received from John Bischoff on Nov 2 1996 copyright 1812w

"Paper Hubrenga" Mark Trayle and John Bischoff published in IS JOURNAL #9 - Spring 1990

(Ed.: The HUB is an example of musicians working in an open social system, using computer network as a meeting ground. Performing long-distance, they are a band of interactive computer music systems.)

At BORDER CROSSINGS, The HUB performed "HubRenga". Renga is a Japanese parlor game, a social poetry where the participants link one line with another to create verse with a particular theme. They selected the Earth as a theme. "HubRenga" was originally performed as a live radio broadcast on KPFA in Berkeley. Members of the Poetry Conference on The WELL (an electronic bulletin board) sent lines of poetry to The HUB via modem. Each line contained power words which triggered musical events from The HUB.

John Bischoff, Scot Gresham-Lancaster, Phil Stone, and Mark Trayle performed "HubRenga" in Los Angeles, along with Bonnie Barnett, who declaimed the power words. Chris Brown, Tim Perkis, and Jim Horton, with Ramon Sender and members of the Poetry Conference, participated via modem from the Bay Area.

What is The HUB? (question from the audience at Border Crossings)

The HUB is actually the name of a piece of hardware we use to communicate between our music systems. It acts like a shared memory for all the players. The information we share can take the form of text, musical notes or other parameters relevant to the musical process. (Scot Gresham-Lancaster)

MIRTH ('power word' from HubRenga)

We have constructed a multi computer-based network of non- hierarchical, interactive, simultaneous processes that are open to information from larger environments. As these processes overlap and interact, they generate musical contexts for sonic motions, making perception of very complex patterns easy and enlightening. (Jim Horton of The League of Automatic Music Composers)

TRANSFER ('power word' from HubRenga)

The non-hierarchical structure of the network encourages multiplicity of viewpoints, and allows separate parts in the system to function in a variety of musical modes. (John Bischoff)

The musical system can be thought of as multiple stations, each playing it's own sub-composition, which receive and generate information relevant to the real-time improvisation. No one station has an overall score. (Jim Horton of The League of Automatic Music Composers)

When did you start playing together? (question from the audience at Border Crossings)

RICOCHET ('power word' from HubRenga)

John Bischoff, Jim Horton, and myself player for several years in a group called The League of Automatic Music Composers, the first microcomputer network band. Every time we rehearsed, a complicated set of ad-hoc connections between computers had to be made. This made for a system with rich and varied behavior, but it was prone to failure, and bringing in other players was difficult. Later we sought a way to open the process up, to make it easier for other musicians to play in the network situation. (Tim Perkis)

As you develop solo pieces, the idea you keep in the back of your mind is "how will this work with The HUB?". In that sense, solo work and group work tend to merge. (John Bischoff)

DUST ('power word' from HubRenga)

Very high technology is about working in teams, e.g. the space program. It should be no different for modern music. (Rich Gold)

SWELL ('power word' from HubRenga)

Rather than think of the HUB as a performance ensemble that has a fixed membership, we really tend to think of it as a new performance practice that different musicians can play in. (Tim Perkis)

I am curious. Is HubRenga a program in which you have a certain area of flexibility within given parameters? I didn't have a clear sense of what you were doing. (question from the audience at Border Crossings)

HABIT ('power word' from HubRenga)

We have all designed our own individual systems and all run our own programs, which are coordinated through The HUB. We all have our own way of reacting to a power word as it comes in. (Scot Gresham-Lancaster)

And then you respond to it and follow it back into some sort of central ganglia? (question from the audience at Border Crossings)

It's the other way around, the word comes to us through the central ganglia. we're the spokes and The HUB is the center. (Scot Gresham-Lancaster)

One of the interesting things to listen for is the way events interact: it is as if they were speaking to each other, informing one another of their progress. (John Bischoff)

THE CHARM OF MEETING FACE TO FACE (Chris Brown's favorite Renga lines composed by WELL poets)

When you are watching and listening to musicians there is usually some movement in their bodies, their feet. You can watch them strum guitars, or play the keys on the piano, and none of that is happening here. (comment from the audience at Border Crossings)

GRACE ('power word' from HubRenga)

Yeah, I would agree. I feel that people need to be brought into the process more than just the sound can bring them into the process. (Tim Perkis)

I kind of have an unusual attitude about that issue. I don't know that having more physical gestures in it is really the way to direct people more to the essence of it. (John Bischoff)

But part of watching and listening to musicians is watching their interactions. (comment from the audience at Border Crossings)

