Such a Byte of Love (Lovebytes Festival)

By Tom Flemming, 10 July 2000

Tom Flemming on Sheffield's Lovebytes Festival


Music is a strange thing: seemingly so immaterial, it touches us at the deepest material level — in the body. Ranging from the ambient, enveloping presence of everyday noise to silence’s sudden impact when the body is deprived of sound, sonic manifestations make for very physical thrills. Yet, comparing noise and music is like comparing an idea to the blink of an eye; hearing and making sense of what the ears hear are two entirely different things.

This year’s Lovebytes’s ‘Digital Originals’ has dived in at the digital end of this cognitive conundrum. During an ear- and eye-opening weekend in April, it invited a wide variety of musicians and artists to engage the audience with their sound bytes. Using the medium of sound, the festival took the familiar ‘digital’ notions of endless reproduction and inauthenticity, and pushed them up against the persistent artistic notions of ‘creation’ and originality. Obliquely, this took the festival to the heart of what musicians, and programmers, find themselves articulating.

Programming, the act of writing code, already implies a distinct process of decision making and aesthetic articulation. Yet the body of code itself is not visible, let alone tangible. Unless called up specifically, programming only becomes available through a programme, and the user interacting with it. Similarly, music generated byte by byte, played and replayed over and over, offers an interactive generative scenario. Although not unique (interaction, and highly specific phenomenological interaction at that, is part and parcel of the visual arts also) the festival brought this analogy home brilliantly.

I’m partial (having contributed to part of it), but Lovebytes have done a terrific thing. Try the CD with audio parts and music to find out how.

Tom Flemming <tom AT>