Computer Music Journal
Volume 38, Issue 3
Fall 2014

128 pages
ISSN 0148-9267
E-ISSN 1531-5169


The Map and the Flock: Emergence in Mapping with Swarm Algorithms

Article PDF (1.04 MB)

In mapping for computer music and interactive media, flocking algorithms represent a special case, offering dynamic, self-organized domain translations. In this article we attempt a classification of fundamental mapping relationships that can be established with the help of swarm simulations. By regarding flocks as systems of abstract entities, a number of models arise that deal with the reassignment of perceptual and semantic qualities to the simulated entities. These models represent basic mapping processes, but become domain-specific when used for music and interactive art. To illustrate these concepts, we outline a number of strategies that relate to musical practice, fostering an understanding of the role of swarm simulations in mapping. We show two artistic use cases where these concepts are applied in an exemplary manner. In the first artwork, swarms play a central role in the compositions presented in an audiovisual installation, and serve as an intermediate translation space between audience and artwork. In the second realization, swarms interact with dancers and together they control the visual and musical aspects of the piece. Both examples show how the emergent behavior of flocks can be mapped conceptually and can evoke natural phenomena, thus making the mapping relationships less predictable and more organic.

Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology Zurich University of the Arts Baslerstrasse 30 8048 Zürich, Switzerland.

© 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.