A bicycle built only for you
“A bicycle built only for you” is the name of the electronic piece Duoni Liu composed for the Mozilla Hubs installation by me (Felix Knoblauch). The name has its origin in the vocoder technology of the 60s and refers to the first piece of music composed with this technique of speech synthesis: “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)”. Carol Lochbaum, John Kelly and Max Mathews programmed this piece in 1961 on the IBM704 room-filling computer.
Retro computer music
Duoni’s piece flirts with retro computer music and at the same time represents a foray into this history. Computers have been and continue to be made more and more powerful and more and more like humans. They are programmed to understand, to speak, to see and to analyze – they are supposed to support humans on levels of perception that they cannot reach themselves or for which their senses are too weak.
At the same time, computers have a tendency to be made more and more human through certain interfaces. They understand our language or even speak it themselves. They are capable of making mistakes and learning from them, thus improving themselves in certain areas.
The so-called technological singularity has not yet been reached in the world of machines. In the world of music, however, there have long been artificial intelligences that can write chord progressions and compose them in a wide variety of styles. Sounds can be generated artificially and optimized to such an extent that they can no longer be distinguished from a real sound (generated with an instrument, for example). For the latter, not even an AI is needed, very simple simulations are sufficient here.
The tour of the Hubs room rudimentarily follows this history of electronic music and hints at a development that is increasingly moving in the direction of artificial intelligence and artificial consciousness. Here, an AI emerges that is artistically active itself and writes songs together with humans.
One of the greatest concerns in the field of artificial intelligence and a milestone in film history: HAL9000 has killed almost the entire expedition crew of the Discovery. Now he himself is dying and remembers his origin singing. Dying, he sings “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)” for the last time. These first words of the predecessor IBM704 (and the first words of a computer ever) will be the last of HAL: a machine that is afraid of death and finds comfort in music.
Duoni Liu is a Cologne and Bielefeld based composer, media artist and instrumentalist from Shanghai, China. She is concerned with the fascinating blurring of the boundaries between the actual content of the music and what the listener perceives – reality vs. perception.
Felix Knoblauch lives and works as a pianist and founder of the ensemble electronic ID in Cologne. As artistic director of the ensemble, he develops new innovative projects. He is particularly interested in exploring technological discourses of modernity and cross-disciplinary discourses of our present.
Duoni and Felix have joined forces to explore the possibilities of a virtual music exhibition.