The Phoenix Bird Project
is founded on this premise:
Too many students of the Arts and Music, are NOT using technology to increase the scope of their participation in creative endeavors and/or in the production of their artistic expressions.
The primary purpose of this website is to address this by developing resources for the students themselves, as well as their teachers, and to generate interest and participation from the general public, and the policy makers who are concerned with current educational practices and methods. This project will show how modern technology can assist us to exemplify the greatest creative talents of future generations.
The secondary purpose is to inform about the project itself, and by allowing people to view the inner processes of this effort...encourage private donors, locate possible funding sources and solicit valuable feedback from those who are interested.
This is the journal (or WeBlog) about my new project and I appreciate the opportunity to share it with you.
"The End of the Beginning"
The Phoenix Bird when living, had no voice,
(Yet) when death approached, it's melody was heard;
And because the Bird, was left without a choice,
To live again, my eyes and ears could not abide the Bird's farewell
The end, in fire and flame
and wait, wait 'til it lives again;
Now see and hear that it returns,
the Phoenix Bird is here with us...at last.
Revised Portions Copyright March 2003
Full Version Copyright 1977-2003. All Rights Reserved.
And so the story begins
The Phoenix Bird
An Experimental Sensory Symphony in 4 Parts
The 4 Inclusions (or Movements) of the Multi-Sensory Symphony depict the story of the Phoenix Bird, using richly expanded communication techniques – including word descriptions, musical themes, and aspects of Special Kinetic, Sound, Light and other Sensory Effects. This will allow an unusually broad range of audience participants to receive the performance on many levels simultaneously. The dramatic implications are that these special applications of Creative Expressionism --which emphasize an increased focus on accessibility-- can go beyond all previous considerations of natural limitations for appreciation of Story Telling and the Arts. In addition, it will demonstrate that it is possible to dramatically enlarge the scope of audience interactivity with the meaningful physical events of the story, in such a way that the experience transcends normal interpretations of perception.
Each Inclusion has its own main theme of music, color, element, scent, and improvised performance art, which will parallel the sections of the story as it unfolds. Special Effects link the descriptive symbolizations with the musical dramatizations, and allow the fusion of narrative, ambient atmosphere and sensory stimuli to describe the progression of the events. Using the rich background of mythological references --as a way to focus the mental images brought about by the story-- clearly brings about larger-than-life scenarios that can be instrumental as a motivating and inspirational influence to comprehension of the subject matter.
Innovative technology will be used as a “springboard” to enhance the traditional techniques and methods for dramatization and communication of the story, allowing for the “Inclusion” of sensory impaired, or otherwise developmentally delayed children who can be afforded an opportunity to be part of the performance or to participate as members of the audience. Because this concept does not exclude anyone, the attendees of the performance (including sensory impaired individuals), will enjoy unique examples of assistive adaptations for accessing and augmenting the content of the performance presentation.
Different forms of assistive “boosts” for the members of the audience will integrate communication channels such as video subtitles on a background screen, with live interpreters using ASL to convey the word descriptions for hearing impaired participants. Those same audience members will also enjoy the Kinetic Effects, which will be realized by high intensity soundscapes utilizing powerful Bass and Sub-sonic vibrations to fulfill the 3 Dimensional virtual environment of the Sensory Symphony. Stimuli will also include motion depicted by movement of props and articles within the story context. Added to those same experientially enhanced techniques will be aroma and other environmental Sensory Effects such as fog, bubbles, wind, and characterized exposure to the story elements, emphasizing the events as they are dramatized by the Musical themes, and Special Sound Effects…communicating the story to those who are listening to --instead of seeing-- the presentation. Included as an assistive method, will be program notes in Braille, describing the story in word images, for the perusal of those audience members who are visually impaired.
In the beginning there is nothing. Only silence and darkness surround The Phoenix Bird. There is only one Phoenix Bird, who never had a beginning and will never have an end…
INCLUSION: PART 1
Theme: “The Language of the Desert”
Description of Scene:
The Phoenix Bird Awakens and is Sacred to the Sun
INCLUSION: PART 2
Theme: “The Song of the Wind”
Description of Scene:
The Phoenix Bird Takes Flight and Leaves the World Behind
INCLUSION: PART 3
Theme: “The Dance of the Sun”
Description of Scene:
The Phoenix Bird is Consumed by the Cosmic Flame of Fire
INCLUSION: PART 4
Theme: “The Story of Life”
Description of Scene:
The Phoenix Bird is Reborn Again and Hope is Renewed
In this unique version of the story,
the Phoenix Bird is very beautiful and lives alone in the desert. It is so shy and reclusive, that no one has ever seen it. It is over a thousand years old and so far, has not ever uttered a sound in its entire life. It walks wherever it goes, never flying anywhere. It is multi-colored with a golden body and tail, iridescent green wings and a brilliant red crest on its head. It has clear and shining eyes of blue, and its beak is strong and ends with a sharp point. The claws on its feet are like mirrors, which reflect everything that it stands upon from an upside-down viewpoint. It eats no food and never drinks anything but dew, and it sleeps all night long with its eyes open. It has become very weary from living on and on, and is about to commence the construction of a nest, where it will leave its egg behind, and fly away with a cry that opens up the mountains, makes the earth shake and creates stormy weather. The Voice of the Phoenix Bird will be heard in the music of the wind. This is the day that the great Phoenix Bird, which will save the world from the clutch of darkness, is consumed by the Cosmic Flame of Fire, leaving nothing behind but a pile of ashes. Finally the fiery bird rises from its ashes, renewing its destiny to reclaim what belongs to it, in a symbolic representation of the setting and rising of the sun. As Life begins again, and Hope is reborn, there are many who dismiss this story as a myth, yet there are some who believe in the Legend of the Phoenix Bird, and even now work for the Phoenix’s return.
