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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Colonel

The 3rd Ear Cat Meets The Nøtel

Back in winter 2019 I worked with Steve Goodman, aka Kode9, to contribute audio for an upcoming gallery show.

As part of their 15th birthday celebration, the electronic music label Hyperdub put up an installation at the Chronus Art Center in Shanghai. Label boss Kode9 and visual artist Lawrence Lek linked up to combine The Nøtel, a fully automated luxury hotel populated entirely by drones, with the 3rd Ear Cat, an artificial entity which now runs the label.

One part of the 3rd Ear Cat fiction I found really interesting was its vision of a future post-human society. In this dystopia, a ruling class of "Pures" subjugates the working class "Synths" by employing a police force of "Mechas." I wanted to consider ways in which the Synths could develop their own club culture, despite the watchful eyes of the Pures.

I sketched out a small fiction where new dance tracks were traded in black markets as CSV files, which when put through decoding neural software would play the music. In this fiction, a DJ could edit the CSVs to remix and bootleg the original tracks, and potentially string a bunch of CSVs together to make a fully mixed DJ set.

As such, I went on to train one of my autoencoders on portions the Hyperdub back-catalog. Inherent to the design of this network is a lossy compression scheme which learns to encode the most common spectral characteristics of a training corpus. When applied to the Hyperdub catalog, the network learned to encode bass and percussion better than vocals and harmonic content.

Ultimately, a few tracks were chosen for inclusion in the exhibit. A bluetooth speaker was placed inside a 3-D printed rendering of the 3rd Ear Cat and left to babble in the center of the gallery.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a recording of the space, but the photos are incredible. As a collective, Hyperdub and their affiliates have been on the cutting edge of electronic music and sonic theory for years, and it was an honor to contribute to their body of work.

Below is a SoundCloud playlist of some of my favorite tracks made for the show.

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