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Pathways by Dejana Sekulic

Developed as part of DigiScore fellowship (2022) (work in progress digital score for the solo performer)

Pathways score, work-in-progress

https://github.com/DigiScore/DejanaFellowship

Complete Dataset can be found

https://figshare.dmu.ac.uk/articles/dataset/Pathways_Dejana_Sekulic_s_fellowship/21270609

Work-in-progress performance and presentation of Pathways

About Pathways

Pathways is a digital score work-in-progress developed by Dejana Sekulic during a two-week fellowship residency at the DigiScore Lab at De Montfort University. The work was developed in collaboration with Prashanth Thattai, a postdoc fellow researcher on the project. 

The digital score of Pathways was an ecology of different media elements and computational behaviours, including, visual imagery, text, sound design using pre-recoded sound, interactive behaviour and computational intelligence. The visual element is projected in the performance and is visible to the audience. The real-time and dynamic visual animation aspects in the digital score are one of the parameters that the performer follows as notation. These animations also react to sound and live input during the performance and independently with other visual and embedded elements in the digital score. There is an algorithm built into the digital score which decides what material will be loaded on the startup of the performance. Additionally, there is pitch and volume recognition. All of these elements communicate musical ideas and have a presence when experienced by a musician. Similarly, but not so obvious, is the meta-presence of the computational decision-making processes, the potential in the library of pre-recorded sound, and the dynamic behaviour of the symbolic logic leading to real-time choices that are unique to each iteration of the composition.

On an artistic level, Pathways is inspired by the idea of free and protected migration patterns for bird species and humans, capturing the essence in the cycles of migrations – from harsh to suiting environments. Thus, depending on the changes in the environment, birds move around the earth, using specific locations such as summer, and winter, locations for mating and breeding. Humans seek similar safe environments to develop and support their existence, however, they are often not granted freedom of movement and the rights for this passage. The selected paths of migration for birds and humans are loaded up into the digital score at the beginning of the piece and are influenced by the performer’s sound input as the piece develops.

Design Considerations

At the start of the residency certain design parameters had been defined:

  • the piece should be interactive, online and easy to access
  • it has to be affordable and easy to set up but include input from the performer for interactivity
  • the live performer path will be drawn from the sound input interaction
  • bird paths will always be the top layer influenced by live sound input
  • human paths will be the underneath layer appearing through opacity changes influenced by sound input and fully revealed at the end
  • the visual material both for the audience and the performer, it reflects the live interactions as the piece unfolds
  • there will be a practice score to include pitch and volume recognition wheels for the performer to get used to recognizing how their sound behaves to; this will help with navigation of the score

Critical Insights

Following Dejana’s fellowship, we analysed her responses using various materials. Critical insights from this analysis are:

  • the digital score makes algorithmic decisions at the start of the piece, following that, the performer’s live input and its interaction with the layers of the digital score influence the visual and sound materials of the score
  • visual and sound materials play an equal role in the performer and audience immersion in the piece
  • the interactivity with the layers of the digital score is controlled by the performer’s sonic choices
  • the performer has a lot of agency in deciding how their input will influence the digital score
  • the performer is both the discoverer and the observer as they interact with the piece
  • future iterations of the digital score will include the possibility for other performers to include their sound materials in the score to further their expression with the digital score
  • a practice score will enable the performer to become comfortable with how their sound input behaves and influences the interactivity of the piece
  • the digital score is easily accessible (online), inexpensive to setup and use

Conclusion

Dejana Sekulic’s fellowship was the first of its kind as part of the DigiScore research project. It showed what a short intensive period of immersion in our lab could provide to the international community of early career researchers/digital score makers. Overall, the results were very encouraging as Pathways digital score was successfully developed in under two weeks with the assistance of DigiScore postdoc fellow Prashanth Thattai. 

During her fellowship, Dejana Sekulic stayed focused on the intentions of her research and realization of Pathways as reflected in her reflective journal/blog and remarked afterwards in the semi-structured interview and legacy questionnaire. Thus, all of Dejana’s design considerations in her blog made it to the work-in-progress version of Pathways. Our findings show that the focus on accessibility and performer’s agency stayed present throughout the composition of Pathways.

The openness of Pathways allows entry into its interpretation for performers from diverse backgrounds as no knowledge of Western classical notation is needed. The performer has a lot of agency to influence the course of Pathways which in turn provides the musicians with the possibility of having a novel musical experience with every new performance of the digital score. The performer’s choices are also linked to how they enter into the conversation with the digital score as an active observer/discoverer. The digital score can follow each performer’s unique sound choices in the moment of interpretation.

Personnel

Dejana Sekulic – concept, composition/programing, performance (violin)

Prashanth Thattai – programming assistance