Uberrima Fides (2015)



A year ago I became interested in developing algorithms that use economic models as a source of musical material. This was the route I took with Giffen Good (2014) for trombone and live electronics. Since then I have been interested in adapting the economic models that have mystified me most — such as market signaling, first proposed by Michael Spence in 1973. Spence proposed that sending non-monetary signals through markets are often at play and help to optimize transactions. For example, a college degree is one kind of “signal” that helps future employers judge whether job applicants possess certain skills. An oeuvre of study consequently opened up following this proposal, widely spanning the fields of economics, sociology, etc.

The problem for me is that many economists believe that social values and institutions help markets tend towards equilibrium and not the opposite. In Uberrima Fides (2015) for ensemble, I set up a structure that I believe tends toward market failure. Known data was used to generate pitch and duration, affecting the density and range of events within the context of gradually shifting pitch fields. These sources analogously controlled a series of ever-changing probability distributions governing note and rest selection within specific boundaries.

The piece’s title is taken from the ‘uberrima fides’ clause of contract negotiations; a legal doctrine in which parties to a contract formally declare all known facts in their “best faith.” Often such clauses are found in insurance contracts — the classic exemplars of adverse selection bias and a common subject of asymmetric information studies in marketplaces.