Video Premiere: Andrew Janss Performs Vivian Fung’s Humanoid

Today’s premiere features Andrew Janss performing Vivian Fung’s Humanoid for cello and electronics in a video created by filmmakers Tristan Cook and Zac Nicholson.

Here’s what Andrew had to say about the video for Humanoid:

Humanoid, described by the composer as a “song and dance of technology and cello,” gives us a chance to step back and examine the act of creating art through an artificial lens. As unusual as the piece’s digital track can sound to the human ear, it is no doubt far less strange than how the human element of this piece would seem to a primitive Artificial Intelligence attempting to decipher what it is capturing with the tools available to it.

The AI’s examination (carried out by the camera itself) is depicted by indifferent white frames and employs facial and object recognition software in an attempt to identify and contextualize what it is observing (note: the descriptive labels in these frames were generated using 2019 Amazon Web Services open-source image Rekognition software, including its explicit-content Image Moderation filters. The filmmakers uploaded each white frame individually to be analyzed by the AWS algorithm.) Under the weight of attempting to reverse engineer and make sense of what we know as performed art, its CPU eventually overloads and crashes in a fit of incomprehension.

About Vivian Fung

JUNO Award-winning composer Vivian Fung has a unique talent for combining idiosyncratic textures and styles into large-scale works, reflecting her multicultural background. NPR calls her “one of today’s most eclectic composers.” Highlights of Fung’s 2019–2020 season included the UK premiere of Birdsong, performed by violinist Midori in London, DC, and NYC; world premiere performances of a new trumpet concerto with trumpeter Mary Elizabeth Bowden; performances of Dust Devils by The Philadelphia Orchestra led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra led by Peter Oundjian; Fanfare with the Florida Orchestra, Aqua by the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal under conductor James Gaffigan; and Earworms with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra led by Bramwell Tovey. Fung is at work on new works commissioned by the Standing Wave Ensemble in Vancouver and the L’arc Trio in San Francisco.

With a deep interest in exploring different cultures, Fung has traveled to Cambodia, Southwest China, North Vietnam, Spain, and Bali to connect with her roots and collect research for her compositions. Passionate about fostering the talent of the next generation, she mentors young composers in programs at the American Composers Forum, San Francisco Contemporary Chamber Players, London Symphony Orchestra, and Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. Born in Edmonton, Canada, Fung received her doctorate from The Juilliard School. She currently lives in California and is on the faculty of Santa Clara University.

About Andrew Janss

Hailed by The New York Times for his “muscularity and shimmering lyricism”, “insightful musicianship”, and “sumptuous elegance”, cellist Andrew Janss’ performances have been enjoyed across five continents in venues including Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, The Sydney Opera House, and the Louvre. Mr. Janss has collaborated in concert with Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Lynn Harrell, Leon Fleisher, and Richard Goode, as well as chart-topping performers such as Bruce Springsteen, Lana Del Rey, Mary J. Blige, Florence + the Machine, Erykah Badu, and The Roots. 

Mr. Janss was previously the founding cellist of the Escher Quartet, with whom he was in residence at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center as part of Chamber Music Society Two. He has served as Guest Principal Cellist of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and tours with the band Break of Reality, recently to Eastern and Central Asia, Montenegro, Haiti, and Brazil.

About Tristan Cook

Whether conceptual film, documentary or live concert, the work of director Tristan Cook examines systems of human expression at the intersection of cinema and the performing arts. His debut feature documentary, Strangers on the Earth, was hailed by the L.A. Times as “an inspiring and transporting portrait” of life and music along Spain’s Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. He has collaborated extensively with artists and organizations such as the Emerson String Quartet, pianist Inon Barnatan, violinist Augustin Hadelich, New York Philharmonic, Live from Lincoln Center, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, La Jolla Summerfest, and [email protected] He is currently the Filmmaker-in-Residence at the Bravo Vail Music Festival. Tristan holds a B.F.A. from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.