In their new album W.A.R (aka We Are RAW), audiovisual experimentation duo RAW masterfully aestheticizes noise through experimental algorithmic live coding methods. In their mesmerising performance, Selçuk ARTUT and Alp Tuğan seamlessly weave together a cacophony of disrupted, unpredictable sound textures driven by specially coded algorithms in real-time.
The W.A.R. album offers an experimental sound experience by aestheticizing noise and using live coding methods. Can you tell us about the inspirations behind this project's start and how you developed this different approach?
Sound and visual production with live coding is an experimental form of performance that emerged in the early 2000s. Over time, it started to appear in academia and underground culture circles. We first witnessed live coding at the opening party of the ISEA conference in Istanbul in 2013. We have been using coding as a creative element in our projects for a long time. The idea of rolling up our sleeves and creating RAW came after a media festival called Resonate, which we attended as an audience in Serbia in 2015. While watching the presentation of Alex McLean, one of the pioneers of live coding, we can say that the whole story started with the question, "Why don't we do it?".
Both of us have been professionally involved in music and put music in an essential place in our lives. Our team constantly makes each other listen to music and provides mutual nourishment. Since we set out from common tastes, imagining the visual and audio world of RAW was not difficult. Afterward, it developed due to our hard work and endeavors. We are not a conventional electronic music band, so content such as noise and randomness have become sources of inspiration that define our experimentalism. Our first concert occurred in 2016 as part of the Monochrome exhibition at Akbank Sanat. As the concert hall was packed to capacity, a simultaneous live video broadcast was made to an extra hall. Despite this, there were still some people who could not get in. This start was a very important message for us.
How do you think RAW challenges traditional concepts in music and visual arts? What are the results of your aim to push the boundaries in live performances?
Rather than challenging traditional concepts and practices, we are inspired by them and push the limits of the tools provided by technology. For example, by adapting the pattern creation techniques used in the 18th century to the visual generating software we developed, we can obtain graphic patterns that analog methods cannot. Or we can achieve completely different forms of expression by repeating the sound emitted by a guitar string in a way that exceeds the physical capacity of a human being. We also take great pleasure in doing this. Since we are open to experimentation, we also want to embrace all the possible surprises. Sometimes, our performances can even end in situations where our computers are unable to produce any sound other than uncontrolled "glitch" because they have reached the limits of processing power to meet the requirements of the complex algorithms we are creating at that moment on stage.
"RAW actually challenges the limits of today's technology. Although this is a risk for a performance group, for us, it becomes a form of expression whose limits we cannot foresee, but we do not hesitate to try."
In your performances on the album, how do you aim to take the audience on a journey through the complex interplay of algorithmic chaos and structured creativity?
Before we start live performances, we discuss what kind of aura we want to create between us. Even though playing songs in concerts contradicts the improvisational character of our work, we use the song format to build a certain structure. Then, these songs can transform into other forms. A cluster of sounds in one piece can become part of the following composition. Rather than small stories with a beginning and end, RAW aims to create an experience on stage and make the audience a common part of this experience. The effect we want to leave on the audience is to make them feel how this chaos and complexity creates unity within itself. We want those who come to watch us to know that they will embark on an inclusive journey in visual and auditory terms.
Can you tell us a bit about the creative process? How did you combine unusual sound textures and visual aesthetics while combining music and visuals using experimental algorithms?
Intellectually, sometimes, one of us comes up with an idea, and the other gets involved. Sometimes, while improvising during rehearsals in our workshop, we draw an idea and go on with it. Natural sounds recorded on sound recorders, acoustic sounds from traditional instruments, or sounds produced with sound synthesizers that we have programmed in a completely digital environment can also become a part of our production. On the visual side, we integrate materials we have previously developed or specially produced for an idea into our performances. We have a unique software that we have been working on for a long time to present visuals at concerts. This software analyses the frequency ranges of the sounds produced live and changes certain parameters in the visuals based on the relationships we have built. This gives us outputs with infinite possibilities. The visual or sound you watch in a performance differs from the previous one in a formal sense. Even if the software infrastructure does not change, you can think of it as if the sounds produced instantly decide how the visuals will behave. We offer a visual design that can move together with the sound aesthetics we produce in a formal context. We can say that we present a world that we can sometimes call chaotic and sometimes organized to the audience by maintaining the balance of sound and image harmony.
Are you excited for the future? What are RAW's future creative goals?
Of course, we are excited; producing music is an endeavor we cannot get ahead of. Due to such a devoted endeavor, we want our music to reach the right audiences. Although releasing an album helps to a great extent, what we want to do the most is to give concerts and spread from ear to ear. Before the pandemic, we could give concerts in cities such as Tokyo, Berlin, Vienna, London, and Belgrade. Then, we were seriously affected by the unfavorable developments in the world and in our country. We couldn't even make music for a while, let alone everything else. Now, those days are about to be left behind. We think this album is very important in RAW's career. We hope we will have the chance to give more concerts and meet the audience. RAW has an artistic character beyond music. We have made artistic installations at various events in the past. We will continue to do so in the future. Continuing our productivity without limiting our creativity is at the top of our future goals.
RAWis an avant-garde live coding duo, comprising Selcuk ARTUT and Alp TUGAN, who craft experimental Audio Visual Performances. Their shows feature on-the-fly, improvisational live coding to shape sonic compositions, alongside pre-programmed interactive visual elements. These dynamic performances have graced a variety of Electronic Music and Media Events across global hubs like Berlin, Tokyo, London, Helsinki, Istanbul, Belgrade, and Vienna. During their sets, RAW actively engages the audience by offering immersive visual experiences through top cameras and projected code views on large screens. Sonically, their work traverses a spectrum encompassing noise, electronic, techno, minimal, and ambient genres, all while embracing improvisational creativity. Their ability to seamlessly blend different genres and experiment with sound has earned them a dedicated following of music enthusiasts and critics alike. RAW’s performances are known for pushing the boundaries of traditional electronic music, creating a truly unique and captivating experience for their audience.