[PD] MasterOfPrayer

Chris McCormick chris at mccormick.cx
Wed Jun 11 16:17:11 CEST 2008


For the last few months I have been helping my friends Rodney Glick
(Artist) and Moshe Y Bernstein (Rabbi) with the technical aspects of one
of Rodney's artworks. The artwork, entitled "Master Of Prayer" will be
showing among many other fascinating works in Rodney's exhibition. It
opens tommorrow night (Thursday), 6pm at the [Lawrence Wilson Art
Gallery](http://lwgallery.uwa.edu.au/) at the University of Western
Australia. I'm really excited about this project. I got to use Pure
Data, voice synthesis (mbrola), and a network based pseudo-AI (Pd) to
help Rodney and Moshe create a really compelling and thought provoking
artwork. Here's the blurb that Moshe wrote about it:

"In the Jewish tradition the full prayer service can be performed only
in a quorum of ten adult males known in Hebrew as a minyan. The main
part of the service, which occurs three times daily, is the Shmona
Esrei, or Eighteen Benedictions. These blessings are first recited
silently by the entire congregation. Afterwards, during the morning and
afternoon liturgies, they are repeated aloud by the cantor, often
referred to as the Ba'al Tefillah or 'Master of Prayer'.  In orthodox
Judaism any male, whether layman or cleric, over the age of thirteen can
lead the prayers. During the repetition of the Shmona Esrei, also called
the Amidah, or 'standing prayer', the congregation answers responsively
to each of the benedictions recited. In this installation each computer
has been individually programmed to respond to the blessings recited by
the main computer, the 'Master of Prayer', leading the afternoon Mincha
service. Though the installation appears to parody the human condition
of prayer by rote, on a deeper level it asks a haunting question about
the inherent nature of artificial intelligence. The Jewish sages require
kavannah, or 'proper intent' for prayer to be truly acceptable. To the
extent that computers can be programmed to 'think', might they not be
programmed to this 'proper intent' as well? In a tentative answer to
that question, 'Master of Prayer' can be experienced as a high-tech,
Jewish version of the Tibetan prayer-wheel or Christian rosary beads."

Good night,



More information about the Pd-list mailing list