Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address 2020 vol. 1
Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address is an annual forum for ideas relating to the creation and performance of Australian music. Named after the Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks, it has been igniting debate and highlighting crucial issues since its establishment in 1999.
Madeleine Flynn & Tim Humphrey: 'Dissonance'
The first of two 2020 Peggy Glanville-Hicks Addresses was presented by Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey in September 2020. There was no auditorium filled with seats, which is not an unusual situation for the team of two experimental sound artists. Instead, the audience was invited to take part in a dialogue with a machine.
The machine, which resided on a specially constructed web page, created with Mick Byrne, engaged them in conversation about dissonance, about creative music and sound making, by asking questions and proposing topics. Under the hood was a reservoir of scripted thoughts by Flynn and Humphrey to which everyone was invited to contribute.
'To experience our PGH Address please talk to the machine. It is not an oracle and may not be willing to answer questions, merely ask them. The trajectory of your conversation will vary to the extent that each dialogue varies. Over the period of this address being live, we will add to the script', the artists explained.
The project continued the 25 years of projects by Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey. 'We are experimental artists in sound. We make unusual situations for listening. It is humbling for us to be delivering this PG-H at this extraordinary time, on land that was never ceded, and at a moment when the inequalities in this land and around the world have rarely been drawn so starkly.'
The conversations took place on https://www.howthingssoundmatters.space/ website and can be viewed there (password PGH@2020).
About the artists
Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphreyare leading Australian audio conceptual artists who create unexpected situations for listening. Their work is driven by a curiosity and questioning about sound in human culture and seeks to evolve and engage with new processes and audiences, through public and participative interventions.
A note by Madeleine and Tim
The Peggy Glanville-Hicks speech experiment followed from our continued interest in artificial dialogue aided by what we like to call semi-intelligent agents. We scripted a conversational agent with questions on topics ranging from recent critiques on philanthropy, through to questions on precarity and the unheard voices of many working in sound. Beginning with the notion of dissonance, we assembled a series of forking pathways of script, with an expectation of a range of tangential responses.
The midst of the second Melbourne COVID-19 lockdown seemed as good a time as any to offer an experiment in the delivery of a speech. The form of the address affords the addressor the privilege of a platform; to advance views and pose questions, in the case of the PGH, about music in Australia, more narrowly art music in Australia, and the contexts that are favoured, or ignored in such a process. In other words, a bunch of assumptions and implications including the very idea that such a privilege is necessary,
especially as we experience the great reveal on human society that COVID-19 brings.
The work took the form of a series of parallel live conversations with a chatbot, with an idea of dissonance as an overriding frame. Dissonance is the result of vibrations of frequencies and ideas that sit awkwardly with each other: ideas and frequencies that are not expected to sit together, that provoke a response, that call into question fundamental assumptions about the way that things have been constructed. We are sitting deep in a time of dissonance: a time where inequality is revealed through
access to healthcare, shelter, and support.
Within a collection of thoughts around the future of creative music/sound making we also were imagining a new evenly-distributed horizon: a future of equality, a regime of equality rather than a regime of inequality (see, for example, Piketty 2020, p.3).
We have been working together as artists in sound for the past twenty-five years. We are experimental artists in sound. We make unusual situations for listening. It is humbling for us to have delivered a Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address at this extraordinary time, on land that was never ceded, and at a moment when the inequalities in this land and around the world have rarely been drawn so starkly.
This work has been created by Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey in collaboration with Mick Byrne. It remains online at www.howthingssoundmatters.space. The password is PGH@2020.
The accompanying screenshot shows some of the flavour of the resulting semi-intelligent dialogues. Larger view.