Monday, October 30, 2017

How algorithms prevent the soul from taking flight



That album of Jonathan Harvey's choral music from Les Jeunes Soloistes featured in a 2007 Overgrown Path post. The title track The Angels was commissioned for the 1994 service of Nine Lessons and Carols in King's College Cambridge. Sir Edward Burne-Jones once exclaimed that 'The more materialistic science becomes, the more angels I shall paint' and also on the album is How could the soul not take flight. This is Jonathan's setting of Andrew Harvey's - no relation - re-imagining of verses by Rumi. Its injunction to 'Fly away, fly away bird to your native home/You have leapt free of the cage/... Hurry, hurry, hurry, bird, to the source of life' is a powerful reminder of the need to free ourselves from the cage of filter bubbles and recommender algorithms that we have allowed Facebook, Google and their online peers to enclose us with.

Thankfully there is still life outside the cage. On Nov 8th at the alternative London music venue Cafe Oto the London Sinfonietta perform Jonathan Harvey's Other Presences and Ricercare una Melodia together with new music by Lauren Marshall, Javier Alvarez, and Trevor Wishart. But don't expect to see that concert trending on social media. Because those ubiquitous algorithms will latch on to the keywords 'Mahler' and 'woman conductor' and make sure news of Marin Alsop conducting the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican on the same evening in Mahler's First Symphony and Bernstein's Symphony No 1, ‘Jeremiah’ dominates your news feed.

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