Experimental Composer Holly Herndon Sells ‘DAO’ NFT for $36,000


  • Holly Herndon, an experimental musician, bought an NFT tied to a brand new digital art work for roughly $36,000.
  • “Crossing the Interface (DAO) I” is a generative animation constructed round a textual content from the thinker Reza Negarestani.

Few musicians over the previous decade have labored as carefully with rising applied sciences as Holly Herndon. As a composer, she’s used imposing new programs (assume synthetic intelligence, machine studying, and neural networks) as a substrate for the human voice; distorting her vocals into uncanny geometries, she’s at all times taking part in with the boundary between the natural and the substitute.

Her newest experiment is a collection of digital animations created along with her associate, Mat Dryhurst, utilizing generative software program referred to as Clip. An NFT tied to the primary piece, “Crossing the Interface (DAO) I,” simply bought for 13.0768 ETH (price $36,466.75) on Basis’s crypto artwork market.

“We needed to make one thing that made sense for this emergent file kind, but additionally whereas sustaining, hopefully, a few of the elegant in art-making that we’re sort of at all times looking for,” Herndon informed Decrypt.

The piece—a sort of shifting, psychedelic fresco—has its origins in a textual content by the Iranian thinker Reza Negarestani, which Herndon commissioned again in 2013 and integrated right into a musical work titled “Crossing the Interface.” It premiered at the Guggenheim in 2014, and was reoriented for a track on Herndon’s 2015 album, Platform.

The monitor was referred to as “DAO,” which ought to offer you a way of how lengthy Herndon has been enthusiastic about crypto. DAO is an acronym for “decentralized autonomous group”—a kind of company governance construction primarily based round cryptocurrency.

Clip generates pictures from textual content by scanning the web for related pictures, chewing them up, and spitting them again out right into a distorted panorama. Herndon described it as “portray or animating with textual content.” Dryhurst stated it felt like “dream directing.” “This software program is aware of every part,” he defined. “There’s an actual problem in translating your needs to what it produces.” 

“Crossing the Interface (DAO) I” is accompanied by spoken-word narration of Negarestani’s writing, together with a computerized refrain generated by machine studying.

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have been round for years, however their explosion into the mainstream this previous winter has divided musicians. Pitchfork and Stereogum ran largely destructive items in regards to the tech, and artists like Lucy Dacus and Jaime Brooks have condemned NFTs as a cynical money seize. The songwriter Jacob Collier canceled a deliberate NFT public sale earlier this 12 months, citing considerations in regards to the ecological cost.

Herndon is effectively acquainted with skepticism. “This isn’t a brand new recreation for me,” she stated. “After I began out as a laptop computer musician, I used to be informed {that a} laptop computer wasn’t an instrument, and I wanted to determine easy methods to combine a violin or one thing into my dwell set, or a guitar. After which I began working with machine studying, and other people inform me that that is a fad, or it is eradicating the humanity from music, which could not be farther from the reality.”

Even nonetheless, she’s been upset by the way in which these ideas have been obtained by some musicians. “The music neighborhood noticed their total financial system collapse, due to COVID,” she stated. “After which rapidly, you’ve got well-known individuals having the ability to simply sort of [summon] magic cash out of the air via a expertise that nobody understands. And that was insanely alienating for almost all of musicians who had simply seen their total revenue stream evaporate.”

Herndon and Dryhurst host a podcast that incessantly covers (and advocates for) crypto-based tech as a method of handing autonomy again to artists; executives at Basis have appeared as company. 

“There is a social price to us doing this,” stated Dryhurst of the backlash. “And there’s social jeopardy to us saying, like, ‘We’re on this.’”

Dryhurst chalks a lot of the criticism as much as what he calls the “Faustian cut price of decentralization”—an area with out guardrails is a house for each the well-intentioned artist and the damaging grifter, the altcoin novice and the Bitcoin billionaire.

“As soon as the large ticket, Beeple headline sort of issues wash away, and the house matures a bit bit and other people get extra concerned,” stated Herndon, “I feel a few of the potential will turn into extra clear for individuals.”

Herndon has additionally maintained that for all of the promise she sees in crypto, she’s nonetheless very a lot dedicated to the album as a format for listening to and understanding music:

“What I like about releasing data is I like having this postcard that I ship out that folks can spend time with. That is the expertise that is been developed over many years, and I feel it really works very well in lots of methods. However I feel that it does not need to be the entire story. There’s a lot extra that may be completed there.”

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