image courtesy of Roulette
On February 20 and 21, composer and multidisciplinary artist Joe Diebes (BOTCHWOW) will present oyster”, an experimental opera about the life and work of folk and blues archivist Alan Lomax. “oyster” explores Cantometrics, Lomax’s system of numerically analyzing and coding all forms of sung music, not only a precursor to the algorithms that guide Pandora, Spotify and other music services today, but also one of the earliest forms of big data collection in general. Embedded in this 1966-set performance are nascent hints at a culture careening towards the slicker algorithmizing of all facets of life. It also begs the question: how much can we really know of people and culture through computer profiling?