::: Infinite Sun



In most or perhaps all cultures, chanting is believed to have powerful spiritual effects: to calm the mind, to cultivate intimacy with the divine, to activate the flow of subtle energies --- in short, to produce real effects in the real world.


This project uses chants from many faiths and spiritual traditions as the basis for an algorithmic installation. A chorus of 11 laptops are programmed to chant from sunrise to sunset, singing their songs in praise of enlightenment, to the sun, to God in its many manifestations.



11 laptops sing continuously from dawn to dusk. Working in 30-minute cycles, an algorithm generates a new, invented spiritual song, working from a corpus made of existing mantras from a wide variety of spiritual traditions. Each laptop, like a pilgrim monk singing its own song in a loop, starts morphing in an interpolating path. Every 30 min, the 11 computers join in a spiritual choir singing together a novel artificial celebration of life.


A Max master-patch running on a MacMini launches every 30 min a python script. The program picks up randomly some groups of singers together with some existing spiritual songs in the corpus. A score interpolation algorithm using a two layers probabilistic model, produces a Super-Mantra out of all the selected spiritual songs, and a respective interpolation path corresponding to each one. The MacMini send these scores to 11 laptops running Linux Mint, producing remotely the singing synthesis and playing it with a PureData Patch.


As both chanting and cybernetics are built around the notion of feedback loops, we incorporate a version of 'biofeedback' into our system. We track the 'vital signs' of each laptop (with visualization in the bottom left side of each screen): CPU usage, memory, temperature. These values are fed back into the system and affect the pitch and tempo of the chanting, and the activity of the LED light mounted on each laptop.



This piece draws on the traditions of the spiritual call, the relentless universal prayer, the mysterious relation between language and mind...a relation now mediated by and outsourced to the digital equipment that is our mental repository.




Concept/Direction: Annie Dorsen

Design, Network: Ryan Holsopple

Sound Design, Algorithm Design: Greg Beller

Ircam Singing Synthesis Software: Alex Röbel

Chant Transcriptions: Julien Pallière, François Vey

Production/Management: Natasha Katerinopoulos

::: screenings / performances

Premiere: Sharjah Biennial 14