Flock Music

June, 2013

The question of what the group is is vexing. It is hard to conceive of its proper functioning. We seem to constantly be wondering if we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.

I started to imagine we are doing something like flocking, herding or schooling (like birds, cattle, or fish). We are moving together in a way that accounts for the dynamic cohesion of “partial” beings (part-objects, objects-in-relation). Each participant is moving from a different location, in a unique direction, and at its own speed. We do that being aware of the other participants, so that the aggregate coheres, forms a larger body that can be said to also have a group (average) location, direction, speed.

This project follows from a meditation on collective action occasioned by participation in a "dialogue group." It is software that uses flocking algorithms as the basis for the composition of soundscapes. The sounds are produced through the interactions of individual "boids" as they follow and cohere with their own flock, avoid other boids and flocks, and stake out teritories within a virtual space. This navigation of a socialized virtual space seems to track the cacophanies of the social space we navigate within moderately scaled discursive communities.

The bearing of the flock, it’s shape even, shifts over time as individuals and subgroups diverge from the mean and take the whole in new directions. This is “the line of flight”—the escape from consistency, from stasis—that is the joy of moving in the group. In some sense it is the movement of the group.

What the group calls for is an attention that is split between an accounting for the whole in its current state, and a seeking after tangents, cracks, diversions, and escapes. These are not necessarily non sequiturs, they are usually proximate to the current state of the group, the topic under consideration, the last few remarks. Movement can be towards the logical next steps, but at best, they are unexpected moves—attaching at a strange oblique, and careening in a surprising direction.