The traditional story of the Phoenix Bird
is based on myths, legends and folklore from many cultures including Greek, Egyptian and Arabian sources and is very similar to other fables including the Siberian Firebird and the Native-American Thunderbird. Wherever it is found, the Phoenix Bird is associated with triumph over adversity, and that which rises out of the ashes. It is symbolic of hope, purity, faith, eternity and light. The Phoenix Bird not only represents immortality but also an individual who stands apart from the rest, a person of rare qualities. The phoenix's flight has been said to represent the capacity to leave the world and its problems behind, flying towards the sun in clear pure skies.
Phenix \Phe"nix\, n.; pl. Phenixes. [L. phoenix, Gr. foi^nix.] [Written also ph[oe]nix.]: 1. (Greek Myth.) A bird fabled to exist single, to be consumed by fire by its own act, and to rise again from its ashes. Hence, an emblem of immortality. 2. (Astron.) A southern constellation. 3. A marvellous person or thing. [R.] --Latimer. Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)
Here is the list of of media categories that will be included in The Phoenix Bird performance:
- Music (performed with live instruments and performers as well as synthesized/sampled/sequenced)
- Special Sound FX (including Kinetic Vibrations)
- Lighting (including automated and manually operated)
- Special Visual FX (includes Ambient-Atmosphere Generators)
- Special Environmental FX (ie Aroma Generators)
- Printed Programs, with graphic images
printed text / braille text
and tactile interface information
- Visual Presentation Screen (more details later)
From now on I will typically refer to these as:
although there will be some cross-overs for all of the above areas.
In the Audible Category, subsets include:
- Symphonic Music (as a scored arrangement)
- Special FX (part of score and also freely added in)
- Ambience Sounds (part of score and also freely added in)
(NOTE: all of the above will be performed both live and by synthesized sequences)
the crossover area here will be the use of Sub-sonically generated tones below the range of human hearing. This will will be done for the purpose of creating Kinetic effects, as the vibrations or sub-acoustic standing waves will be felt rather than heard.
"...Now I will believe...
That in Arabia
There is one tree, the phoenix' throne, one phoenix
At this hour reigning there..."
The Tempest, by William Shakespear
Work is progressing on the word descriptions that are the basis for the story of the Phoenix Bird.
As I think about what this is really all about, I ponder the following questions:
Who are we?
What is our place in the universe?
I am interested in creating multi-media work that connects people to people...people to the earth, and people to their spirituality.
These are the things that I feel are important to convey the messages that Creativity has the ability to express:
- the story needs to be told with clear concepts and ideas
- the story needs to capture the imagination and excite the senses
- the story needs to inspire and motivate
Using ideas that can be easily comprehended is inherent for any story teller. The best stories have always conveyed meanings beyond the simple scope of the character descriptions and the interactivity of story elements. Story telling is one of the more effective means of teaching ever devised by man. Stories can act as a bridge between people and ideas, carrying the listener as quickly as possible to the mental image or situation being described, while calling a minimum amount of attention to itself.
As a music soundtrack composer, it took a while for me to learn this, but eventually I got the message...the music should not
interfere with the story itself.
On the flip side, a story that demands to be acknowledged, retold, often discussed with arguments about the true meanings and requiring support as a belief system with "is it true or just a myth"
questions, will excite the audience into exploring the boundries. In fact, pushing the envelope may be one of the more important purposes of this project. If we can awaken the audience with a jolt of reference that has
significance, that carries deep empathy with the personal idealizations of the audience's own characterization of the elements of the story, then our efforts have been realized and we are truly using the "vehicle" of creative expression as it should
The conceptualization of precise images and easily understood messages is not always the quickest or most insightful way to a set of ideas however. That is, metaphors and analogies can have strong actions on the audience as well. Being taken on a journey in order to understand the meaning of the story, is certainly a viable method. The audience must be provided with context, background and substance in order to understand the meaning. If that context provides a link between the mind of the creator of the story and the audience, simulating and (if possible) replacing the everyday world, within the words, images, sounds etc. as created or presented by the author, then there is no translation or interpretation needed to understand the intention of the story's messages.
This needs to be done specifically, with extact attention to details. The more complex the ideas are or more meaningful the message being transmitted is, the more necessary it is the that the author allow descriptions to fill in the blanks and allow personal references to surface and populate the story with more details.
A good story works like a musical composition. An idea is presented, elaborated, debated and perhaps defeated, and finally, presented to the audience in a modified, more mature form that embodies the path that was travelled in order to reach that idea. By taking the audience on a journey, we, to a certain extent, can recreate in their experience the thought processes and emotions of the characters in the story. This should be done with compassion, humor and generosity. But again (as with music), we can provide a pattern, a symmetry and closure that the audience seldom encounters in life. That is why experiencing entertaining, thought provoking and inspiring creative expression is pleasurable and fulfilling. That is why listening to good music can produce ecstasy.
