Projected moving image, generative audio, bioluminescent algae.
A work about nocturnal musical cultures.

Nocturne II (2022) by Kate Milligan.

In Nocturne II I have imagined a club night for bioluminescent algae, positioning the algae as a musical body (or bodies—complicating individuality and collectivity). The algae is suspended in a transparent orb from the ceiling like a disco-ball, and footage of human crowds are projected through this orb for the analog transformations generated by the water. Transformation in water is the first major theme of the work; the sound component of this installation is a bass frequency composition that I have re-recorded through water with a hydrophone.

Temporality is the second major theme of this work, specifically destabilising human timescales. I have slowed the club footage so that the audience might engage with the granular detail, a key characteristic of more-than-human durational performance identified by Whaley and Miller: “[microperformativity] requires a shift away from the macro-understandings of hierarchical structures to granular recognition of agentic assemblages” (Whalley et al., 2020). An individual algae cell might live for five to seven days. Twelve hours spent in a club is therefore the equivalent of up to ten years in the human timescale. A decade of disco.
The composition is structured after the algae’s regenerative lifecycle, and the transformation of the micro-body. Linear time is represented by the constancy of the kick-drum and juxtaposed with algal time, which is represented by bass sine tones. At regular intervals these frequencies ‘divide’—like how a single algae cell divides to create the subsequent generation—doubling and halving in octave transpositions. The composition encompasses four generations of cell division across the ‘lifespan’ of the work, 26 minutes in total.