In the words of her PR, Holly Herndon operates “at the nexus of technological evolution and musical euphoria.” The American composer and singer, who lives in Berlin, is an artist who indisputably draws the most radical and deepest consequences from the profound social changes of our time, and uses these in the conceptualisation of her music.
During her performance at the festival “Politik der Algorithmen” she presents, for the first time in Germany, her third album “PROTO”, which was released at the beginning of May. The music was created in collaboration with Spawn, an AI machine, developed by her long-time collaborator Mat Dryhurst and programmer Jules LaPlace, which is housed in a homemade gaming PC. The team think of Spawn as their “baby”.
With unusual songwriting that spans live vocal processing, choral music and timeless folk singing, Holly Herndon explores new forms of community. In 2018, several live training ceremonies took place in Berlin. Hundreds of people came together to teach Spawn how to identify and reinterpret unknown sounds in collaborative call-and-response sessions. This was a contemporary version of the religious gatherings that shaped Holly Herndon’s childhood in East Tennessee.
With “PROTO” Holly Herndon responds to the so-called “protocol era”. The rapidly increasing ideological battles over the future of AI, and networked, personal and political protocols, compel us to interrogate who we are, what we are, what we stand for and what the future may hold for us.
“There’s a pervasive narrative of technology as dehumanising,” says Holly Herndon. “We stand in contrast to that. It’s not like we want to run away; we’re very much running towards it, but on our terms. Choosing to work with an ensemble of humans is part of our protocol. I don’t want to live in a world in which humans are automated off stage. I want an AI to be raised to appreciate and interact with that beauty.”
Since 2012 when she became a public figure, Holly Herndon has worked on the fringes of electronic music and avant-garde pop. During these years, she combined her influences into a visionary aesthetic, while writing her upcoming doctoral thesis at Stanford University on Machine Learning and its impact on music.
On her previous album, “Platform”, Holly Herndon predicted the manipulative possibilities of social networks in terms of privacy and politics, long before this became a commonplace gesture. With “PROTO” she formulates a euphoric and fundamental statement in which she tries to divine the outlines of what we are heading towards.ATTENTION: strobe effects are used in this performance. Some frequncies might cause epileptic attacks.
Part of the festival “Politik der Algorithmen – Kunst, Leben, Künstliche Intelligenz” from June 11 to 16, 2019