Imagine being surrounded by an orchestra floating in 3D space, through which moves a flock of birds. Imagine that these birds are no ordinary birds and when they move by instruments they can play them! Alignment, Cohesion, Separation creates a space where sounds are given cartesian points through which virtual flocking objects can move and activate them.
Drawing on inspirations in the natural environment, Alignment, Cohesion, Separation explores the movements of autonomous flocking objects both as a poetic experience of space and as a compositional organization technique. The spatial techniques allow the listener to be completely immersed in a sound space, exploiting the fact that sounds can be localized in 3D space simultaneously. A flock’s spatial movement can also occur in a virtual simulated space, where sound data can be explored.
In 1986, computer scientist Craig Reynolds developed a flocking algorithm based on three rules: alignment, cohesion and separation. Combined, these three rules result in a complex system of motion. Based on an implementation by Daniel Shiffman, this algorithm was ported from Processing, a visual arts coding language, to the audio synthesis language SuperCollider, to create a few flocks of spatial sound using the Ambisonic Toolkit.
Each flock moves through a different ‘sound space’, a set of sounds organized in cartesian space based on the similarities of their features using machine learning algorithms. Sounds are triggered when their proximity to individual flock members falls below a modulating threshold thus creating sparse moments as well as dense clouds of notes. In addition, nodes of attraction move around the space, guiding the flock to different areas of sound, creating spectral movement. Alignment, Cohesion, Separation is an experiment in the poetics of flocking sounds.
Alignment occurs in a pitch back symmetrical room filled with a 3D array of speakers. The listener is escorted into the center of the space and left alone to hear the piece. The space becomes isotropic; there is no front, back, left or right. The listener can move or spin to follow the flocks as they become surrounded by strange objects. As the piece progresses, the flocks give way to a massive texture that completely surrounds and engulfs the space in a final beautiful synthesis of everything that has come before.