REACH 4/4 : The Return of the Horse Lords

The artistic residency blog

On June 16, as part of the ManiFeste-2023 Festival, the rock band Horse Lords opened the Reaching OUT! concert, sharing the stage, just as Joëlle Léandre did in the second half, with the Who/Men - in other words, the Reach project's talented team, responsible for developing and using the interactive AI Somax2 in this production. An avant-garde rock band from Baltimore, Horse Lords are at the crossroads of krautrock, post-punk, Appalachian, and African musical traditions, blending polyrhythms and electronics. Their residency at Ircam may have been shorter than that of the French double bassist, but it proved a learning experience for all parties. Here are the on-the-spot feelings of the four "Lords of the Horse", captured in the heat of the moment, just before the concert.

Gérard Assayag, what do the Horse Lords’ observations inspire in you?

Gérard Assayag : Horse Lords represents an important evolution in the American music scene, with a unique alchemy that blends the power of rock, the secrets of untempered pitches and polyrhythms, and the contemporary culture of electronic music within an articulate poetic and political vision. Their insights are invaluable to us. What's interesting in what they have to say is their acceptance of an unusual poetic universe arising from the reactions of the machine informed by the Reach project's algorithms such as Somax2, and their discovery that we could also operate them ourselves like musicians operate their instruments, leaving them totally free in their musical initiatives. In this sense, we can say that the graft was successful, allowing the "Who/Men" (the musician-researchers from the Reach project) and the Somax2 software to interact with them on stage during the concert - much to the delight of the audience.

Interview Owen Gardner - Horse-Lords (guitar) and Max Eilbacher - Horse-Lords (bass/electronics) from Popmyfilm on Vimeo

What did the Musical Representations team learn from this collaboration?

Gérard Assayag : Apart from a unique and much earlier experience with the Omax software (ancestor of today's software) and the Aka Moon group (at the Centre Pompidou, even then!), we had never before used the Reach project's co-creative software in a non-idiomatic setting with a group. I had no idea how this would turn out, because unlike free improvisation, it's very complicated to insert the flows generated by AI programs into the relentless metrics of a rock band, without undermining it or being out of place.When the Horse Lords arrived at Ircam for this residency, we had not made up our minds whether or not to use generative electronic interaction for the concert. The studio sessions dispelled all our respective misgivings. We very quickly found a common language, which was made possible, on the one hand, by the stylistic versatility of the group - from rock to contemporary music - and, on the other hand, by the power and responsiveness of Somax2, which made it possible for the musicians to be immediately involved in co-improvisation. The main lesson here is that, in addition to the talent and open-mindedness of the musicians, the keys to the success of this kind of experiment include the "agnostic" nature of the software (it makes no a priori assumptions about the style of the musicians it will be confronted with), its speed of intervention (no lengthy preparation is required before the performance), and its easily controllable expressivity. This cocktail resulted in a Horse Lords concert that will go down in history!

Interview Andrew Bernstein Horse-Lords (saxophone/percussion) et Sam Haberman Horse-Lords (drums) from Popmyfilm on Vimeo.