Sensible Environments

A sensible environment is a reactive algorithmic environment that is aware of both itself and interlopers through a real-world sensory feedback mechanism. The sensible environment models an ecosystem as a single large organism with constituent interdependent parts. Like a natural ecosystem, it reacts to disturbances and changes over time. It is sensible, in the sense of “having perception or awareness of something.” A sensible environment senses and reacts to the world at large, including itself. Since it monitors itself through a real-world pathway (not through internal monitoring of the program), it behaves like a natural system: chaotic, non-deterministic, adaptive, seeking its own equilibrium.

Central to the sensible environment is the concept of resonance. Resonance is embodied in the sensory feedback loops. It is also implicated in the hybridization of sounds, and in the blending of electroacoustic sound with that of musicians and viewers (through the use of resonance synthesis). These resonant systems are inherently unstable and tend to reproduce the chaotic behavior characteristic of natural systems.

A sensible environment is an autonomous, continuous installation which can accommodate viewers, participants, and passersby. It can also host performances in its space. In practical terms, this blurs the boundaries between installation and performance, since the continuous nature of the environment naturally erases the notions of beginning and end of any performance, and the spatial context erases the division between performer and viewer/participant. The listener is at minimum a passive participant, at best an active one, but never a pure observer, as is the conceit in traditional Western concert music. And the performer is a participant in the larger sound environment that extends beyond the music. The entire system (sensible environment plus performers and mobile viewers) functions like a single natural system.