Degrees of Freedom
The Widening Gyre
Out of Hand
Beyond Our Reach
Fits and Starts
Dancing on a Wire
House of the Dreamers
Flights of Fancy
A Bao A Qu
A Flash of Green
Uncanny Valley (2012)
piano, reader, and electronics
Commissioned by Oni Buchanan and Jon Woodward.
Excerpts from the full 50-minute piece.
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(program note by Ariel Artists)
In this concert-length piece, the piano performance of Oni Buchanan joins and reflects the spoken text of the poem “Uncanny Valley” as performed by its author, poet Jon Woodward. “Uncanny Valley” is a long serial poem in 16 sections, meant to be read out loud, with numerous optional repeats throughout the text. These repetitions act as accumulations of sound, maddening as well as hypnotic, and Gibson’s piece provides a sonic environment in which they can truly blossom. Although the pacing is determined by the two performers, the musical specificity of each section (from Morse code to sine waves to jazz to a brief quote of Schumann) reflects the poem text in ever-different ways. Digital samples triggered by the reader enmesh the piano and spoken text, haunting the music with echoes of itself. Extending outward from the phenomenon of “semantic satiation” (whereby a single word loses all apparent meaning and identity when repeated for even a short duration), Uncanny Valley investigates whether or not the same satiation is possible with phrases, sentences, pairs of verse lines, or musical forms.
In 1970, roboticist Masahiro Mori coined the term “uncanny valley” to describe the emotional and empathic chasm between humans and imperfect human simulacra, a gap created by their imperfection. This piece searches out what is most uncanny, and most human, in both language and music.
NOTE: The audio in this video is in mono.
with Oni Buchanan (piano) and Jon Woodward (reader)
Here is a screenshot of the Max patch. (Click to enlarge.)