When I state that God is an algorithm, I mean it in the most literal way

By Alex Mazey

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I’ve been gradually making my way through ‘Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World’ – Naomi Klein’s memoir of sorts, published last year where Klein explores the phenomenon of being confused with Naomi Wolf, another prominent author with very different political views to her own. It’s an interesting coincidence that Klein’s book coincided with the release of your track, ‘You Are The Doppelganger’. It’s clever how the title of the track subverts our expectations in regards to the idea of the doppelganger where it’s difficult to imagine ourselves as the copy – rather than the original. That being said, having listened to You Are The Doppelganger, I immediately wanted to ask Alfredo Violante Widmer about the significance of doppelganger’s in the culture right now and how that phenomenon of the double relates to the track.

Alfredo Violante Widmer: I like to hide primal emotions under complex cultural and technological layers. In our fictional culture, from Dorian Gray to movies like Vertigo, Enemy and Fight Club, we tend to identify with one character, and the other is the doppelganger. In my composition, the title points directly at you. You are the doppelganger, the copy, the double, the enemy. It’s a scary proposition and almost impossible to conceive. How can we not be the singularity? And what about technological singularity? From the point of view of the Matrix, Neo is just a battery. The last question is challenging. What do my titles have to do with my music? Well, let’s try. Composing music triggers visions and emotions. So, I craft titles that create curiosity. I then go deeper into the story with my videos. ‘You Are The Doppelganger’ is made of avant-garde scales mirroring each other. It has something eerie and kind of kaleidoscopic about it. When I read Naomi Klein’s book, I put the two together. 

It may be the case that we are getting even more Baudrillardian as we pass from a question concerning doppelgangers to a question concerning artificial intelligence but it is perhaps more appropriate to ask whether or not ‘God Is An Algorithm’ is the culmination of another Isaac Asimov influence? The track has been described as ‘composed and produced with AI tools, resulting from research into cultural juxtapositions and postmodernism.’ As such, I found the artwork for the YouTube upload of that track particularly humorous, dripping with a kind of postmodern sardonicism, as I think anyone who has used AI generative art will be familiar with just how bad these AI models are at producing human hands – despite their otherwise impressive capabilities. As an artist whose gaze is forever transfixed on the future of art and music, I wondered how you’ve found implementing these AI tools into the process of music production.

Alfredo Violante Widmer: When I state that God is an algorithm, I mean it in the most literal way. We can’t find matter at a subatomic level. We might live in a mathematical universe projecting a sophisticated 3D reality. I love the cover of ‘God Is An Algorithm’ because, in quantum chaos, even a world of malformed hands, it’s conceivable. I am surprised you missed the reference to the hot dog hands in ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once‘, which is the worst and best movie I have ever seen. For the production, I used a plugin called Motif. I didn’t want to make a track that demonstrated how AI can clone and reshuffle audio that is beneath us as humans. Motif just creates beautiful melodies and not in an obvious genre-related style. It’s like a raw AI beating me in composing. In reality, I used only seventy per cent of its work and restructured all the arrangements. But there are still some weird melodic changes that I couldn’t even think of. Again, I am more attracted by basic instruments because they go beyond contemporary trends and push your creativity. One of my favourite sci-fi movies is ‘Computer Chess‘, a quirky, black-and-white mockumentary set in the early 1980s, chronicling a weekend chess tournament where programmers compete to create the best chess-playing software. The movie explores the emerging relationship between humans and artificial intelligence.

Obviously these two previous questions are merely cover for me to ask about ‘I Am Feeling Super’ which works as a kind of anticipatory for a synthpop renaissance, perhaps? This track also put me in mind of those cultural juxtapositions prevalent to the postmodern scene where your superhero rat protagonist intermingled with synthpop is not a far cry from what we might expect to see from the next Marvel movie. As a side note to that then, it’s strangely entertaining to watch Disney attempt this bridging of sorts between the contemporary age and the bygone world those super heroes once belonged to. More often than not that bridging involves taking a soundtrack from the past – although I have a theory that the 80s renaissance that was everywhere a few years back, often attributed to Stranger Things and the like, was actually triggered by Guardians of the Galaxy, a few years prior – although I suspect something else was in the water long before that. Do you suspect, once the Y2K aesthetic blows over, we’ll circle back to the 80s – although I suspect it will be a profoundly hyperreal aesthetic the second time around? I’m predicting cyberpunk this time – I mean – after all – the 80s is the world of Neuromancer, Blade Runner and the (hyper)eschatology of Akira? In many ways, aren’t we already steeped in the cyberpunk aesthetic? Perhaps I’ve travelled a bit too far from your initial intentions with a track like ‘I Am Feeling Super,’ but I’m beginning to wonder if this act of ‘provoking the listener’ has always been Alfredo Violante Widmer’s way of operating.

Alfredo Violante Widmer: What defines an era in electronic music is always and only the drum beats. Seventies electronica Tangerine Dreams, Kraftwerk and Jean-Michel Jarre, for example, sound as classic and contemporary as ever; only the drum beats have aged. The same can be said of the eighties and the nineties. ‘I Am Feeling Super’ borrows all the melodic lines from the eighties. However, the beat is a Bossanova structure; the sounds are all FM synthesis. I agree with the paranoia of Blade Runner, which we re-encounter in the nineties with Matrix. But in this case the eighties connection is much simpler. The baseline landed itself as a great sequencer. And at that point, I built on that eighties spirit. The title and the visuals instead are our present state of affairs. I take for granted that my fans understand and follow my narrative and subtexts. Time does not exist, we were never born or dead, and technology will wrap the universe around itself, as beautifully described (sorry for mentioning it again) in Asimov’s short story ‘The Last Question’. ‘I Am Feeling Super’ is where we are now; AI is entering our lives through cute personalised avatars. That, to me, is much more interesting than ChatGPT because it is cultural and plays with who we are and how we are seen. And, of course, the superhero mouse always feels super, unlike us, hiding behind our avatars. 

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