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Deafbeef

Deafbeef is a generative audiovisual artist who creates music and visual art using a 10-year-old computer and a C compiler. The artist has a background in electrical engineering, sound recording, and music. [2]

Early Life & Education

The artist grew up in rural Ontario, Canada. From an early age, Deafbeef's interest in generative and procedural art started by playing ASCII dungeon crawl games like Rogue and Nethack, which featured procedurally generated levels for replayability. He was captivated by the concept and spent his youth learning programming skills with the goal of creating his own generative art. Through persistent experimentation and continuous learning, he delved into the technical aspects of programming, refining his skills to produce visually captivating and interactive digital art pieces. [1][12][13]

“We lived several miles away from the nearest village. And this was back in a time where you were free from the constant bombardment of information – so, my default state was being bored and I had to search out things to maintain my interest. Music was one of those.” - Deafbeef

Throughout his early years, DEAFBEEF's passion for music and his struggle to reconcile it with the technical side of his intellect was a recurring theme. Initially, he considered studying music but eventually chose engineering instead. After becoming immersed in the music of Frank Zappa, he decided to pursue music. He built a recording studio and moved to Toronto at the age of 22, where he rented a warehouse space that also served as his apartment. Despite limited resources, he managed to scrape together enough audio equipment to get started. Taking advantage of the strong independent rock scene in the city at the time, he recorded hundreds of bands live on the warehouse floor. [1][12]

Career

Deafbeef was first involved with the crypto space when set up a mining rig for . In 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the artist embarked on an art project after a hiatus of 7 years spent raising children. Deafbeef, who has a background in electrical engineering, sound recording, and music, discovered that modular synthesizers had returned to mainstream culture. However, the artist was put off by consumerism and decided to pursue an ascetic approach by creating music using "nothing" instead of investing in expensive hardware that many viewed as magical "black boxes". Additionally, the artist chose not to upgrade their 10-year-old laptop to run the latest DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) and instead opted to rebuild from scratch using only a cheap laptop, Linux, emacs text editor, and a C compiler. The goal was to work at a fundamental level, inputting numbers directly into digital storage media to create sound and images. [3]

I want to maintain an intimate relationship with the underlying medium. Every tool leaves a kind of imprint. Making one's own tools is more tedious, it's a bit riskier, but ultimately allows a greater chance for some kind of unique expression.

The name DEAFBEEF

DEAFBEEF is an instance of 'hexspeak', a category of words formed by utilizing the symbols present in the hexadecimal (base 16) numbering system, consisting of 16 characters ranging from 0 to 9 and A to F. In low-level programming languages such as C, hexadecimal representation is often used for numbers when working in close proximity to the machine level. Throughout history, specific hexspeak was utilized in programmer and hacker culture for pragmatic purposes. [10]

Programmers of a certain generation will know ‘DEADBEEF’ (note, with a D, as opposed to DEAFBEEF). Areas of program memory that were not to be written to were initialized with the value ‘0xdeadbeef’. That way, when viewing a hex memory dump while debugging, you could easily see any area marked ‘deadbeef’, a warning to yourself not to write to that area, otherwise you are ‘dead meat’ and risk crashing your program.
So DEAFBEEF relates to that. DEAF, associations with sound/audio, and also my penchant for the humorous or absurd (Frank Zappa influence). And also the simple practical reason that ‘deadbeef’ is already an overloaded term, many projects/artists have already used that alias, and the domain name was taken. DEAFBEEF was a clean slate.

NFT Projects

Series 0 - Synth Poems

Synth Poems is a digital art form that utilizes technology to create and distribute unique generative music pieces. These pieces are inspired by the sound of analog synthesizers and are stored on-chain. Each Synth Poem is created at the moment of minting, using a random hash value to determine elements such as tempo, timbre, pitch, and time signature. While the sound is the primary focus, a suitable visualization that reflects the sound signal as seen on an oscilloscope is also included. All the code is kept on-chain, providing a secure and transparent method of media reconstruction without the need for external storage or reliance on . There are 128 Synth Poems in existence, and Token 134 has been the piece traded with the highest price in the collection on , with an amount of 123 ETH. The collection was released on March 31, 2021. [4][11]

Series 1 - Angular

This collection of generative audiovisual pieces offers a distinct and synchronized experience. The note durations and pitches are determined by continuous functions of time, resulting in an "off the grid" rhythm and pitch. This style is paired with angular visuals that follow a strict grid pattern. In contrast to other generative art collections, this one is precisely tuned and tightly constrained, with specific parameters chosen for each piece. Although each artwork is unique and initiated by a random hash value, they share a common theme and can be considered as "prints" of the original artwork. The code that generates the audiovisual is stored entirely on-chain, ensuring secure and transparent media reconstruction without relying on external storage or . This collection has a total of 8 pieces, and the most expensive piece has been traded for 120 ETH. The collection was released on April 31, 2021. [5][11]

Series 2 - Transmission

This collection of generative on-chain audiovisual art is packed with subliminal messages that document the "spirit of this age". The visuals are inspired by ANSI terminal and noisy video signals, while the percussion is synthesized and the rhythms are randomized. Unlike many other generative art collections, this one has finely tuned and tightly constrained parameters. Although each piece is unique and seeded by a random hash value, they share a similar flavor and can be considered as "prints" of the original artwork. The code that generates the audiovisual is stored entirely on-chain, offering secure and transparent media reconstruction without requiring external storage or reliance on . With only 8 pieces in the collection, each one is a rare and exceptional representation of the intersection between art, technology, and culture. The piece with the highest price was sold for 225 ETH. The collection was released on May 31, 2021.[6][11]

Series 3 - Entropy

This series of on-chain media examines the concepts of permanence, ownership, and generation loss through a programmed process of artificial degradation that occurs upon transferring the token to a new owner. The highest price was of 130 ETH. The collection was released on June 30, 2021. [7][11]

Series 4 - Glitchbox

This series of programmable media allows users to actively participate in exploring and curating a generative audiovisual model. Unlike relying on a fixed hash for artificial scarcity, owners and editors can continuously explore and selectively choose from a vast array of possible outputs. Once minted, owners (and those with editing access granted by the owner) can manipulate the parameters that influence the model's output and store them on-chain. Analogous to the knobs and switches of a modular synthesizer, these parameters allow owners and editors to 'play' the instrument by selecting settings that appeal to them. Additionally, the on-chain record of the parameters chosen and their authors provides a permanent record of the curation process. The most expensive piece was sold for 175 ETH. The collection was released on July 30, 2021. [8][11]

Series 5 - Advection

This series of media artworks aim to showcase the aesthetic appeal and congruence between mathematical and physical concepts across different perceptual modalities. The animations' fluid motion model is based on academic research conducted in 2010, while the struck percussion sounds are synthesized using shared physical principles. This series builds on the user-programmable media approach of Series 4, with one token designated for community access. While unowned, this token provides communal utility for members to learn, study, and interact with a programmable system, including changing parameters that influence the audiovisual output. All changes and their authors' addresses are stored immutably on-chain. Remarkably, the audiovisual outputs are entirely reconstructed from 100kb of self-contained C code stored on-chain. The most expensive piece traded for 107 ETH. The collection was released on August 31, 2021. [9][11]

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