Generative arts on line with Apotome x CTM 2021


Khyam Allami’s »Apotome« was unveiled during CTM 2021. This web-based software environment was developed in collaboration with creative studio Counterpoint. Apotome was created as a tool to help counter the cultural asymmetry embedded in modern music-making tools, which share a bias inherited from Western music theory and culture. With this technological experiment in progress, the artists point towards more liberated, creative, inclusive, and culturally balanced music-making processes.
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Be prepared for a string of activities, including a public presentation, a panel discussion, and performances by Deena Abdelwahed, Enyang Ha, Faten Kanaan, Lucy Railton, Nene H, Slikback, Tot Onyx, Tyler Friedman, and Wahono.

Berlin’s CTM Festival supports an open, networked, mutually-collaborative, global music culture through its yearly 10-day festival as well as countless collaborative and research initiatives, co-commissions, concerts, and other constantly-evolving formats. The 20 year-old festival stands out for its conscious pairing of daring artistic content and adventurous club experiences with an in-depth discourse programme, framing today’s sounds and music cultures within a shifting, hybrid global society.

Apotome is a transcultural browser-based generative music system focused on using microtonal tuning systems and their subsets (scales/modes). Alongside its sister application, Leimma, which allows intuitive and immediate browser-based exploration of tunings, it is the final part in a trilogy of music-making tools that artist and researcher Khyam Allami has been developing in recent years.

Resulting from Allami’s current PhD research and his in-depth collaboration with Counterpoint, the creative studio run by Tero Parviainen and Samuel Diggins, these applications are an effort to highlight the cultural asymmetries and biases inherent in modern music-making tools, alongside their interconnected web of musical, educational, cultural, social, and political ramifications. They are an attempt to present decolonised music applications that allows music-makers from any culture to have the freedom of a musical tabula rasa (blank slate) and explore their individual creative ideas with modern tools, but without a specific end-result as a goal.

An experiment using the first application, Comma, was premiered by Allami at CTM 2019 and was accompanied by an article in the festival magazine titled »Microtonality and the Struggle for Fretlessness in the Digital Age« highlighting his personal, and various technical, histories, and the non-neutrality of music software.

Comma, Leimma, and Apotome, all take their names from ancient Greek terms used to describe specific microtonal intervals that result from various mathematical nuances associated with creating tuning systems. Although the historical writings on tuning systems go back to approx 1500 BC in China and approx 2500 BC in Mesopotamia, it is often Greek, i.e. Western, theorists who are given the credit for developing the core tuning systems and theories used today. The use of these terms as names represents Allami’s desire to reappropriate them, whilst advocating for a celebration of difference across cultures, ideas, methods, and sounds in music making.

For CTM 2021, Allami and Counterpoint will present Apotome in myriad forms. Throughout the festival Apotome will be autonomously generating audio-visual material based on algorithms curated by Allami, that can be seen and heard within CTM Cyberia, or through a dedicated website to be launched at the start of the festival. During this time, anyone, world-wide, will be able to sign-up for a predetermined time slot and have the chance »perform« Apotome by manipulating its parameters, whilst the result is broadcast live via both within CTM Cyberia and through the dedicated URL link.

People interested to experiment with the applications can find tutorials for both Leimma, and Apotome on the project’s website. Khyam Allami and Counterpoint are also available on the CTM Discord server –  #apotome channel – to connect, discuss, experiment together, and answer questions.

Artist takeovers by Deena Abdelwahed, Slikback and Wahono will be streamed as part of the CTM 2021 programme featuring new works created and performed in a single take using Apotome from their home studios in Toulouse, Kampala, and Jakarta respectively. These commissioned pieces are supported by the DAAD Artists-In-Berlin programme.

A live-streamed performance of Apotome will also take place during the festival, featuring Enyang Ha, Nene H, Tot Onyx, and Tyler Friedman on synthesisers, and Lucy Railton improvising on acoustic cello. This quintet of musicians will control the sonic rendering of Apotome’s generative output and react to it, whilst the generative composition is crafted in real time by Khyam Allami on-site in Berlin, and Faten Kanaan connecting remotely from her home studio in New York city.

A panel discussion on the extra-musical implications around Apotome will round out the project’s launch at CTM.