Electroacoustic Composition. There is No There, November 2011.
Ryugyong in G is a cycle of compositions based on visual data sonifications of the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea.
Ryugyong is one of modern architecture’s most notorious foibles, and it’s quite a spectacle. To generate compositions for “Imagining the Future / Synthesizing the Past,” I used my Image2MIDI application to write MIDI files, and then I used Ableton Live to program custom synths and cleverly funnel the MIDI data into the key of G. Below you can see a bit of my process. From the source photo, the image is gradually filtered to greyscale, then I used computer vision to detect edges in the image, finally I “played” the image into Logic Pro to render a “visual” MIDI file.
I’m really happy with the resulting MIDI scores, which you can open with any audio DAW such as Garageband, Ableton, etc, and see for yourself. I think these computer generated visual scores capture certain musical structures that are latent in Ryugyong’s design. The musical gestures seem to reflect not only the eerie intrigue of this building, but also its daunting appearance as some sort of futurist temple of doom (or doomed temple). The song starts at the apex of Ryugyong and gradually grows in density and pitch range as it descends towards the bottom of the tower. Hotel Ryugyongs central column dominates both the physical building’s facade as well as its musical interpretation – the unceasing hammering upon the piano’s mid-range is constant while the edges of the building gradually diverge further and further in pitch, and dare I say madness?