The Map

I'm trying to do two things. One, I want to talk about performance and emergence. I'm going to mix that discussion. At times, I discuss performances that inform this project. At times, I look at what emerges from those performances. But both of those moves are provisional, and the project really explores how performance and emergence flow in circuit with each other at the moments where performancemergence happens.

And two, I want to describe how I made/am making the video/performance, “Watch the Bubble.” That work involves recovery and release, a Möbius compositional loop that looks back and flows forward as the reflections are mixed into the project before you. I can't stop (re)mixing this project any more than I could not flow along with time. We can loop backwards, play with the circuits, but never stop the current.

Map Beat Track It probably makes sense to start with a recent instance informing this mix. Prior to this project, I created a piece called “I’m a Map; I’m a Green Tree,” a screencast poem with a theoretical focus. For that piece, I wanted music, so I created my own soundtrack using samples in GarageBand. That screencast is mostly a conventional mix of edited segments, but the backing music got me thinking about real-time performance and audio tracks.

As I began experimenting with the audio options for “Watch the Bubble,” I found myself pulled back toward an approach to screen recording that I had experienced many years earlier when tools had fewer options. Many of my first screencasts and voiceovers were one-take captures. If I clicked the wrong link or tripped over a word, I would scrap the recording and start over. There were lots of cast-away takes: almost good enough, but try again; flubbed it three-quarters of the way through, try again. And eventually the planning, the speaking, and the screen recording would gel and a complete performance would emerge.

For early takes of “Watch the Bubble,” I tried similar live capturing of audio to form the soundtrack for the project, using the screen recorder Snapz. Snapz’s inability to pause the recording reminded me of the same real-time constraint I had experienced when first learning to screencast. The approach might be called screen performance. Rather than pausing a recording to arrange materials and compose, I would turn on the recorder and capture movements in a single take.

Idea Sketch Conceptually, “I’m a Map” also got me ready to create “Watch the Bubble” by pushing me further toward alt-scholarship, a mode that (for me) foregrounds creativity and performance. In “I'm a Map,” I performed a blend of poetry and theoretical reflections. “Watch the Bubble” picks up on this impulse and pushes in a different direction, primarily through its focus on memoir and manifesto. I knew the subject of “Watch the Bubble” was going to be my take on the history of digital composing. I began by sketching some ideas on paper. The first page of my notes shows the way that the project emerges from the earlier performance of “I'm a Map” with the refrain that kicks off the invention sketch: “I'm here and I'm talking about words and magic.” The refrain drifted into a poem-ish brainstorm, and then moved into some questions related to “Watch the Bubble.” The emergent stream from the earlier project became performance as the sketch of ideas evolved.

(Video Transcript for Looping Audio Track from "I'm a Map.")