Kenrick Ho

University of Leeds, UK;


Flou for solo violin is an attempt at composer-performer co-composition to embody otherwise unidiomatic machine-learning generated materials. To explain the compositional problem at hand, this presentation draws on three ways contemporary composers have typically used algorithms to reveal a long-standing issue where composers are often faced with tensions between ‘what the algorithm wants to produce’, ‘what the composer wants to write’, and ‘what the performer wants to play’. Upon scrutinizing musical examples by Boulez, Cage and Xenakis, I observed that these tensions can be resolved by enabling different kinds and levels of agencies anywhere within the relationship between the composer, performer, and the algorithm. For example, Boulez allows himself in limited ways to deviate from his algorithm to follow his compositional instincts, Cage creates predetermined open scores for performers to interpret, and Xenakis designs less autonomous algorithms to allow himself to use the algorithmic outcome without acting against it. In relation to this three-way tension, Flou takes inspiration from all three approaches above to allow the composer and performer to co-create the piece without deviating against the generated results. The composer interprets the given materials without intervening with pitch, by engraving a semi-indeterminate score that asks for an octave-lower scordatura on the violin. The performer’s role is then to work out how to perform these notes under the influence of such unstable scordatura. The sounding outcome obscures the original algorithmic output, but in return, the bodily presence of the performer is foregrounded in their attempt to present the algorithmic outcome under the scordatura ‘challenge’ imposed by the composer. Overall, this piece is placed uniquely within the tension between composers, performer, and the algorithm, and it presents an angle to reflect on the creative relationship between humans and machines, demonstrating the creative opportunities that may emerge in the conversation.

Keywords: Algorithmic Composition; AI Embodiment; Phenomenology; Experimental Music; Physicality of performance.


Kenrick Ho is practiced-led PhD composer-researcher at the University of Leeds currently researching in creative opportunities that emerge within the multifariousness of human agencies in AI embodiment through experimental composition.