Workshop: Patterns and Algorithmic Music

Algorithmic pattern can be described as the use of rules and well-defined instructions to produce and break symmetries, through combination and transformation operations. However, “pattern” is often used as a pejorative term. Transdisciplinary scholar Andrew Hugill notes that for some composers, being accused of pattern-making implies that you have nothing original to say and fall back on mechanical formulae. With this workshop, we aim to rescue the term from its somewhat deprecatory usage in a number of arts disciplines, and disentangle algorithms from any false sense of unfathomable obscurity or complexity. This workshop focuses on how to characterise and define produced pattern.

Participants will be invited to explore both the historical and contemporary use of algorithmic practices in pattern making. In a hands on session, we will be learning the practice of tablet weaving, where cards are twisted and flipped to make complex, three dimensional braiding patterns. We will approach this ancient practice from the perspective of live coders, using a web-based code interface to guide our real-world braids. Reflecting on this, the second part of the workshop will explore patterns in algorithmic music, and in audiovisual algorithmic art. Through this, we aim to gain deeper understanding of patterns in live coding practice, and discover ways in which we could take them further.

The workshop took place between connected hubs in Barcelona, Sheffield and Penryn, as part of on_the_fly_collect() festival. You can read a blog report on the tablet weaving by workshop leader Dave Griffiths.