Storytelling is a necessary part of the human condition. We must tell stories. It is what makes us who we are. Linguists and neurologists strongly suspect that the act of learning language physically shapes the organization of our brains. Without language, we are incapable of the full range of human interaction and reasoning. By telling stories to our children, we give them language, and so a passport into the condition of human mortality. But also, a window onto the immortal, for stories will outlive all of us.
I have chosen (or have been chosen by) a specific set of ideas on which to concentrate my creativity, and will turn all of my creative efforts towards conveying these ideas in the most accessible and memorable ways possible. I want these ideas to go out and re-form and repeat and recreate themselves in as many ways as possible. Their source might be forgotten, or misremembered. That is alright with me, because I think the ideas are more important than I am as an individual.
I want my creative works to insinuate themselves into the subconscious of the people of the Southwest, and the world in general, so that we might remember who we were and who we will be, since so little time is spent in the present. I feel as strongly about this as any fanatic. This is my vocation, my calling and my obsession.
There is only one Phoenix Bird, who never had a beginning and will never have an end…
Sleep now in the fire.
- Rage Against The Machine
A HANDHELD PROGRAM GUIDE
FOR THE CONCERT HALL?
The classical music equivalent of opera supertitles and museum audioguides
The Concert Companion navigates audience members through a symphony performance
. Created by Roland Valliere with software developed by Kinoma
, the PDA-based system receives information via wireless during the performance. Text that is typically contained in program notes, such as background information about the piece, composer biographies, and motifs to listen for appears on command from a technician using a laptop at the back of the hall. One could imagine that the light from the displays would be distracting to others in the audience. Response from test groups has been positive, though there are likely to be discouraging sniffs from the purists. As with supertitles, if this device can attract bigger audiences, it may be a necessary evolution in symphony performance.
Which is more musical: a truck passing by a factory or a truck passing by a music school?
- John Cage
From John's - An Autobiographical Statement:
Neither of my parents went to college. When I did, I dropped out after two years. Thinking I was going to be a writer, I told Mother and Dad I should travel to Europe and have experiences rather than continue in school. I was shocked at college to see one hundred of my classmates in the library all reading copies of the same book. Instead of doing as they did, I went into the stacks and read the first book written by an author whose name began with Z. I received the highest grade in the class. That convinced me that the institution was not being run correctly. I left.
Read "The Sounds of Silence
" - an essay by Larry J Solomon, who premiered 4'33" by John Cage
in Tucson in 1973.
Life is one big road with lots of signs
So when you riding thru the ruts
Don't complicate your mind.
Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy.
Don't bury your thoughts.
Put your vision to reality, Yeah!
- BOB MARLEY -from the song "Wake Up and Live"
NEW MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
Re-inventing the tools to create expressive sounds
Around 10 years ago, the innovative musician Yo-Yo Ma performed and recorded Bartok's Viola Concerto on an alto violin, part of a violin octet constructed by Carleen Maley Hutchins
. The work of Carleen Hutchins and her associates
, had accomplished a "rediscovery" of the violin octet, a development that deserves more attention than this brief description. Dr. Hutchins, acoustician, writer, editor, teacher of the building of string instruments, facilitator of others' work, permanent secretary of the Catgut Acoustical Society, and amateur string player, would have considered herself an unlikely candidate to play any of these roles, but many of the talents that she has brought to them were developed during her childhood and young adulthood when she worked with the Girl Scouts of America and as a teacher of science and wood-working in New York City private schools.
Music -- often thought of as a universal language -- is based on the desire for musical expression. As an application of human toolmaking, the making of instruments has evolved constantly over the last centuries, as inventors and musicians sought to apply new concepts and ideas into improving musical instruments or creating previously unheard of sounds by using new methods to generate or control the expression of music. In the most recent developments of modern instrument design, the interaction end of instrument design could be thought of as an exercise in the field of ergonomics. Now that previous types of instruments have become electronic, and finally digital, their fundamental purpose is becoming absorbed into the types of tools that we think of as general purpose computers. Indeed, the research going on in musical instruments human interface design is now being merged with human-computer interface concepts. On the cutting edge of this merger, are the interfaces that have been developed for virtuoso performers, (those who have become adept with the process of manipulating subtle nuances of sound with specific disciplines of hand, sound generation techniques and pitch control). Increasingly, the power of the computer can be used to exploit basic gestures that can be mapped and utilized to generate complex sounds. However, it is also possible to use these same technologies and methods to allow even non-musicians to conduct, initiate, and to a certain degree control a dense musical stream. Because the high-level skills will still push the envelope of control over music expression, the application of non-intrusive, high-precision sensing will allow greater levels of performance through the use of demanding real-time user interfaces. However, techniques involving pattern recognition, algorithmic composition and artificial intelligence will allow greater interaction with music performance than ever before from every level of interest...including those who are too young to have the discipline or those who must get beyond the challenges of physical or perceptive limitations.
The idea is to produce things that are as strange and mysterious to you as the first music you ever heard.