All the normal performer to performer contact is going on, but there is this other level of communication happening just between the machines that's actually affecting the moment to moment structure of the music. We are really trying to let the systematic nature of the electronic systems we are working with suggest what's going to happen musically. (Tim Perkis)

EMBRACE SO WHO MIGHT EMBRACE WHERE (Chris Brown's favorite Renga lines composed by WELL poets)

Even though our pieces are improvisational, they always have a structure, and that structure is invisible as far as gesture goes. The musical interaction is happening in software. (Mark Trayle)

ROOT ('power word' from HubRenga)

Do you think a string quartet is visually more interesting than The HUB? (question from Guy DeBievre at Logos Foundation, Ghent, Belgium)

Yeah, not a lot more. You can see that they are bowing across a string. With The HUB, we're sitting behind our screens, so it's kind of hard to tell what we're doing. (Mark Trayle)

I think it would be very interesting if you could project what you're seeing on your screens. (comment from the audience at Border Crossings)

KEYSTONE ('power word' from HubRenga)

KEYSTONE WITH A CHAIN (Chris Brown's favorite Renga lines composed by WELL poets)

Actually, in this piece, what is happening on the screen might be more of a distraction. (Scot Gresham-Lancaster)

The music might be more important than watching what is happening. Details of computer operation can be very boring. (Mark Trayle)

I think in an average concert situation people won't necessarily know who is making what sound. But computer music to me has an extra degree of abstraction, and people may miss a link to something more 'real', a physical reality. (comment from the audience at Border Crossings)

OUTSIDE ('power word' from HubRenga)

I feel that if our music has a strength among other types of electronic music, its strength is that it is LESS abstract, in the sense that it's tied to a material situation. And the material situation is an ELECTRONIC situation. It's really quite different than the situation of trying to use electronic systems to neutrally carry out your desires as a composer, or to emulate 'real' sounds. If you make a music that's frankly electronic, and explores the realm of possibility that electronics suggests, and really try to go with those qualities, rather than trying to hide them as errors of the electronic medium, you get a music that really has some physical and acoustic integrity. (Tim Perkis)

We think of our music as growing directly out of the material we are using, and in that regard it is not abstract at all, though when you do that, people often think the work is ultra abstract. They might feel that a simulated Bach violin piece was less abstract just because it is a representation of a thing they are more familiar with in a physical sense, but in fact it is much more abstract. (John Bischoff)

ECHO ('power word' from HubRenga)

I think computer music in general suffers from reliance on representation much too strongly, either explicit representation of some acoustic sound or representation of the composer's dream music being carried out by a perfect servant which will add no quality of its own. (Tim Perkis)

I feel this music is sitting very strongly in an American tradition of invention: of the idea that one way of making music is to invent a system that behaves, and that the behavior of this system is the music, and that we're free to move and listen to different elements and explore it. Just as we're able to explore a natural object. (Tim Perkis)

ECHO BEHIND I BLIND (Chris Brown's favorite Renga lines composed by WELL poets)

Then why don't you just let the system play? (question from the audience at Border Crossings)

DUCK ('power word' from HubRenga)

You don't want completely automatic reactions every time. There is an improvisational nature to this. You need to be on top of what is happening, to adjust volumes, to make choices. (Scot Gresham-Lancaster)

In most of our pieces, we read and write to The HUB; our actions influence those of other players. (Mark Trayle)

SCINTILLATE ('power word' from HubRenga)

Yes! What a pleasure to play and be part of a dynamic musical process! To explore catastrophe hypersurfaces in the relative safety and comfort of involvement with one's friends and neighbors! (Jim Horton)

The advent of not-very-expensive microsystems can help free the computer musician from the pressure to conform to the mores of highly structured business and academic institutions. (Rich Gold)

TWIST ('power word' from HubRenga)

I see the aesthetic informing this work as perhaps counter to other trends in computer music: instead of attempting to gain more complete control over every aspect of the music, we seek more surprise through the lively and unpredictable response of these systems, and hope to encourage an active response to surprise in the playing. And instead of trying to eliminate the imperfect human performer, we try to use the electronic tools available to enhance the social aspect of music making. (Tim Perkis)

Note: Received by International Synergy Journal March 3, 1990. Questions from Guy DeBievre are reprinted with permission from "Logosblad", published by the Logos Foundation, Ghent, Belgium. Responses by Jim Horton and Rich Gold are from "Foundations of Computer Music", MIT Press 1985. The composition "HubRenga" was partially funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

- typed by John Bischoff Oct. '96