Ftarri / Hitorri

Chiho Oka

Manipulating Automated Manipulated Automation

(Ftarri Fukubukuro 2021, Vol. 2)

Limited edition of 160
Out on February 28, 2021
Ftarri Bandcamp

  1. SuperNoteClub EX Startup (0:07)
  2. The Dancing Cursor at Casual Internet Party, Datafruits [Excerpt] (11:24)
  3. SuperNoteClub EX DTM (2:32)
  4. The Dancing Cursor (16:09)
  5. The Bach (0:08)
  6. Writing Code that Produces Latency in TidalCycles 01 (4:41)
  7. Writing Code that Produces Latency in TidalCycles 02 (0:52)
  8. Writing Code that Produces Latency in TidalCycles 03 (6:29)
  9. The Infant (1:16)
  10. 20201213 Live at Ftarri - 1 Manipulating Automated Manipulated Folder Move (1:59)
  11. 20201213 Live at Ftarri - 2 Manipulating Automated Manipulated Sampler [System Preferences / Sound / Sound Effetcs] Play (1:23)
  12. 20201213 Live at Ftarri - 3 Couldn't Manipulate Automated Manipulated Humaninterface [Bug] (1:35)
  13. 20201213 Live at Ftarri - 4 Manipulating Automated Manipulated Minesweeper / The Poem on Terminal / Shutdown (12:38)

    Tracks 10-13 recorded live by Chiho Oka at Ftarri, Tokyo, December 13, 2020

    mp3 excerpt: track 2
    mp3 excerpt: track 4
    mp3 excerpt: track 6
    mp3 excerpt: track 8
    mp3 excerpt: track 11
    mp3 excerpt: track 13

Chiho Oka: SuperNoteClub EX (1, 3), SuperCollider (2, 4, 10-13), TidalCycles (2, 6-9), ManjaroLinux (2), MacOS (4, 10-13), Digitone (6-8), Volca Drum (9)

Manipulating Automated Manipulated Automation is a recorded document of games that I (Chiho Oka) devised around the act of "using a computer." The recording contains three types of games.

The first type is the "Dancing Cursor Game" (2, 4), performed by activating a code that automatically moves the cursor on the desktop. In an extension of that system, through the automatic movement of the keyboard and mouse, a live performance system was created in which desktop folders are beautifully arranged, sounds are played through selection of sound effects in the system preferences, Minesweeper is activated, poems appear on the screen, the computer shuts down, and so on. (Tracks 10-13)

The purpose of the desktop screen, keyboard, mouse, etc. is the exchange of information between a machine and a human being. Normally, people operate these things in real time when using a computer. But I, as the human, decided not to move the keyboard or mouse myself; instead, the movements of the pre-manipulated mouse and keyboard perform automatically, and I simply watch the screen, without doing anything.

The uniqueness of software is that, when a person operates a single parameter, the multiple automated actions connected beyond it react in turn. A large number of these processes then form a series, interconnect, and make up (for example) a gigantic operating system-like software program. The individual processes cannot be fully understood by the vast majority of end users. I am one of those end users.

For the end user, though, the real defeat may actually be something like (for example) creating the type of music they're expected to create when using DTM software, or painting the kind of picture they're expected to create when using a painting program, or listening to the kind of music they're expected to listen to on a music streaming app.

The final game the end user can play is intervention. In this game, an automated action specified by a certain person is operated with a different aim than that person intended.

In terms of openness in dealing with computers, I think the really important thing is not to learn to write code (with market value), but to devise anomalous processes for using tools. Based on this idea, the "mechanization of human action towards computers" is a type of anomalous play that I consider to be one method of intervention.

The second type of game is to assign the computer a task that it just manages to accomplish right before the live coding environment stops functioning properly or terminates abnormally. (Tracks 6-8)

First of all, live coding is a performance method in which one writes/activates code and makes sound in real time, while projecting the computer screen on the stage with a projector and revealing the performance system to the audience.

However, partly because I did too much "practice" during my classical music education in Japan, this process of writing and activating code in real time is always painful for me, as I don't want to keep on practicing steadily every day for the rest of my life. So why do I have to do live coding? I've had this question in my head ever since I started live coding.

One thing I like about computer music is its effortless nature. Simply put, it's like, "If you push this, the performance starts by itself." And if that leads to humor or oddness, it's even more interesting for me. The same is true for the automatic play button on an electronic piano, or an animal walking on a keyboard attached to a synthesizer. And when this playing method and process were delayed more and more and the performance was accomplished just at the brink of abnormal termination, the thrill of that performance and its development truly came from something effortless. When I discovered this game, I thought, "OK, I'll keep on doing live coding for a while!"

The third type of game is playing with toys. Tracks 1 and 3 were recorded when I was playing with a SuperNoteClub EX, an educational toy computer released in 1996. I found the toy at the Hard-Off store in Akihabara. By the way, when I was five, I learned to operate a keyboard with a Hello Kitty educational toy computer. Now that I think about it, it was around the same time I started learning piano. Track 5 is a pseudo-Bach recording. Track 9 was recorded when I was playing with a Korg Volca Drum, a physical modeling rhythm machine. I found an inexpensive one on the Mercari shopping site.

I've attempted to provide some explanation of the document of three types of games contained in this CD. It may seem as if I'm just repeating odd things, but if there's some meaning here, I think it's that I consistently wrestled with the idea of how to experience and understand the transmission of information--that is, the communication--between a machine and myself. I mean, if there's any meaning at all... (Chiho Oka / English translaton by Cathy Fishman)

When you hear, at the start of this CD, the languid introduction and pop-like rhythmic sound, don't make a quick blanket judgement and say, "Oh, it's that kind of album." This recording by Tokyo-based sound artist Chiho Oka is an anthology of the answers that Oka has arrived at thus far in her consideration of sound-making games using computers.

For the works, three types of games are proposed:
1. Making music by using computer tools in anomalous ways and automatically moving the mouse, keyboard, and desktop cursor.
2. Assigning the computer a task that it manages to accomplish just before the live coding environment stops functioning properly or terminates abnormally.
3. Recording with a toy (or toylike) computer.

While seeming to play with electronic sound (and in a sense doing so), the album's 13 tracks are actually packed with deep and insightful ideas. The last four tracks were recorded in concert at Ftarri, Tokyo, in December 2020. The CD includes liner notes by Chiho Oka (in Japanese and in English translation).

Last updated: February 27, 2021

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