- Brian Eno
"Variously labelled over his career either as a dilettante, pseudo-intellectual meddler in other people's work, or as a visionary artist and superhuman facilitator, Brian Eno eludes capture by remaining steps ahead of the men with the labels. His position in the culture of music and art has constantly evolved to the point where he now occupies a rarified and diffuse status, which he can alter according to the needs of the moment"
- from an article in THE WIRE September 1995
Brian Eno was a founder member of Roxy Music
, manipulating sounds on their debut album and on the legendary follow-up For Your Pleasure
. Leaving Roxy Music in 1973, he began his solo career with the album Here Come The Warm Jets
. Eno has released a string of internationally acclaimed albums, and over the years his work has been compiled onto two "Best Of" collections and three Boxed Sets. As well as his own albums, he has collaborated with the likes of John Cale, Nico, Robert Fripp
and the Neville Brothers
. His co-writing and playing on David Bowie's Low, Heroes
helped define the sound of this classic trilogy. Just to make things nice and symmetrical, Eno guested on Bryan Ferry 's Mamouna
Brian Eno is one of the most significant producers of our age. His ability to steer artists into radical new areas was first made obvious on the three albums he made with Talking Heads
, culminating in Remain In Light
in 1980. By this time he had also produced the landmark compilation of New York's No Wave bands No New York
and Devo 's Q:Are We Not Men? A:We Are Devo
. In the '80s he applied his gear-changing skills to U2
, helping an already great stadium rock band turn into one of the most original and creatively challenging mega-bands since The Beatles
. Eno's other production credits range from Real World artist Geoffrey Oryema
to the band James
as well as singer Jane Siberry
and performance artist Laurie Anderson
A pioneer in tape-looping and other early forms of sonic manipulation, Eno's work with Robert Fripp
in the early 1970's (No Pussyfooting
and Evening Star
) signalled a determination to look beyond the conventional song format. His unusual strategic approach to music making was more likely to involve drawing a diagram than writing down chord changes, as evidenced in the 1975 publication of Oblique Strategies
- a set of problem solving cards for artists. 1975 also saw the release of Discreet Music
, in which Eno named a new musical genre he had discovered - 'ambient
'. Bringing the ideas of John Cage
to a pop audience, the true significance of Eno's landmark ambient releases (including Music For Airports
and Thursday Afternoon
) only became apparent in the 1990's, when ambient exploded into a range of new hybrid musical forms. Eno also pioneered sampling and the use of found sounds on My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts
, a collaboration with David Byrne
released in 1981. Again it would be some years before the rest of the world fully accepted the ideas. Eno's instrumental works continue, with The Shutov Assembly
in 1992 and the minimal masterpiece Neroli
Like all good rock musicians, Eno went to art school. Unlike most of his peers he continued to work in the visual medium as well as in sound. His video installations have been exhibited at galleries around the world, including the ICA in London, the Pompidou Centre in Paris as well as a permanent exhibition at Austria's Swarovski Museum. Combining sound and vision, Eno's works create an alternative environment for the gallery-goer, just as his ambient albums create a sense of space for the listener.
What Eno brings to all his work is an ability to take ideas from one area of life and apply them to another. Thus, his ambient music resulted from applying ideas that were floating around the classical world and applying them to new instruments and recording technology. Similarly, his production technique is more akin to the way a management consultant works than the way a conventional producer works: that is, rather than sit behind a mixing desk for months on end, Eno likes to pop in regularly, but only occasionally, enough to steer the project, but not so much that he can't hear the music with a fresh pair of ears.
Brian Eno, on having someone else produce his work:
"Spinner is a very strange record for me, because I made a decision with this record. I've been thinking a lot about the kinds of artists who don't censor their own work. Now, I can think of three conspicuous ones: Picasso is one, Miles Davis is another. Prince is another. They're all people who just put it out and I think they have almost no critical self-censorship. They say, let the market decide; let the world decide. I thought this time I would try to do that and see what happens. And I thought I'd put myself in the hands of Jah Wobble to see what that feels like. Not to fuss about; just to see what happens"
Brian Eno has very little interest in new technology for its own sake, preferring technology that you can get a result out of now, this minute, without studying the manual.
Recently, Eno has been using some very interesting software called Koan from SSEYO Ltd to produce his generative music. He has, in fact, produced the equivalent of a "generative" album Generative Music 1
. I think that it's genuinely intriguing stuff, and has the happy side effect of rather rapidly giving anyone who works with the program a feel for just how difficult it really is to manage the architectures of time.
Koan for Musicians, Artists & Users
The Koan Plugin and Koan authoring tools are the most advanced publishing system for generative and interactive audio, and specifically ultra-low bandwidth audio. It includes a real-time composition engine, powerful integral softsynth and much more. Two desktop authoring tools are available, Koan Pro and Koan X. An easy to use webpage publishing tool, EZKoan is also available, too, to help you publish your Koan creations.
With its ultra-compact vector audio format, it is developed specifically for usage in webpages and mobile devices. But, it also very suitable for use on the desktop and for public installations.
The Koan system can play vector audio, Koan files and MIDI files. Koan content can include fixed melodic sequences and patterns, and utilise and apply FX to audio samples (e.g. MP3). The Koan system can also deliver complex and evolving non-looping generative audio, which can be driven by external events.
Because the text based Koan vector audio format can also include synth sound settings and FX, it is a "normative" or scalable solution. This means your Koan material will sound consistent on any platform on which Koan is installed, be this Windows or Mac computers, or PDAs like the Compaq iPAQ.
