'Alter' is scored for mezzo-soprano, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, harp, percussion**, and electronics. In this download you will receive the score, parts and electronics track. The percussion instrument originally used was a 3D-printed percussion battery: this can be replaced by a set of percussion instruments to be performed by one or two players. Please email me.
Alter is a work written about, and utilising, artificial intelligence. It traces the development of an artificial mind, from hazy, unformed conception through to a complex and creative self. The piece is divided into three phases, in between each of which the artificial mind dives into its own code to retrain and develop itself further. Each phase utilises a distinct dataset that the real-life AI algorithms that have produced the text learn from. At first, it learns from merely Ada Lovelace’s correspondence. Then this is expanded to wider 19th century writing and finally the extent of the Internet through OpenAI’s GPT-2 algorithm. In this way the narrative of the scene reflects the data science behind its production.
The music, too, uses artificial intelligence: sometimes behind the scenes to inform large-scale decisions,
sometimes locally where entire phrases are composed by AI. As the piece develops, material written by AI
begins to take on a more prominent role until the end, where a collage of AI-generated music sit underneath the voice. The piece also includes electronics: this part also follows the development narrative. It uses voice samples produced by DeepMind’s WaveNet.
The percussionist is directed to use the “Lovelace Engine”, a hand-turned percussion battery styled after
Charles Babbage’s 19th century Difference and Analytical Engines, which inspired Ada Lovelace to postulate on the possibility of artificial intelligence. The Lovelace Engine has several modular sound-producing components that must be engaged and disengaged throughout the work. These include three stacks of cylinders and two metal hammers which operate at different rhythms relative to the speed of the hand crank. There is also a mounted “telegram clicker” and a lever-activated “steam” (compressed air) release.