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 world.

Bertram Turetzky: Contrabass
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
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 performance.

Some Background
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 (see Notes 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 Qualia performance.

Some Critical Comments
Below are some comments on the performance, either received by email, or collected in person:
Griot output similar to that in the performance.
To the Griot System homepage
More theoretical background, including references, is on the Computational Narratology page.
Maintained by Joseph Goguen.