Underlying Structure

The literary or vocal content  of Heartbreak Hotel (Coeurs-Brises) is almost totally fashioned using computer programs. Two free text generators one for English (Janus) and one for French (Corvophraseur) were downloaded from the internet.  

Two different voice synthesizers were used Mbrola for the French and Vocalwriter for the English. Both were found and downloaded from the internet.  One of the interesting aspects of the Vocalwriter software is its ability to use synthesized instruments for voice generation. This locates the characters in a cartoon game media format rather than a mimetic natural voice presentation.  On the French side Peter designed a special program to pitch track the output of the voice synthesizer and tag the resultant notes to midi synthesized instruments.   On the English side Peter fashioned a midi recorder that reads the inflections in a human voice and turns these into midi notes. The process is one of transposition or notation rather than simple recording.

Listen to some voices

The underlying structure of Heartbreak is that of a database where thephrases each character speaks are stored. They are tagged and quantified so that a pattern matching search by our Max program will trigger appropriate conversations between characters depending on the above mentioned variables (The number of characters present in a group, the gender of the characters in a group, the physical distance between the members of a group, the subject and/or mood of the preceding text)


Our work can be viewed as true hypermedia that traces it's theoretical underpinnings to Guy Debord and Antonin Artaud. Guy Debord and the Situationistes extended a premise first presented by Antonin Artaud in his book , Le Theatre et Son Double.  Artaud confronts the structure of theatre.

He proposes to break the  proscenium arch and the idea that theater is a representation of life.  Debord broke apart the structure of theater into a performance in which electronic media is the vehicle and the audience, creates the piece both in the street and in their homes via television.

Our work extends this idea into digital media.  There is no linear narrative.   There is no fixed beginning or end to the piece.  Indeed, the accessors (the audience) of the work creates the structure by manipulating the characters.  The text is generated by a computer program. We, the artists write the dictionaries.  In this sense there is a symbiotic relationship with the machines. Indeed, we may say that the machines in some sense are the co-creators of the work.

The central aspect of this piece is the idea of *rendering* in real time. This is the main difference between digital art and art from previous periods.  In this way there is no discreet object nor a fixed score nor a theater script. The voices are not pre-recorded and then played back, they are generated, they are rendered in real time.

One might ask, "But isn't this just the post-modernist idea of simulation?" The answer is no. This is because simulation functions on the notion of exact reproduction of reality.  However in order to do this, the reality reproduced must be a very small slice of reality.  A realistic painting of a bowl of fruit may be called a "simulation" of a bowl of fruit.  The hunger of the person looking at the bowl is omitted from the simulation.  

The spatialization is obtained using "Holospat" which we have specially adapted to this piece. Holospat creates a convincing virtual environment using physical spatialization (amplitude) combined with psycho-acoustiquetechniques (equalization and effects).

The interface uses a video camera, situated underneath the glass table, combined with Bigeye (STEIM) software to send the varying positions (XY values) of the objects present to the spatializer. The  camera recognizes differently colored and sized dots fixed to the bases of the figures on the table.