(Gyroscope GYR 6600 - CD and Cassette)
A return to Eno's notion of 'functional' music, Neroli is a hyper-ambient work of almost an hour's duration. Specifically designed to aid relaxation and clear thinking, the title is derived from the orange blossom fragrance used in aromatherapy
If I can get out of the way, if I can be pure enough, and if I can be generous and loving and caring enough to abandon what I have and my own preconceived, silly notions of what I think I am - and become truly who in fact I am - then the music can really use me. And therein lies my fulfillment. That's when the music starts to happen.
- John McLaughlin
Laetitia Sonami is a composer, performer and sound installation artist who designs and builds her own instruments. Her lady's glove
allows her to control sounds, mechanical devices, and lights in real-time.
Through vibration comes motion. Through motion comes color. Through color comes tone.
After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
- Aldous Huxley
Intelligent Dance Music
Called IDM by those hipster kind of kids that play music remixes consisting of bleeps, bloops and machine hum, recorded and mastered to the hard drive on a laptop and downloaded for playback as an MP3 on their iPODs. There is trance-style, dance floor, electronic music --with driving bass lines, rocking drum machines, and euphoric melodies-- and then there is Kid 606. This is the sound of one man layering stuttered percussive elements and just being downright noisy with his indie, punkish, gabber-fast, not-quite-fitting-snuggly-into-any-one-genre-or-style, unexpected bit of contrast to the other kind
of IDM bands, like Aphex Twin, Autechre, Squarepusher and Boards of Canada. Kid 606's highly articulated and mysteriously caustic way of interpreting melody uses amazing sounds to express his anger or "whateva" when he's hooked up to the exotic Native Instruments audio software setup.
Music is the eye of the ear.
- Thomas Draxe
The new sound-sphere is global. It ripples at great speed across languages, ideologies, frontiers and races. The economics of this musical Esperanto is staggering. Rock and pop breed concentric worlds of fashion, setting and life-style. Popular music has brought with it sociologies of private and public manner, of group solidarity. The politics of Eden come loud.
- George Steiner
Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
- Red Auerbach
THE HARMONY OF THE SPHERES
What kind of listener are you?
As a composer-performer, I desire to create music and multi-media productions that "resonate" with the energy of the inner landscape of the human psyche. I want my music and art to inspire and move people and reconnect them with the very essence of the universe...the so-called harmony of the spheres. Because sound is produced by the combined efforts of noise-energy and the structural quality of instruments that resonate with vibrations, when I perform my compositions, I express myself through the medium of subtle interactions of pitched frequencies that enable the formation of harmony overtones within my chosen frame of observation. When an objective composition is replaced by subjective composition of perception, the organization of reflected sounds relates to the matrix of the cultural and cognitive associations of the listener. The listener is no longer a passive consumer but an increasingly active creator of his or her own experience. As a composer I take into account, not only the rigid relations of conceptual notes but also the high-energy interactional phenomena of tones in sound patterns of resonance, beat, combination tones and phase - shifts. I supplement consonance with dissonance as the sounds I create are in the process of developing their full psycho-acoustic effects within the vast range of electromagnetic radiation, even above or below (or outside) of the range of human perception.
Sounds are not judged by the pseudo-objective value of their static hierarchic relations, but by the psychosomatic effects of the dynamic/cybernetical processes that they release. The sound effect is transformative and cannot be standardized. The first phase of a transformative process requires the acquisition of energy by disintegration; i.e. the deconditioning of the reflex associations and the dissolution of the self limitations of ego-definition, including dissolution that disperses into a whole. This integrating process is associated with the harmony of the spheres, and my goal as a composer is to carry the listener, by adjusting attitudes and emotions in the listening process, towards a more direct experience of that esoteric state of experience.
And it is also on the basis of this subjective experience, along with reflective and surrounding environmental properties, that the noise-orientation of transformative music may be explained. New Music is --(in the first instance)-- nothing but "noise" when we first listen to it. Each experience of the same music after that, lessens the "noise" quotient and alters the character of the listening experience. It becomes a more memorable or catchy tune after that, and along the changes of cultural listening patterns, one may observe how the originally senseless noise, slowly changes into sensitive signals and is finally accepted as music (in an analogy to a cultural process in which dissonant intervals insert themselves into an enlarged notion of harmony). Human listening patterns are well defined and deeply imprinted (which is what causes those songs that go around and around in your head after hearing them) and usually occur after the breaking-up of the social eggshell (puberty) accompanied by hormonal developments and metabolic changes.
Without music life would be a mistake.
- Friedrich Nietzsche
The MacArthur Foundation Awards, commonly known as the "genius" grants --given by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation-- are presented to men and women in the arts, sciences and academia on an annual basis. The award winners receive an annual check of $100,000 for five years, to be used however they want. One of this year's recipients is George Lewis
, a composer, performer, teacher, theorist and historian who has focused on experimental music. He has published numerous articles on music and cultural studies and is the author of an upcoming book on the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.
Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom.
If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn.
They teach you there's a boundary line to music.
But, man, there's no boundary line to art.
- Charlie Parker
I am inspired by the thoughts on the Dare2BU
website. Below is info taken from the website:
"There are numerous examples of people throughout the world who have overcome handicaps to achieve great success. One thing separates these winners from those who fail: they disregard any and all obstacles. These people-and all winners-possess the will to win. It's a will that starts with a belief in our ability to achieve the goals we dream of accomplishing.
