I first came across the Game of Life over 25 years ago, an event that instigated my on-going research/fascination with generative and adaptive systems and I have made several sample or note playing systems based on the rules over the last 6 years. It was only recently that I was able to return to the issue and take a new approach based on synthesis, building a system from scratch using SuperCollider.
The technology for sound.of.life was developed during the Roque Wave : First Wave project (www.roguewave.org.uk), which explored the potential for multiple surround sound systems. During this period I started a project titled Tools for Interaction and Performance exploring how audio tools could change if they were able to be pereformed by the audience at the same time as the more traditional notion of a single user performer. Following metaphors of expanded keyboards where individual notes could be triggered by either the audience or the performer, it made sense to make the audience interface to be camera driven, as it easily allows for more than one user to engage with the system and requires virtually no physical intervention on a space.
The keyboard, therefore, became mapped over a physical space and the movement of users triggered the keys. But to me at this point the system appeared dead, flat, nothing happened unless the use triggered it and then, worse, stopped when the user stopped moving. Similarly from the solo performance viewpoint they had to constantly keep activating keys. They had to play it! And that inferred some form of composition.
The system needed some form of life, a rule set that the users set in motion, that they could easily engage with and following a period of play begin to understand.
The Game Of Life is unique in that its operating metaphor is incorporated into its visual interface; a grid of cells that are either on or off, alive or dead. It combines ease of use (especially with a camera based interface) combined with a complex level of emergence; i.e. complex things happen but the basic rules are very simple. The title of "Game of Life" is very apt!
The first technical system was tested and previewed as an interactive performance at the Rogue Wave day at FACT in May 2006.
I have used it as a performance tool under the guise of doped semiconductor