An intercultural encounter

  • July 24, 2015
An intercultural encounter

Afrodita Nikolova takes part in an experimental collaboration involving poetry and live coding.

Slamming Street 01100110 provided an opportunity to push genre and media boundaries through working with text and human voice.

Afrodita Nikolova

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has performed at the first International Conference on Live Coding which is opening up new avenues for poetry and poetry performances.

Afrodita Nikolova, a poetry slam champion from Macedonia who is doing a PhD in Education, collaborated with Sam Aaron, a computer scientist and live coder who developed the popular Sonic Pi system, and Alan Blackwell, who is a Reader in Interdisciplinary Design at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, for the performance at the University of Leeds earlier in July.

The Slamming Street 01100110 session was an experimental performance collaboration involving poetry and live coding. The goal was "to explore the borderlands between computation and human experience; between media and algorithms; and between structures and interpretations as a creative intercultural encounter".

Using Linton Kwesi Johnson's dub poem 'Street 66' as a shared starting point, Sam, Afrodita and Alan worked together to understand their experiences as improvisers and boundary-crossers.  The poem was used to suggest resonances between 1970s Brixton and the Macedonia of today. "In the live coding context, the introduction of poetry performance raises challenging questions about the nature of text, and the experience of voice, when juxtaposed with sonic structures, sampled sound and processed media imagery," said the conference organisers.

The session involved Sam performing with Sonic Pi, the live coding environment that he has developed with support from Raspberry Pi Foundation, in a recent release augmented with support for live audio input to process Afrodita's voice. Alan performed with Palimpsest, a visual language that he has created for live algorithmic image transformation. Sam and Alan had previously collaborated on "The Humming Wires" to explore the ways in which live coding undermines considerations of copyright in mashup and homage. Afrodita says Slamming Street 01100110 provided "an opportunity to push genre and media boundaries through working with text and human voice".

Afrodita, whose PhD is developing a poetry performance programme for enabling positive identities in young people in a correctional facility, is the first Macedonian student awarded the Gates Cambridge scholarship. Sam, who performs constantly around the UK and internationally, is committed to helping young people understand the creative opportunities in computer science. Alan and Afrodita's participation in ICLC was funded by the Boeing Corporation, and Sam's research is funded by a donation from the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

*Picture of Linton Kwesi Johnson. Credit: "LKgrey" by http://www.flickr.com/photos/666ismocritico/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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