Synthetic Realms

THU FEB 22, 7:30PM PST

Constantin Basica and Andrew A. Watts present a combined program of audiovisual compositions. The works ponder on futuristic issues related to artificial intelligence, time travel and time loops, postapocalyptic visions, the multiverse, and the end of our known universe. Included in the concert is a new large-scale electronic composition involving video and 6-channel audio by Watts, as well as a fixed media audiovisual work and a selection of live performances with video by Basica.


Constantin Basica

    Flashbacks (2014-2022)
       Restore Failed with Errors
       Last Night
              Trigger warning: the video depicts a situation that may be perceived as suicide.

   Post-Music #33:2.2 (2021)

   Chatbots (2021)


Andrew A. Watts

   AI and the Heat Death of the Universe (2023)
       Phase I: The End of Reality as We Know It
       Phase II: Solar Destruction
       Phase III: Black Hole Era
       Heat Death of the Universe

              Note: There are flashes of light and strobe effects at various points throughout the composition.


Flashbacks | Constantin Basica

Flashbacks is an audiovisual performance in two parts that have no apparent connection. First, in Restore Failed with Errors, I recycled audio and video material from my distant and recent past as a performer. The material is sliced into small fragments and then assembled into new forms. The second part, Last Night, presents the story of a person who wakes up in an unknown place and tries to remember what happened the night before, gradually realizing he is stuck in a time loop, then attempting—endlessly—to escape it. On a deeper level, the two pieces in Flashbacks address the idea of making sense of one’s own past while also attempting to surpass its consequences. Credits:
       Restore Failed with Errors
              Composer/Performer: Constantin Basica
              Conductor: Nicolae Racu
              Orchestra of the “Dinu Lipatti” Music High-School Bucharest (RO)
       Last Night
              Actor: Dragoș Ivaneț
              Director: Lucian Racovițan
              Composer/Videographer: Constantin Basica
              Visual effects: Simona Fitcal
              Featuring: Olga Berar, Simona Fitcal, Lucian Racovițan

Post-Music #33:2.2 | Constantin Basica

In a post-apocalyptic world, a man scavenges for sound-making objects to soothe his child.

This piece is a shortened version of Post-Music #33, originally commissioned and premiered by BRD Scene9 Residency, Bucharest (RO) in March 2021.

Chatbots | Constantin Basica

This performance is a revised sketch from my opera Knot an Opera!. The lyrics have been assembled from several of my brother’s poems and translated from Romanian with Google Translate, with all the quirks specific to the system.

AI and the Heat Death of the Universe | Andrew A. Watts

Scientific predictions regarding the destruction of the Earth, extinguishing of our Sun, and ultimate dissipation of the universe come as an existential threat for many. Despite how dispassionately these theories are presented, these notions conjure fear because of our inherent will to live. They further provoke a sense of profound grief and helplessness when we consider that the continuation of our collective species may be threatened by a seemingly inevitable future.

How would an artificial intelligence react to or interpret this timeline of a distant future where not only are humans extinct, but all planets, stars, and the universe itself (as we know it) no longer exist? Can AI respond to the very human experience of this existential threat?

This work uses AI to generate images and videos based on a series of scientific predictions of the fate of the universe. The human-like faces were AI generated by and the cyborg faces were created with the help of Adobe Generative AI.

The form of each movement is based on dynamic systems, with a graphic rendering of each respective computer simulation shown below. The chaos expressed in these systems is sonified in an effort to appropriately pair the composition ideology with the similarly themed astrophysical conjectures. To this end, I would like to express my thanks to my brother, Fred Watts, for his assistance in Python. With his help, the code for each equation was parsed as raw data I then applied to various musical parameters.

The text was assembled by Andrew A. Watts from dozens of scientific and public domain sources, listed in the references section.

More notes about this piece


Constantin Basica is a Romanian composer living in the San Francisco Bay Area, whose current work focuses on symbiotic interrelations between music, video, and performers. His works have been performed in Europe, North America, and Asia by artists and ensembles such as Ensemble Dal Niente, ELISION Ensemble, Distractfold, Mocrep, JACK Quartet, Spektral Quartet, line upon line, and RAGE Thormbones. He has been featured at World New Music Days (NZ), MATA Festival (NY), New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival (NY), Currents New Media Festival (NM), International Week of New Music (RO), George Enescu Festival (RO), International Festival for Video Art and Visual Music (MX), ICMC (CN/KR), and the SMC Conference (SE/DE/FR) among others. Constantin earned a DMA in Composition at Stanford University, and he holds an MA in Multimedia Composition from the Hamburg University of Music and Theatre (DE), as well as two BA degrees in Composition and Conducting from the National University of Music Bucharest (RO). In recent years, Constantin has been collaborating with other artists and researchers on projects involving Artificial Intelligence and music improvisation. Currently, Constantin is a postdoctoral scholar, lecturer, and the concert coordinator at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA).

Andrew A. Watts is a composer of chamber, symphonic, multimedia, and electro-acoustic works that are regularly performed throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. His compositions have been premiered at world-renowned venues such as Burning Man, Ravinia, Boston's Jordan Hall, Darmstadt, and the Holywell Music Room. Watts has written for many of the top new music groups today, including Ensemble Dal Niente, Ekmeles Vocal Ensemble, Proton Bern, Distractfold Ensemble, RAGE Thormbones, Splinter Reeds, Quince Vocal Ensemble, and Line Upon Line. Recently, Watts premiered a large-scale work, Silicon Valley Requiem, blending synthesized and live voices. He completed his D.M.A. in Composition at Stanford, received his master's with distinction from Oxford, and his bachelor's with academic honors from the New England Conservatory. He has been a featured composer at the MATA Festival (USA), impuls Academy (Austria), Rainy Days Festival (Luxembourg), Delian Academy (Greece), Young Composers Meeting (Netherlands), Cheltenham Music Festival (England), Course for New Music at Darmstadt (Germany), Composit Festival (Italy), Ostrava Days Institute (Czech Republic), highSCORE Festival (Italy), Wellesley Composers Conference (USA), Etchings Festival (France), Fresh Inc. Festival (USA), New Music on the Point (USA), and Atlantic Music Festival (USA). Watts is currently a Lecturer in Music Composition at UCSB’s College of Creative Studies.

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