Cartesian Birds

Audio-Visual Habitat














































Cartesian Birds are virtual organisms that dwell within computational platforms and the networks that connect them.  Their songs have been found to be imitative of those of Rene Descartes, and when perceived, are intimately linked to the visual aspect of their body and environment.  The tend to be found occur in flocks but may also be apprehended singularly.  Thanks to an extensive community of international enthusiasts, the number of documented sightings is on the increase and some of these have been captured in video or still photos (which make up for their lack of audio by showing the organisms within their natural state).















































Cartesian Birds is a stand-alone audio-visual installation in which program runs within a computer that broadcasts the results of a generative process in the form of behaviours both audible and visible.


The sound design consists of a stochastic mixture of bird-like sound synthesis using amplitude and frequency modulation this is at times vocoded with text adopted from several works by philosopher Rene Descartes. These texts are selections from Discourse on the Method and Meditations on First Philosophy. In these works, Descartes examines several topics, but of particular interest to me for this project was his concern with human nature, and by extension animal nature (further extended by my piece to include the nature of virtual organisms). Also utilized is the latin text (spoken by computer) of Descartes early Musicae Compendium, a music-theoretical text.


As the audio is being synthesized, it is simultaneously rendered visually as a constantly fluctuating graphical display created by mapping sound onto video pixels. The screen is divided into vertical or horizontal bands of colour that respond to frequency and amplitude parameters based on an analysis of the sounds produced. Another layer of sound analysis is more specifically attuned to the spoken texts, and renders fractal curves resembling fantastic birds on top of this fluctuating coloured ground.


The piece may be installed in any number of computers and allowed to run simultaneously. These may be collectively grouped together or spread throughout a space to create a jungle of sound, a Cartesian aviary. More examples of typical behavior of the birds can be found in these videos:
























see also

I Am Talking To You

Island in Natural Colours

Small Island in Ideal Colours 1898

Waterfall Effect

Fans of Beethoven

Holy Week