[ISEA2020] Paper: Michael Palumbo & Doug Van Nort — git show: Musical Creativity, Ideation, and GitHub


Keywords: Process, Agency, Distributed Creativity, Electroacoustic Music, Digital Musical Instrument Design, Git, Author Function, Repositories, Open Scholarship

This paper presents the underlying philosophy, design and initial implementation of a project which applies the distributed version control system git to a collective coding process oriented towards computer music composition and performance. The project, git show , is an open-source composition and instrument design experiment which re-assigns authorship to a different participant on a weekly basis. Each participant engages with previously committed recordings, scores, and versions of the instrument, and then presides over further development with total freedom. The rules and structure which constitute the weekly iterations of git show are modified with each passing session, done so relative to observations made about participant activity and emerging questions about the project, leading the principal investigator to consider git show as a meta-composition. We discuss the philosophical grounding of the project relative to the framework of distributed creativity, relating our process to the notion of lineages of creative technique between electroacoustic composers. By providing a means to interact with ideas across varying stages of development, we propose that git is well-suited to capture divergent and confluent traces of ideation between individuals and artefacts such as one might historically trace between composers with respect to the synthesis methods they employ.

  • Michael Palumbo (MA, BFA) is a musician, coder, and researcher, working in the Dispersion Lab and Alice Lab at York University (Toronto, Canada). His PhD research spans electro-acoustic music improvisation, distributed creativity, and version control systems. These interests are expressed through the projects “git show”, a digital musical instrument design and composition experiment for multiple concurrent composers, and “MischMasch” for collective modular synthesis patching in virtual reality. He regularly performs with a hardware modular synthesizer, and runs the monthly telematic concert series Exit Points.
  • Doug Van Nort is an artist, researcher, composer and improviser. His work is concerned with distributed agency and sensorial immersion in improvised performance contexts that are mediated by affective and visceral experiences of the sonic and haptic senses, and guided by the the complex and embodied nature of listening. Spanning from professional music to public installation contexts, he creates compositions and frameworks for improvisation that integrate machine agents, immersive environments, interactive systems and experiences of telepresence as conditions to explore the myriad ways that performers negotiate emergent, collective meaning outside of spoken language. Van Nort is currently Canada Research Chair in Digital Performance and an Associate Professor at York University (Toronto, Canada), cross-appointed between the departments of Computational Arts and Music. At York he has founded the DisPerSion (DIStributed PERformance and Sensorial immerSION) Lab, dedicated to explorations in distributed agency, improvisation and technologically-mediated performance.