Unfortunately, the world does not provide much inspiration on a daily basis. From the reporting of mostly negative news, to a "20% chance of rain" mentality, to music that tells us that love must be a painful experience, most people have few daily reminders that they can obtain personal and professional greatness without having to win the lottery.
Music is by far the most wonderful method we have to remind us each day of the power of personal accomplishment. And now -finally- the music industry has a new type of record company, one that is intensely dedicated to producing songs that inspire us all to accomplish great things."
Music is the universal language of mankind.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Music has charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.
- William Congreve
Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.
From the beginning, I have avoided categorizing The Phoenix Bird Symphony with any distinct label. I intend to produce it as recorded music, as a concert piece and a fully staged performance, so it is advisable for me to take all of the various forms of distribution into consideration, as well as invest research time and efforts into creating unique instruments and performance techniques that will allow for an imaginative, musical exploration of this concept. I am considering a specific area of this "New Music for New Instuments" approach, (although I remain open-minded about an entire range of experimental possibilities). Because of my background as a sculptor, I have experience in the production of Clay artforms, and I'm researching a method of instrument making that is a spinoff of that type of work.
EMBARKING ON AN ACOUSTIC ODYSSEY WITH CLAY INSTRUMENTS
Shedding stereotypes in the interest of innovation
I am considering the use of clay as a material for musical instruments. When clay is fired in a kiln, the resultant material is hard and brittle, and yet has some unique possibilities due to exceptional resonance and acoustical properties. If you have ever tapped on a thin-walled ceramic vase, bowl or plate, you will know what I'm referring to. The sound produced from such material can be exceptionally resonant, ringing with a clear pitch that could be considered a non-clangorous tone. As with all solid materials that have the ability to vibrate when struck, fired clay can be used to produce pitched tones of specific frequency based on the engineering of the structural thickness, length of vibrating chamber or area of surface resonance.
Based on previous experience with various clays with different characteristics from all over the world, it should be possible to make some choices pertaining to the temperature at which the clay vitrifies or hardens into a denser material. The type that would be the most applicable for this purpose would be stoneware clay, which works best for sculpting large forms. Firing it to about 2400-2500 degrees F. would produce a durable and resilient material, hard and dense enough to resonate with excellent tone characteristics.
Instrument designs based on columnar air resonance could include: Ceramic flutes, whistles, ocarinas, horns and didgeridoos. In addition to wind instruments, percussion instruments such as: darabukkas, doumbeks, udus, abangs, kimkims and other forms of traditional and goblet drums based on a ceramic "bowl" and a stretched skin top would be possible --even without throwing them on a potter's wheel, because they could be built using coils. Some of the resultant sounds that could be produced would be comparable to the Indian tabla or African talking drum.
Experimental Clay instruments could also be produced. These might consist of hybrids of the above categories of wind and percussion instruments, as well as clay versions of Egyptian rebabba-type stringed instruments that could be played with techniques similar to those used for violin. In addition, imaginative designs based on previously unexplored design principles could be fabricated, as long as they can stand up to the requirements of musical tonality, durability and transportability.
Another design innovation from nOrh Loudspeaker Ltd., a high-end audio manufacturer, located in Bangkok, Thailand. They sell over 20 types of speakers, including the
nOrh 4.0, which comes in a black ceramic version
and two special ceramic versions - the Celedon
and All American
In art, truth and reality begin
when one no longer understands
what one is doing or what one knows,
and when there remains an energy
that is all the stronger
for being constrained,
controlled and compressed.
- Henri Matisse
In new media production as in all art, I find myself restructuring and reordering information to form a continuity of idea. The process of memory-retrieval, performed subjectively is both psychoanalytic and highly personal, and is a way to reconstitute desired events selectively to organize a new whole. The Phoenix Bird is a conceptual work then, which ideally, gives insight into how an artist deals with these arenas of process and value.
Recently I have been inspired by a re-examination of William Gibson's book "Burning Chrome" in which memory, data, and simulations form much of the basis of human information "trafficking", emotional or otherwise, ultimately resulting in a blurring of flesh and machine. Gibson's later assertion of "the tamagotchi gesture" referring to the Japanese toy (a small digital creature housed in an amulet in need of daily feeding, love and sleep) has additional resonance with an artist's interests in self-formation and development.
A priori versus a posteriori as a method of learning and the possibility of genetically inherited abilities.
"A priori" is a term used to identify a type of knowledge which is obtained independently of experience. A proposition is known a priori
if when judged true or false one does not refer to experience. "A priorism" is a philosophical position maintaining that our minds gain knowledge independently of experience through innate ideas or mental faculties. The term a priori
is distinguished from a posteriori
, which means knowledge gained through the senses and experience. These are the two most common ways in which philosophers argue that humans acquire knowledge.
For Aristotle, "a priori" referred to something which was prior to something else. By "prior" he meant that some thing's existence was caused by the existence of another. Aristotle argued that to have knowledge of a prior thing, then, was to have knowledge of a causal
relationship. He argued that we can establish a causal relationship between things through syllogistic
logic. Descartes used the term "a priori" in his quest for the foundation of all knowledge. For Descartes, knowledge of our own existence was a priori
because (a) denying it leads to a contradiction, and (b) we do not need to rely on our experiences to ponder our existence.
