stimulus sound.
Each mosquito is equipped with:
A loudspeaker that delivers the Dhrupad stimulus sound
A microphone to pick up the mosquitoesʼ buzz
A camera for giving us a closer look at the insects on-screen
A wire that contracts to let the mosquito rest every few minutes
A light bulb that brightens/dims as flight amplitude changes
Truce relies on the assumption that every living thing uses its environment as a tool to perform cognitive tasks. As such, our environment becomes a direct extension of the cognitive process. It effectively opens up the physical shell of our minds to include a much wider field of interaction.
With this externalist philosophy in mind, we envision Truce as a computing environment in which an artificial stimulus is, in turn, interpreted by the natural activity of living creatures. In this unique environment, the interaction between mosquito and machine brings forth musical motives and harmonies.
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