wikiGong is an artists’ collective that exists to enable new forms of musical collaboration. Their work, like its sonic raw material, bends toward the built environment and our reactions to it; toward place, community, and history. They have focused on the Golden Gate Bridge, the Los Angeles River, the Bradbury Building, the Gerald Desmond Bridge. They have communed with the ghosts of complex systems which were stillborn, or which fail to thrive: for example, planetary exploration. Inspired by the Indonesian gamelan ensemble, they mine megastructures for the timbres of virtual instruments. They make these available for use by others, in performances or musical compositions.
Their piece, “Silentium Universi” (“Silence of the Universe”), is another name for the Fermi paradox; and the the Fermi paradox inspires their piece. Simply put, the Fermi paradox is this: The universe is vast, and awash with stars. Any reasonable estimate tells us that it teems with life, and that other civilizations will have developed many times. And yet…the silence is deafening. If the universe is alive with intelligent species, where are they? Why haven’t we heard from them? The Fermi paradox takes its name from nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi, although others articulated it before he did. Fermi’s statement of it emerged during lunchtime conversation at Los Alamos. As he put it, “Where is everybody?” Many hypotheses have been advanced to answer Fermi’s question. (The identity of one of Fermi’s lunchtime companions foreshadows at least one: Edward Teller, widely known as “the father of the hydrogen bomb.”) These give wikiGong a rich set of ideas to explore, and conflicting emotions to evoke, using images, storytelling, audience interaction, theatrical mechanisms. And always, wikiGong’s distinctive timbral textures, sampling the pulse of an evolving technological civilization.