Kant believed that a priori
truths could be found in the two areas; mathematics and the categories which organize the material of experience and science. Kant divided a priori
truths into two categories: the synthetic and the analytic. Traditionally, mathematical propositions were seen as both analytic and a priori
. Kant, however, classifies both mathematics and the categories as synthetic a priori
. Math is synthetic a priori
because it depends on the pure intuitions of the elements of time and space. Kant argued time and space were central intuitions to mathematical knowledge, and were thus the reasons for his grouping mathematical truths in the synthetic a priori
. The categories are identified as synthetic a priori
because denying them does not lead to a contradiction. On the other hand, these categories are central to experience. Kant used the example of causality, in the "Second Analogy" of the Critique of Pure Reason
, to demonstrate that the concept of an "event" having a "cause" must be connected before we can give apply either notion. This connection can only be a synthetic one, since it is not tautological
At this point, I question whether artistic abilites come from a so-called instinctive sense of what it takes to create beauty, or indeed are motivated and willful intentions to create things (as art), as an expression of the desire to articulate what seems to be beauty "in the eye of the beholder". Primitive artforms were known to function both as an expression of respect and awe for primal forces (such as representations of the deities that had power over the forces of nature) and as not-so-simple expressions of creativity by the artists who created them. Obviously art had a value to the people who created it, and also to the people who had the benefit of knowing about it (the audience). Participation in community art forms, such as decorating the environment (cave paintings), became a way of establishing a creatively expressed signal to non-community members that territorial imperative was being declared. Hence decorations were in order to make the same claim to outsiders that the territorial markings signify to hunting predators. "Stay away from my established area or deal with a defensive consequence". This is a survival mechanism, which must be deeply ingrained into the primitive lower levels of brain function. Termed as instinct, it may be easier to comprehend as programming on the level of the "wiring of brain circuits" as adverse to the genetically blue-printed instructions that are left from the previous experiences generated when survival was assured in the ancestor gene material, and those lessons learned while the life form survived it's personal threats were passed along as "talents" that could be inherited by descendants who would then benefit with the increased level of survival abilities which insured success as a species type. It is possible that creative problem solving in the breeding stock sub-species eventually became more evolved creative pathways to enhance personal experience with a sense of appreciation of the beauty in life.
Being able to record high quality audio on a desktop or workstation is great, but has its limitations in spite of my high expectations. And recording a live performance with existing technology, based on today's type of box-type PCs with the typical noise being generated by hard-drives and fans, is actually NOT desirable. Yes, I could use a minidisk, but I want a decent quality, live recording. At least two tracks --for the left and right stereo channels-- would be my minimum requirements. Beyond that, if I am using my DAW (digital audio workstation) for its software synths, real-time FX processing and other creative capabilities (algorythmic composing?), I'm sure I don't want to risk taking my entire PC or MAC to the show with all of my precious data on it. A laptop DAW would be the answer, but in order to turn a regular laptop into a digital audio workstation, I'd need an audio and/or MIDI and/or SMTPE generator, etc...interface. Unfortunely, there is a smaller selection of audio / MIDI cards to choose from in the PCMCIA market than there is in the PCI / USB markets.
Props go out to Ray Bronk (who will be prominently featured in upcoming posts
) for turning me on to NorhTec
. NorhTec is going to raise some eyebrows. Not only are they about to release some exciting designs, but they are doing it in a way that will be beyond most of the standards that are prevalent today, and at a price that is, simply put...within my budget
. These computers are lighter and smaller, use less energy, produce less noise and generate less heat than anything I've EVER heard about.
NorhTec's Panda PC
is the ideal platform for my project requirements, in fact I can predict that I'll be using these from now on for nearly ALL of my computing needs. The Panda PC will sell for $495.00. This includes 20GB 2.5 inch hard disk, 256 MB RAM, and slim DVD/CDRW. And there's more...
can be configured as firewall, gateways, application servers, video teleconferencing servers, bridges and laptop replacements. The advantages are:
- Energy Efficient
- Small Footprint
- Cross Platform Compatibility
- Low Heat Dispersion
- No Cooling Fan !
Good news indeed.
If there was a prescription for "How to remain stressed out all of the time"...
it would be compounded of equal parts of:
- self-imposed personal standards as high as Mt. Everest
- daring to compare yourself to the great masters and their accomplishments
- merciless judgements of your own imperfections and mistakes
- assessing your value as a human being by prematurely forcasting the outcome of your projects
- obsessive frustration about being unable to control factors that are beyond control
- and NEVER LISTENING TO MUSIC !
The Great Instrument is uncompleted. The Great Tone has inaudible sound.
- Lao Tzu
Tao Te Ching
WHAT MAKES A GREAT COMPOSER?
Under the most difficult circumstances for a creative musician, that of total deafness, Ludwig van Beethoven achieved more than any other composer in better, similar or worse circumstances.
The story of his life is one of great tragedy and mystery. His music is some of the most dramatic and endurable ever written.
He performed in his first public recital at the age of eight, and began to compose at the age of eleven. To improve himself further Beethoven took violin lessons.
At the age of sixteen, Beethoven went to Vienna to meet Mozart who was very taken with him and said these immortal words about Ludwig ,"Keep your eyes on him; some day he will give the world something to talk about."
