Collaboration: AgRP Improv
AgRP Improv: An Interactive Cover Project for Cell Magazine
A collaboration between an artist, composer, and neuroscientist created visual and sonic realizations from ultrasonic sound files for an interactive cover for CELL magazine based on the paper Functional Ontogeny of Hypothalamic AgRP Neurons in Neonatal Mouse Behaviors (First Author: Marcelo R. Zimmer, Corresponding Author: Marcelo O. Deitrich).
Three Cover Proposals: Cover A, Cover B, and Cover C.
The project was born out of a series of conversations between Marcelo, Matthew, and Dana. How could resolution be brought to something that was outside of human hearing? What would this look like? These were some of the questions that were addressed in the series of sonic and visual experiments explored by the artists.
Part I - Sound Improv
The sound composition, AgRP Improv, is a single-take recording, not unlike a DJ, of multiple analog synthesizers controlled only by frequency data derived from neonate vocalizations. From the ultrasonic recordings, the Dietrich Lab created a scatter plot from which we were able to isolate the discrete frequencies in the vocalizations. Through simple division by a factor of 400, we brought the frequencies down to the range of human hearing. Then we created a simple program in the object-oriented programming language Max/MSP to convert the frequency data from Hz to volts. Via a DC-coupled audio interface, this frequency data now in the form of 1V/Oct signal, I was able to control multiple analog synthesizers. The gestural shapes from the vocalizations could now be used to control voltage controlled oscillators (VCOs), voltage controlled filters (VCFs), voltage controlled amplifiers and mixers (VCAs), as well as trigger envelope generators (ADSR) and even tempo gates for drum synthesizers. The result, as can be seen from the performance video, may look like a bird’s nest of cables, but is an intuitive, creative performance environment for endless variation—all driven by frequency data from crying baby mice.
– Matthew Suttor
Part II - Visual Improv
The graphic methods used to build these images were further extended and refined in animation. Taking Matthew’s composition files and performance with the synthesizer, I worked with the graphics to create a short film, AgRP Improv Visual Sixteen, to express the world of communication between baby mouse for its mother.
– Dana Karwas
List of Collaborators: