Leda and the Swan

Peter Beyls

The work of American painter Cy Twombly was a source of delight and inspiration for many years. Large abstract works literally document the painter’s highly physical engagement with the canvas. Paintings capture energetic performative gestures. Physical properties of the painter’s body provide tangible constraints in terms of size and energy. Painting as process: a work emerges as a written statement – actual symbolic language is indeed abundantly expressed. After all, the process of painting is characterized as totally interactive; paintings materialize from the coalescing of multiple considerations and motivations, many on the subconscious level. Original work surfaces from immersive engagement with color, language, composition, physical space and many additional unknown dimensions.

In 1962, Twombly created a painting titled Leda and the Swan illustrating his attraction to stories of classical Greek mythology. Of course, the theme reflects just another form of intimate interaction in a twofold setting. Leda and the Swan became the global title of a series of interactive music pieces composed in 2013—2016.

All pieces propose a collaborative interaction format where human and machine performers coexist in a commonly shared biotope. Virtual and human performers listen, interpret and respond to each other. Dynamic patterns surface from the expression of variable degrees of influence between both interacting partners. Man and machine contribute to the emergence of a specifically coherent but unpredictable musical climate. The logic embedded in the software suggests musically stylistic personalities that take a different character from piece to piece. In addition, dynamic activity unfolds on different structural levels simultaneously. For example, on the one hand, short temporal structures might reflect a particular relationship between any two virtual players in time. Otherwise, long-term macroscopic musical structures spontaneously emerge from the impact of internal forces and external activation.

Porto version for one human performer and a virtual orchestra of five players playing the following instruments: piano, flute, oboe, clarinet and marimba. Software is written in SuperCollider. Recorded at CITAR Porto, September 9, 2016.