Can you convince your computer you’re human? From 1998 to 2014, humans attempted to convince MrMind, a chatbot designed by artist Peggy Weil, that they were human. The Blurring Test is Weil’s play on The Turing Test, a philosophical measure of machine progress. The Blurring Test interrogates human progress: How do we convince ourselves, and each other, that we are human? These global conversations about the evolving boundary between humans and machines form a chorus of voices proclaiming our sense of self during an era of technological transition.
Varispeed are well known for the reinterpretations of seldom-performed avant-garde classics such as Ashley’s Perfect Lives, Cage’s Empty Words, and Gaburo’s Maledetto, but this piece marks the first time the group’s five composer/performers have collectively created a piece’s musical materials from the ground up. The Blurring Test is scored for five voices, a range of instruments, and electronics and realized through a variety of styles that draw on contemporary opera, art song, folk song, improvisation, electronic music, and drone music. The range of styles reflects the breadth of MrMind’s conversation.
Peggy Weil is a multi-disciplinary artist whose works explore our changing physical, digital and sociopolitical landscapes. Her work has been exhibited internationally including CURRENT:LA Water in Los Angeles; The Climate Museum in NYC, MMOMA in Moscow, LABoral in Spain, The Philbrook Museum of Art; Colby Museum of Art, Samek Art Museum. 88 Cores was featured at the United Nations for the Secretary General’s address on Climate Action in 2018. 3D Wallpaper was on view as part of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibit, 3D: Double Vision.
Varispeed is a collective of composer-performers that creates site-specific, sometimes-participatory, oftentimes-durational, forevermore-experimental events. Founded by Aliza Simons, Dave Ruder, Paul Pinto, Brian McCorkle, and Gelsey Bell, Varispeed came together in June 2011 to perform Perfect Lives Brooklyn, a 12-hour celebration of Robert Ashley’s landmark opera. Subsequently, they have performed Perfect Lives in new site-specific arrangements in Manhattan (2011), The Catskills (2013), Pittsburgh (2014), and Jersey City (2015). In 2012, Varispeed presented their second full scale project, an overnight arrangement of John Cage’s Empty Words, which was performed at Roulette, Exapno, and across the Brooklyn Bridge. In 2013, Varispeed created an arrangement of Arthur Jarvinen’s Adult Party Games, a collection of conceptual scores, during a residency at Mount Tremper Arts. Varispeed have twice performed a their arrangement of Kenneth Gaburo’s Lingua II: Maledetto. Since 2011, the members of Varispeed have delved deeply into the work of Robert Ashley, performing not only Perfect Lives but appearing in productions of Crash (Whitney Biennial, 2014) That Morning Thing (The Kitchen, 2011), and Improvement (The Kitchen 2019), among others. In 2020, they released their debut album on Gold Bolus Recordings, selections from Empty Words.
Gelsey Bell is a Brooklyn-based singer, songwriter, and scholar. She is a core member of thingNY, Varispeed, and the Chutneys. Her soundwalk Cairns, created with Joseph White, is ongoing at Green-Wood Cemetery. She is currently a resident artist at the HERE Arts Center where she is developing the opera mɔːnɪŋ; is continuing to tour Skylighght, created with Erin Rogers; and has recently returned from Japan where she premiered shuffleyamamba: Yamamba as a Bear, created with Yasuko Yokoshi. www.gelseybell.com
Brian McCorkle is a composer, performer, and digital artist. McCorkle co-Director-ed the Panoply Performance Laboratory (PPL) for over a decade, making and producing original operas while fostering the work of artists in New York City. Performing regularly as a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist across genres, McCorkle’s current interests are software engineering and applied mathematics, pursuing a degree in the subject at University at Albany while remaining active as a performer of Robert Ashley, Gelsey Bell, and original compositions.
Composer Paul Pinto creates, performs and produces experimental music and theatrical works, primarily focused innovative and engaging new form of opera-theater that fuse the musicality of American speech, poetry, classical music, extended vocal techniques and electronic sound art. He is a founding member of the acclaimed collectives Varispeed and thingNY, and his music has been performed across the U.S. and internationally with and by ensembles, performers and presenters around the world.
Dave Ruder (he/him) is a musician based in Brooklyn. Over the years he has worked as a vocalist, clarinetist, guitarist, composer/songwriter, electronic musician, etc. Much of Dave’s work is done collaboratively as a member of the groups Varispeed, thingNY, and Thee Reps. He has also released numerous solo albums in different styles on Gold Bolus Recordings, a label he started and runs. His most recent release was not Great, an album of ten chamber pop-ish songs.
Aliza Simons works as a performer, multi-instrumentalist, and ceramic artist. A founding member of acclaimed composer-performer collective Varispeed, performance highlights include Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives, Crash, That Morning Thing, John Cage’s Empty Words, Cough Button’s To Scale. She also designs and creates a line of functional ceramics under the name Henry Street Studio.