Performed by Dave Broome, October 14th, 2014, at QUBIT's New Music for Organ and Electronics concert at Saint Peter’s Church in New York City.
The Universal Product Code (UPC) is a barcode symbology (i.e., a specific type of barcode) that is widely used in North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and other countries for tracking trade items in stores. Its most common form, the UPC-A, consists of 12 numerical digits, which are assigned specifically to each trade item. Each of the 12 numerical digits contain, and reference, a specific 7-digit binary code.
I use these 7-digit codes to construct a unique rhythm and pitch class for each of the 12 readable numbers listed on a barcode. To construct a harmonic framework which matches the vertical spectrum of the barcode, I’ve transposed each pitch class by fifths (every 7 semitones). Using this approach I am able to read a bar code vertically (90 degrees) as a linear harmonic spectrum while articulating this spectrum in a rhythmic fashion dictated by the horizontal display of the same code.
Like barcodes, musical notation is a form of digital symbology. Commercial Vignette aims to highlight the disparity between different forms of digital representation. In this case: the product the barcode aims to represent, the barcode itself, the musical notation used to articulate features of the barcode, and the eventual sonic result. Commercial Vignette was born out of a perverse interest in sensationalizing the arbitrariness of consumer commodities by mapping their representatives onto dramatic musical forms.