Entangled

2017 • 90 minutes • Two Mezzo-soprano, two percussion, bass clarinet, physicist (Text by Adam Cowart)

Entangled is an immersive and intermedial (music/sound/theatre/video/physics lecture) performance that explores how the contemporary phenomenon of algorithmic programming is having a profound effect on our society.

 

The project began development in 2014 and continued to develop in the direction of rich and mysterious patterns of relationships in physics, in the more recognizable world of business and, in the most recent version, Hans Christian Andersen’s fable of the Little Mermaid.

 

Entangled brings together musicians, theatre artists and a theoretical physicist in a creative dialogue with workers in an industry that is transforming the industrial, cultural and virtual landscapes that surround us. Our goal is not just to create great theatre and music, but to bring authentic voices from other sectors: our scriptwriter, Adam Cowart, brings first-hand experience of the corporate business world; our physicist, Lin-Qing Chen, is a Ph.D. candidate at Waterloo’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, specializing in one of its most adventurous branches, quantum gravity.

 

The performance is structured as a theoretical physics lecture that sets off a series of other ideas and events expressed in music, narrative, physical scores, digital scenography, and acoustic mapping. The audience members are fitted with identical ‘open’ headphones, which allows for both hearing acoustic sound and material introduced through a local FM broadcast. This material, which ranges from music to simultaneous translation to whispering, provides three-dimensional listening for the audience, supporting a highly entangled, immersive experience of the performance.

 

Presented as part of Kitchener’s IMPACT ’17 Festival in 2017, ENTANGLED is the third incarnation of an immersive and intermedial (music/sound/theatre, projection). Its first two incarnations, under the title ALGORITHMYTH, took place at the. University of Waterloo’s Quantum-Nano Centre in 2014 and 2015.

 

Background

 

An algorithm is a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem solving operations, especially by a computer. This definition begs many questions, including: who invents the rules? how are these sets of rules “followed?” This project started as an attempt to generate conversation and understanding about how the contemporary phenomenon of algorithmic programming is having a profound effect on our society, and how this phenomenon can be seen to have deep, historical or “mythic” patterns in human behaviour and cultures.  The project not only explored what happens when algorithms are driven by very strong mythic forces, including the imperatives of neo-liberal capitalism but also how they are also incredibly powerful tools available to us and used in all kinds of positive ways. For instance, using random variables but following specific directions, they were used as tools to generate musical material, much the same way a fugue or sonata form might be used.  

 

According to quantum physics, “entanglement” refers to particles that become permanently dependent on each other’s properties, even at impossible distances, or what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” The layering of this relational concept with algorithmic programming became the central focus for ENTANGLED, and as such, we began to consider the paradox of our social worlds becoming increasingly intertwined with that of algorithmic methods which mediate our everyday lives: from stock market high frequency trading to Amazon purchases, and from Netflix film and television viewing to online dating. ENTANGLED is a story about relationships - person to person, person to system, formula to algorithm. It is a story about intimacy -we shape and are shaped by the algorithms at the heart of so many systems and the effects of this shaping are from impossibly far away. One experimental aspect of the piece involves all performers and audience members wearing “open” headphones.  These headphones, which give us all a slightly cyborgian appearance, allow for sounds to occur in very intimate ways while also allowing us to continue to hear the outside acoustic world.

 

ENTANGLED joins emerging artists in our region with mid-career artists who work across the country and internationally; it brings together musicians, physicists, mathematicians and theatre artists in a creative dialogue with workers in an industry that is transforming the industrial, cultural and virtual landscapes that surround us

 

Cast and Crew:

Text by: Adam Cowart

Music/Sound by: Peter Hatch

Physics by: Lin-Qing Chen, Aida Ahmadzadegan

 

Directed by: Andy Houston: Continuum (Dramaturg, Co-Director )

Paul Cegys: Space (Scenography, Video Design, Co-Director)

Peter Hatch: Time (Music/Sound, Co-Director)

 

Colin Labadie: Sound

Andrew O’Connor: Sound/FM Broadcast Design

Kaylee Lock-O'Connor: Video, Installation and Promotional Design

 

Performed by:

Pam Patel - soprano/actor

Bó Bárdos - mezzo-soprano/actor

Dan Morphy - percussion/actor

Richard Burrows - percussion/actor

Kathryn Ladano - bass clarinet/actor

Lin-Qing Chen, Aida Ahmadzadegan – physics lecture

Chelsea Vanoverbeke: Scenography