Friday, March 18, 2011

A thousand-year song

Longplayer is a computer-generated musical composition, composed from the sounds of Tibetan singing bowls and designed to play for 1000 years, never repeating itself exactly: 
It works in a way somewhat akin to a system of planets, which are aligned only once every thousand years, and whose orbits meanwhile move in and out of phase with each other in constantly shifting configurations. In a similar way, Longplayer is predetermined from beginning to end – its movements are calculable, but are occurring on a scale so vast as to be all but unknowable.
This astronomical simile is appropriate, since the process behind Longplayer can be represented by a series of concentric circles-- each one containing a musical score that advances at a different rate and plays at a different pitch, but all following the same pattern.

Its ethereal sounds-- which for me evoke a clear starry night sky-- can be heard on a live stream. Part of the score (in sync with the portion of the whole composition playing at that time) has also been performed live with singing bowls arranged in circles; the performance looks like a solemn mystical ritual:

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