Code of Music - Anxiety of Machination (Concept)

The Anxiety Of Machination is an interactive installation piece and performance tool inspired by the track “Intro” by the experimental hiphop group clipping.

Installation Overview

The installation features a small space, roughly 10’ by 10’ square in the center of the stage or a gallery space. The space is delineated with glass walls and is filled with industrial machinery - gears, floor levers, steam pipes, etc. The participant enters and can freely play with the machinery, adjusting the levers, spinning gears, and so on. The different pieces of machinery control different elements of sound, some primarily through the physical vibrations created by the machine pieces rubbing or clanking, but others may trigger changes to audio being played by a computer-controlled speaker system. The participant can control the tempo, abrasiveness of the background instrumental, internal rhythm of the computer-generated hip-hop vocal part, and can also choose to trigger the breakdown/self-destruct sequence which will end the piece. However, aside from this self-destruct mechanism there is no way for the participant to actually calm or slow the musical tension being built; like a runaway train the participant’s choices are limited to various stylistic adjustments within the larger narrative arc of rising tension followed by (destructive) release.

This piece aims to explore the relationship between human and machine; the anxiety produced by their interaction and the power dynamics between them.

Typography slide

Typography slide

Sound Elements and Control Detail

Note all controls should require moderate to significant physical effort to move (reminiscent of rusted controls)

There are three primary musical elements:

  1. miscellaneous machine sounds (clanks and clunks)
    • These sounds are generally lower in register and roughly percussive in nature.
    • Some machines are continuously producing sounds at a low level. The intensity and rhythm is adjustable through levers and control panels.
  2. a harsh pitched drone.
    • This drone is triggered by the pressing of a button prominently labeled “Start.” The participant is free to reject the decision to press this button. This could represent a rejection of participation in mechanical life.
    • Once the “Start” button has been pushed, there is no way to turn the drone off.
    • A hand crank adjusts the pitch and harmonic levels (timbre) of the drone sound. All the settings are more or less unpleasant.
  3. computer generated rap vocalization
    • The vocalization is triggered automatically a few seconds after the “Start” button has been pushed by the participant.
    • A floor lever with multiple positions adjusts the rhythmic pattern of the vocalization delivery.
    • The text of the vocalization is synthesized from typewriters stationed outside of the glass walls. Additional participants are able to type into the typewriter and hear snippets of their input vocalized by the computer.
  4. breakdown
    • The participant can press a button prominently labeled “Emergency Stop”.
    • This triggers the “self destruct” of many of the mechanical components and the silencing of the vocalization.)
    • The self destruct sounds should be intense, chaotic, full-audio spectrum sounds that last for thirty seconds or less.
    • After the thirty seconds a quiet, high pitched exhaust hiss sound should be heard, lasting for a few minutes before gradually fading out.


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