Orrery Arcana @ Dissertation Concert
Nicole L. Carroll
Brown University, October 2, 2018
"Orrery Arcana" is a system for real-time performance, designed for the performer to act as the oracle, to perform and compose through a process analogous to automatic writing. It is a system for ritual performance. The physical instrument itself is a unique, sacred device, designed and built with the intention of acting as an oracle in ritual performance. The specific divination tool in the Orrery Arcana system is Tarot. Tarot is embedded in both the hardware and software components. The complete system was designed to allow the performer to enter into a trance state during performance while still producing a compelling musical outcome. The physical tools and rules of the system allow the performer freedom to enter into an “automatic writing” process. The physical tools are the user control objects, the acrylic discs and rings which either correspond to a specific Tarot card, or to a colour or numerical correspondence in the Tarot. The physical pieces are assigned numerical identifiers in Max. Interactions of the cards and their correspondences seed algorithms that control parameters. By designing algorithms that emulate a network of correspondences, the system becomes a divination tool.
The system includes a self-made modular hardware controller and custom software that allows the performer to manipulate sound during performance. The hardware controller is used to navigate systems that encompass chance operations, conceptual mapping, and data mapping, to control audio generation and processing. These process systems are based on NASA lunar data, the esoteric system in W. B. Yeats’ (1865-1939) A Vision (1937), and the numerology and symbolism of the Tarot. The NASA data and Yeats’ system both relate to moon phases. The NASA data is applied directly to synthesis and processing parameters, while Yeats’ system and poetic symbolism is used for compositional and structural shape. NASA and Yeats provide the scientific and subjective binaries that operate independently and collaboratively. W. B. Yeats’ system is situated in the centre, as it contains elements of both Tarot and lunar mapping. Virtual Tarot cards are “drawn” during performance, and the numerological assignments and symbolism are mapped to processing parameters as well as macro structures.
Sound sources include generated audio as well as field recordings that represent elemental correspondences. Samples have also been taken from Nicole's bespoke "Domino" instrument. The controller features modular control objects in the form of concentric rings that represent a Tarot deck. The major arcana cards control macro parameters and development trajectories, while the minor arcana cards control selected synthesis and processing parameters. The hardware interface is housed on a planetary gear system, which allows the performer control over timing and sequenced events through manual gear rotations. Each gear is equipped with a sensor plate upon which light, magnetic, and capacitive-touch sensors are mounted. These sensors are manipulated via concentric rings of various colours of acrylic and embedded magnets.
The physical system allows the performer to navigate through several underlying systems in order to manipulate sonic fields. The compositional objective is to navigate through these independent but intertwined systems that work both with and against each other in different capacities to produce a listening experience that takes the audience through various sonic landscapes. Aesthetically the audio crosses the boundaries of noise, acousmatic, ambient, and soundscape genres.
Nicole Carroll is a composer, performer, sound designer, and builder. Her work spans installation, improvisation, and fixed media performance. She is active as a sound designer and composer in theater, performs electronic music under the alias “n0izmkr,” and builds custom synthesizers and performance sensor systems. Her research interests include soft circuits and wearable sensors, and AV synthesis on mobile devices and embedded systems. Through her work, she seeks to reconcile the natural world with technology. Themes found in her work derive from reflections on nature, occult philosophies, literature, and the human psyche. Nicole holds an M.M. and B.M. in Composition from Bowling Green State University and Arkansas State University, respectively. Her works have been performed internationally in USA, Mexico, Wales, Germany, Greece, Australia, and China. She was an Adjunct Research Fellow at QCGU in Brisbane, Australia during the 2017-18 academic year. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in Computer Music and Multimedia at Brown University in Providence, RI, USA. nicolecarrollmusic.com