1.4  The League's Working Process

The League didn't compose network "compositions" as such but rather whole concerts of music. We didn't give titles to these concerts--we thought of them as public occasions for shared listening. Initially, we let the networked stations run on their own in performance, unattended, and retired to the sidelines to listen along with the audience. After awhile it seemed more fun to perform along with the network so we began to sit around our large table of gear, adjusting parameters on the fly in an attempt to nudge the music this way or that.

A musical example from a rehearsal around 1981.

56K modem version.

The League of Automatic Music Composers (Perkis, Horton, and Bischoff, left to right) performing at Ft. Mason, San Francisco 1981.

photo: Peter Abramowitsch

League members generally adapted solo compositions for use within the band. These solos were developed independently by each composer and were typically based on algorithmic schemes of one kind or another. There was a distinctly improvisational character to many of these as the music was always different in its detail. Mathematical theories of melody, experimental tuning systems, artificial intelligence algorithms, improvisational instrument design, and interactive performance were a few of the areas explored in these solo works. More often than not, the composer designed real-time controls so that a human player could adjust the musical behavior of the algorithm in performance. These "openings" in the algorithm became important features when adapting the solo within the network band context--they were natural points where incoming data from other players could be applied. The solos, played simultaneously in the group setting, became interacting "sub"-compositions, each sending and receiving data pertinent to its musical functioning. In actual practice, at the start of a new project members would begin with an informal meeting over coffee at a local café where we would throw around ideas for linking "sub-compositions" together. One composer might say: My program generates elaborate melodic structures—does anyone have pitch information to send me? Another might respond: Yes, I generate occasional sustained tones—how about if I send you the pitch I’m playing encoded as a frequency number? The first person might respond: Yes, I could retune my melodies to that frequency whenever it comes in. And so the structure of interconnections would be created a link at a time.

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