Carbon Path (2002)
premiered, Kyoto, August, 2002
for Oxygen Flute, celletto, video, and computer-generated vocal processing
Chris Chafe, celletto.
The quality of the air we breath depends on a balance of plant and animal life. Oxygen Flute is an interactive computer music environment that makes the exchange of gases audible (displayed in public at the San Jose Museum of Art and the Kroeber Museum of Anthropology, UC Berkeley). To take the idea to the concert hall, much work with FinalCutPro and two DV cameras in Japan produced Carbon Path, the DVD-based (portable) result.
Visitors entered a chamber with bamboo and four continuously performing (digitally-modeled) flutes. Patterns in levels of carbon dioxide measured inside the chamber create the music. The computer flutes are played both in real time and from the accumulated history of fluctuations recorded in the space. Visitors to the flute gain a qualitative feeling for the interdependence of respiration between plants and animals and the carbon / oxygen exchange that takes place. The flute models are simulations of 9,000 year-old bone flutes from China.
The same real-time digital music synthesis algorithm provides music in the on-stage version. Video clips of bamboo inside the installation and from bamboo forests are sources of motion and musical gesture (at times directly translated from the video data).
The celletto is an electronic cello built by the composer in 1989. It is still a work-in-progress, as new digital techniques become available. The recently added vocal tract processing uses a physical model algorithm.
The composer is very grateful to NTT and its staff, especially composer Naotoshi Osaka, for supporting the creation of Carbon Path. The flute and vocal tract models have had much help from Patricio de la Cuadra and Perry Cook.