CalIT2 Griot Performance
The following is the text for the program notes for a performance
celebrating the opening of the UCSD CalIT2 research center, 28 October 2005.
After that, some details of a more technical character are given.
The Griot Sings Haibun
Everyday moments are deeply filled with sad, tender beauty. We are blessed
with sea-cliffs over the night ocean, comfortable conflicted people, animals,
purchases. The storyteller, musician, poet invokes brass, wood, steel,
silicon to sing tales of present being.
A griot is a revered storyteller in many parts of the African Diaspora.
Tonight one tells a strange tale, "The Griot Sings Haibun," an improvised
performance of music, poetry, image, and computation. Live musicians fuel
collective improvisation with Griot, a cybernetic system on which a human
"plays" an ever-changing polypoem, an interactive multimedia polymorphic
narrative poem. The core of Griot is a novel algorithm to generate new
metaphors by blending, based on recent research in cognitive linguistics,
computer science, and semiotics. A polypoem is not the output of a single
Griot execution, but the space of possible poems and/or the code that makes
them. Tonight Griot generates (neo)haibun: combined narrative prose and
haiku-like poetry of everyday experience, influenced by Basho, and the
traditions of beat poetry and African call-and-response; tonight our
collective griot sings qualia, the qualitative feel of this human life
Links to a poster for the whole
concert, to a photo of
participants in the concert (plus some family), and to some polypoem output similar to that produced in the
David Borgo: Saxophones and flutes
- Ryoko Amadee Goguen: Piano
- Joseph Goguen: Poetry performance, "The
Griot Sings Haibun" polypoem
- D. Fox Harrell: Griot operation,
"The Griot Sings Haibun" polypoem
The performance consisted of five main segments, each with graphics and
words generated using Griot, with improvised music from a free jazz trio.
The content is derived from conceptual spaces that describe qualia, the
states of mind of the poet at 4 precise moments (each moment a "quale"),
plus background context spaces, mainly of a Buddhist character. The
original neo-haibun in which these qualia are described is November
Qualia, by Joseph Goguen. Here is the Griot source code for the
spaces and structures involved in the first poem in the squence.
Some System Details
Griot is a computer program designed and written by Fox Harrell in joint work with
Joseph Goguen. Its purpose is to generate interactive multimedia events,
and its main component is a novel algorithm called Alloy, which generates
new metaphors by blending, based on recent research in cognitive
linguistics, computer science, narratology, and semiotics; in particular,
it uses the
algebraic semiotics formalization of the cognitive linguistics theory
of metaphor construction, and more generally, of conceptual space
integration, also called "blending" (see Foundations for Active Multimedia Narrative: Semiotic
spaces and structural blending for details). This formalization
uses the semiotic spaces of algebraic
semiotics rather than the mental spaces developed by Fauconnier
for cognitive linguistics, because we need the greater generality of n-ary
relations, structure construcing functions, types, and axioms, for
integration at the syntactic and discourse levels; we also needed the
greater rigor in order to build computer algorithms.
Our initial experiments have used Griot to produce "polypoems," an
entirely new art form, consisting of very large families of poems having a
common theme but varying structure and varying content, using novel
metaphors; typical elements of two polypoems can be found on the Griot System
Homepage. The first uses Labov's structural theory of narrative
on Narrative) at the discourse level, but there are many other
possibilities, e.g., haibun, as described above, which is most famously
used in Basho's great Oku no Hosomichi, as well as in our November
Some Critical Comments
Below are some comments on the performance, either received by email, or
collected in person:
- Momilani Ramstrum, a composer whose piece was on the same program, said
the performance was "great" and that its ending was "sublime".
- Jon Philips, a recent UCSD graduate in visual arts, in an email said it
was "absolutely amazing," "truly inspiring," and "So incredible".
- One computer science professor, found it "interesting" and "good," but
added that his wife, who works for KPBS, really loved it, and wants to
arrange an interview with us, and to publicize future events.
- Doug Turnbull, a computer science grad student, said he "couldn't
understand it" because he "had nothing to compare it with," as he was about
to leave for a rock show with his wife.
- Two other computer science professors told me that they heard it was
exciting and/or interesting and wanted to know about future performances.
- A senior researcher at CalIT2 said it "was a great show" and that
"Ryoko was amazing."
- A music grad student (CSEP) found the show "deeply moving" and said that
he cried a bit, and wanted very much to see it again. Another music grad
student (composition) said "the vocalist in that group was weird."
- In the halls just after the show, I also heard the following:
"confusing"; "brilliant"; "avant garde"; and "truly something new, not just a
- Joseph wrote to a friend that "I never in my life expected to find myself
in front of 200 people, shouting post-beat haibun into a mic, with a wild
free jazz trio and a huge high-res screen behind me - but I must admit, I
enjoyed it so much that I want to do it again!"
To Griot output similar to that in the
To the Griot
More theoretical background, including references, is on the Computational Narratology page.
Maintained by Joseph Goguen.