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Writing Machine

wr_t_ng m_ch_n_

Writing (simultan)



Writing (simultan) is a sound installation that looks at the pure productivity, the intrinsic motion of an automated writing process, a process in which computers endlessly rewrite sonic gestures based on an already available “stream” of sound, such as radio broadcast. This stream is deconstructed by focusing solely at the acoustic self-similarity of the sounds, demoting semantic information to the background, and bringing the act of connection, drift and simultaneity to the foreground, as well as the material quality of projecting the sound onto physical objects (Petri dishes).

Writing (simultan) is an installation piece that reconfigures the two previous instances Writing Machine (2011) and wr_t_ng m_ch_n_ (2017), within the context of the artistic research project Algorithms that Matter.


The basic principle of the piece(s) is to initiate a possibly endless writing and rewriting process, that puts the eigenmotion of that process to the front, and the signification of the “raw” or “input” sound material to the background.

The basic algorithm is always similar: There is a sound “database”, a reservoir of sound material, that is always kept “filled” till a certain level. A process iteratively evolves a “sound phrase”, a sound object of a few dozen seconds, by identifying a portion in the current object that should be overwritten, then searching the database for an acoustically similar fragment, cutting it out from the database and pasting it over the identified location. At the same time, small movements are allowed that make the sound phrase slowly expand and contract in duration.

The display of the installation is through a circular field of petri-dishes which contain piezo speakers, arranged in a certain number of channels, and thus the sound gesture may move around the circle as it evolves.

Schreiben (simultan)



Schreiben (simultan) ist eine Klanginstallation, die sich der puren Produktivität und intrinsischen Bewegung eines automatisierten Schreibprozesses widmet. In diesem Prozess überschreiben Computer endlos Klanggesten, die von einem bereits existierenden „Klangstrom“ wie etwa einem Radiosignal gespeist werden. Dieser Strom wird in seine wesentlichen Teile zerlegt, indem die Aufmerksamkeit ausschließlich auf der akustischen Selbstähnlichkeit ruht, so dass die semantische Ebene in den Hintergrund und der Akt des Verbindens, das Driften und die Simultaneität in den Vordergrund rücken, ebenso wie die materielle Qualität der Klangprojektion auf physische Objekte (Petrischalen).

In the first instance (Writing Machine), I used a television sound signal from a news channel. It was using 72 petri-dishes in three concentric circles, each circle using graphite power of a different granularity and appearence. The sound installation was run from a single computer, and using eight or nine channels.

In the second instance (wr_t_ng m_ch_n_), I used a local radio (FM) station signal. The petri-dish arrangement was identical, but this time I experimented with a “distributed sound memory”, using nine Raspberry Pis, each representing two channels or memories which were evolved independent from one another (so you would identify a sound phrase, each time it was returning to the same sector). Also, here the computers and the antenna were visible, and I selected only one type of graphite and combined it with the bodies of dead bees.

The physical arrangement of the third instance is still not decided (as of this writing), although I think I want to replace the “disc” like shape of the petri-dish placement with a form that places them along the walls of the exhibition site, e.g. on side boards.


The new title Writing (simultan) highlights a new interest in the coming-together of otherwise independently operating processes.


After some deliberation, the arrangement of the third instance still follows the circular layout, but this time multiplying the number of tables. Smaller glass/metal tables are used now, with 27 discs per table, but increasing the number of nodes/groups to 9 each. The three tables exist independently of each other without any form of coupling or synchronisation.

Exhibition in the framework of Algorithmic Segments

Opening: 21.08.2020, 19:00 h
Exhibition: 22.08.–20.09. (Tue–Sat 14–19 h)
Location: Reagenz – space for artistic experiments, Morellenfeldgasse 11, 8010 Graz

Writing (simultan) as an experiment in reconfiguration, in defining the new physical shape of installation, in the way the algorithms are interlocked, in the way the code is implemented.

Code Implementation


The intention is to implement the final form all within the possibilities of a Mellite workspace, i.e. using the programming abstractions offered by SoundProcesses, but without writing general Scala code against these abstractions, instead relying on the formulation of interconnected snippets within Mellite. On the one hand, it verifies the generality of Mellite to represent these kind of algorithms and installation logic, on the other hand it allows me to test the resistance of the current system to the transfer of ideas from a previous code base, and to see how the new abstractions change the ways I think about the piece.


In order to allow you to respond to my process, and again to verify the breadth of the approach, I am releasing now so-called Mellite workspaces that track the progress in implementing the entire new piece. Technically, a workspace is a directory with the name extension '.mllt' that contains the database representation of all objects interconnected within Mellite. A workspace can be opened in Mellite via the File > Open menu item. The workspaces are uploaded to the main Mellite download location at archive.org, compressed as a zip file named writing-simultan-<version>.zip.


meta: true

author: hhr

artwork: WritingSimultan