Hard Data

Creative Work
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Description (in English): 

Hard Data is a data-mining, sonification, and visualization project by R. Luke DuBois that uses statistics from the American military actions in Iraq as source material for a series of audiovisual compositions. Using Xenakis' understanding of formalized music as a starting point, the composer uses a variety of statistical data ranging from the visceral (civilian deaths, geospatial renderings of military actions) to the mundane (fiscal year budgets for the war) to generate a series of abstract audiovisual compositions with short accompanying texts citing and explaining the information sources. The intention of the series is twofold: one, to recontextualize the formal stochastic music in the context of real-world statistics, and two, to provide a compositional and metaphoric framework for creating an electroacoustic music relevant and significant to our time. Presented as an online, open-source work, viewers are invited to download the data set and source material for the piece and create their own interpretations.

Hard Data is a project that began as an interactive website and grew into a string quartet in six movements, commissioned by New American Radio and Performing Arts through their turbulence.org website. The online work and the subsequent string quartet performances and recording were funded with support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and produced by the ISSUE Project Room and the PACE Digital Gallery.

The idea behind the work was to create an open-source “information score” of the U.S.- led war in Iraq, taking economic, social (including casualty), political, and cultural statistics from both Iraq and the United States over the course of the war and placing them on a timeline. This timeline would then be published in a format that artists and composers could use to make new works. Along the way, I agreed to make my own sample “mapping” of the data, which became the website. By the time the website premiered in early 2009, I was asked to create another realization, this time for the MIVOS string quartet as part of the Darmstadt music festival at the ISSUE Project Room.

The string quartet version focuses on the casualty statistics of Americans and Iraqis involved or caught up in the conflict, and “sonifies” the data stream in six movements, compressing the six years of war into twenty-five minutes of musical time.

As the essay I wrote for program outlines, the Iraq war is a conflict in which most Americans have more data than knowledge. The piece uses this data to create a musical meditation on loss, drawing musical influences both from Western composers who have written in times of war and from the current Iraqi national anthem.

(Source: Author's Website)

Technical notes: 

Computer loaded with kioskware

Screen shots: 
Hard Data (screen shot)
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Record posted by: 
Alvaro Seica