Norbert Herber Portfolio

music, art & research 2004-2010

The pieces featured in this portfolio were created in the process of pursuing my PhD. My doctoral thesis is entitled Amergent Music: behavior and becoming in technoetic & media arts. Technoetic and media arts are environments of mediated interaction and emergence, where meaning is negotiated by individuals through a personal examination and experience—or becoming—within the mediated space. My thesis examines these environments from a musical perspective and considers how sound functions as an analog to this becoming. This portfolio features original musical works that explore the possibilities as to how the emergent dynamics of mediated, interactive exchange can be leveraged towards the construction of musical sound.

Such an arrangement of sound, as it relates to human presence in a technoetic environment, challenges many existing assumptions, including the idea "the sound changes." Change can be viewed as a movement predicated by behavior. Amergent music is brought forth through kinds of change or sonic movement more robustly explored as a dimension of musical behavior. Listeners hear change, but it is the result of behavior that arises from within an autonomous musical system relative to the perturbations sensed within an environment. Amergence arises through the effects of emergent dynamics coupled to the affective experience of continuous sonic transformation.

Each of these works was approached with the experimental attitude, "how might this work?" Projects were conceptualized, developed, tested, and in many cases, exhibited. Out of this process came self-reflection and useful feedback from others. Some of the results confirmed a particular course of action; others helped to eliminate unfruitful directions and reveal redundancies. In this portfolio, I try to capture the flavor of my approach.

The term poiesist is used throughout this portfolio. This is a word I coined and use in place of the more common terms user, viewer, listener, participant, or player. It draws from Martin Heidegger's The Question Concerning Technology (1977) and his discussion that the poiesis ("drawing-out" or "bringing-forth") of art also has a place in our use and understanding of technology. In my works that involve interaction, the person engaged in the mediated environment is a poiesist. Their negotiations within the environment or space created by the work is a continuous process of bringing-forth, and a drawing-out of sound into music.

The contents of this portfolio are organized thematically or by individual project. The sections are:

Experiments with Particle Swarm Optimization

Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO) is an algorithm originally developed by scientists James Kennedy and Russell Eberhart (1995; 2001) for optimizing nonlinear functions. It is related to artificial life, flocking behavior, and evolutionary computation. These pieces reveal the behavior of swarm agents and leverage emergence as a musical composition.
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A(rt)Life Collaborations with Larry Yaeger

A(rt)Life is an installation series that reveals the emergent dynamics of artificial life systems through digital animation and music. The projects used the boids flocking concept by Craig Reynolds (1995). His work was based on three "steering behaviors:" separation, alignment, and cohesion. These became the organizational elements from which the music was developed.
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Perturb is an open, generative system of distributed musical authorship. Engaging in this work enters one into the simultaneous roles of listener, performer, and composer. Visitors are encouraged to construct or join in the performance with their own short recordings, samples, soundscapes, and found sonic objects.
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Sound Garden

Sound Garden is a musical installation that explores the relationship of people, location, and audio relative to technology through telematic collaboration and environmental sensors. Sound Garden provides an online interface that complements the physical activities of organic gardening by allowing listeners to tend a continuous sonic environment and take an active role in its composition and care.
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Composition-Instrument Study I: psychogeography and the dérive

A term significant to the early and middle phases of my doctoral research was "composition-instrument." This study specifically endeavored to expose the role of each term (composition and instrument) and to address questions about listening, interaction, and the overall sonic palette of my work at the time.
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Further Research in Spatial-Aural Interaction

Dérive Entre Mille Sons is a musical work that uses mobile media technology to artistically examine the relationship between music and the listener. Drawing from the writings of Guy Debord and the practice of the dérive, "drifting" is replaced with tilting a Nintendo Wii controller and becomes a metaphor for instrumental performance in which the openness and emergence of interactivity is articulated through sound, as music.
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Londontown applies concepts of spatial practice and generative music to a narrative-driven virtual world set in Victorian London. The world is sensitive to the accomplishments of its inhabitants, and encourages them to leave their marks in personal or public ways. New stories and other events or situations responsive to the inhabitants are seeded and delivered organically without interruption to the world experience.
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Ancillary Musical Works

Material produced that either led to or was the result of these projects often led to new ideas. These projects are all in some state of evolution or abandonment, but lend additional insight to my working process and interests.
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Research & Writing

As an artist, I thrive on making work and benefit greatly from writing about about it in every stage of the creative process. Research and practice exist in a structurally coupled relationship—each furthers the other in conceptual, technical, and aesthetic matters.
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Personal web site

For online versions of these projects and other information about me, is the best resource.
Contact me: norbert at x-tet dot com

Portfolio Bibliography

Blesser, B & Salter, L-R 2007, Spaces speak, are you listening?: experiencing aural architecture, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
Debord, G-E 1955, Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography, Bureau of Public Secrets, Available from: <>. [26 April 2007].
Eno, B 1996, A Year With Swollen Appendices, Faber & Faber, London.
Gilbert, A 2009,, Available from: <>. [26 March 2008].
Heidegger, M 1977, Basic Writings: from being and time (1927) to the task of thinking (1964), HarperCollins, New York.
Kennedy, J & Eberhart, R 1995, 'Particle Swarm Optimization', in IEEE International Conference on Neural Networks, Perth, Australia, pp. 1942-8.
Kennedy, J, Eberhart, R & Shi, Y 2001, Swarm Intelligence, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, San Francisco.
Lefebvre, H 1991, The Production of Space, Blackwell, Oxford, UK; Cambridge, Mass.
Lynch, K 1960, The Image of the City, Technology Press, Cambridge, Mass.
Reynolds, C 2007, Boids Background and Update, Available from: <>. [26 December 2009].