Music can be all things to all persons. It is like a great dynamic sun in the center of a solar system which sends out its rays and inspiration in every direction.... Music makes us feel that the heavens open and a divine voice calls. Something in our souls responds and understands.
- Leopold Stokowski
Physicist Fritjof Capra informs us that the integration of recent insights in physics and the life sciences will require "a conceptual shift from structure to rhythm." Theorists now describe atoms in terms of harmonics; molecules vibrate; each substance is "tuned" to a unique pitch; plants and animals undergo cycles of growth and rest; planets fall into resonant orbits; stars oscillate, and galexies whirl a majestic spiral dance.
- Richard Heinberg
Music of the (Hemi) Sphere
Great art is as irrational as great music. It is mad with its own loveliness.
- George Jean Nathan
You know what I really like about cyberspace? The rumors. Such as the recent so-called fact that the Vatican had been bought out by Microsoft.... One world, one operating system! ...from the The Nerve Bible performance, 1996
- Laurie Anderson
the First International "Performance Art" Superstar
What Laurie Anderson does is very hard to describe. Combining audio special effects, acting and song writing with stand-up comedy style information delivered with a trippy multimedia Pink Floyd concert flavor, her "act" is ART with an emphasis on entertainment.
During her multimedia tour of the 90s, "The Nerve Bible," (a metaphor for the body), Laurie treated audiences around the nation to a one-woman opera scored with 11 computer languages, 35-plus tons of computer equipment, three 12-foot wide screens madly free-associating dreamy images, an electronic bodysuit that made percussive noises and her trademark neon violin. Laurie Anderson has always been out there, doing what she does best: using the tools available to tell stories straight from the human soul. She's been called a lot of things: the high priestess of quirky performance art, America's most popular avant-garde performance artist, a clever, pertinent artist, not a radical visionary, the technological story-teller. But she keeps on experimenting, in the great American fashion, keeps on reinventing herself, seeking to find the forum and the arena for her messages. As technology seems to be catching up, Anderson seems to have shifted gears slightly: the themes of her latest works are more personal than ever. From reflections on her near death experience in Tibet, to the deaths of her grandmother and her father, in "The Nerve Bible" tour she mused on the importance of the human voice keeping us all connected. She is still concerned with geo-political issues -- plagues from which there is no sanctuary, devastating floods, the firefly lights over Baghdad. It seems that the story of humanity, the story of human existence (which is so tenuous, she seems to be asserting) is counterpointed with the comic relief of technology (albeit an uneasy relief). With all her multimedia experience, she may just be one of the most essential souls of the new machine we have.
Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit announces important appearance by Thom Yorke of Radiohead
Located in the Bay Area, the Bridge School is an educational facility for children with severe speech and physical impediments. Neil Young and his wife Pegi have been intimately affiliated with the school since its inception in 1986.
MTV.com informs us that Neil Young's 16th annual Bridge School benefit concerts will include performances by Neil himself, the Foo Fighters, folk-pop legend James Taylor, Grateful Dead remnants the Other Ones, pop-sensation pianist Vanessa Carlton, Hawaiian surfer-songwriter Jack Johnson, Jack Black's novelty act Tenacious D and a solo appearance by Thom Yorke of Radiohead. Yorke's solo appearance (and the expectation that he will showcase new Radiohead material) continues a tradition of high-profile experimentation at the Bridge School shows. In previous years, Green Day surprised fans with an acoustic set and Smashing Pumpkins appeared with Marilyn Manson. A CD of performances from the first 10 years of Bridge School shows, "Bridge School Concerts Vol. 1" was released in 1997.
forward to Electronic Music Interactive
(other wise known as EMI), "Content Expert" Jeffery Stolet writes:
Electronic music can teach a musician many things. Bringing electronic music to life is a wondrously multi-faceted experience. To create sounds, the musician becomes the instrument builder. When selecting notes and rhythms, the musician becomes the composer. As the notes and rhythms are shaped, the musician becomes the performer. And finally, working to balance and coordinate the myriad and complex parts of the musical work, the musician becomes the conductor.
For these and many other reasons the study of electronic music offers an abundance of unique rewards. Perhaps no other pursuit of music is so intensely gratifying; and because of its amazing, seemingly infinite qualities, electronic music is a discipline that has riches to share with everyone, student, musician, and casual listener alike.
For more information about this amazing project and to experience EMI, check out the website
The creative act is not performed by the artist alone;
the spectator brings the work in contact with the
external world by deciphering and interpreting
its inner qualifications and thus adds
his contribution to the creative act.
- Marcel Duchamp
THE PHOENIX BIRD REDEFINED
Descriptions of Compositional Thinking and Real-Time Performance
The Phoenix Bird was composed in 1977, and in it's original configuration, was intended to be performed by an orchestra or multi-instrumental band (with multiple keyboards). My MO as a composer/performer has been to collect electronic instruments born of different persuasions and to configure them into harmonious systems that make good playing and performance fields --ideally, even going so far as to use multiple keyboard players in place of other
instruments to exemplify the range of sounds that can be obtained from classic analog synthesizers, vintage keyboard sounds like the Fender Rhodes, Hohner Clavinet, Hammond B3, Yamaha Electric Grand, etc. and newer forms of electronic synthesis methods including: FM, WaveTable, Additive and even cutting edge areas like Physical Sound Modeling and Granular synthesis. As a composer, rather than forcing musical issues, I normally begin the compositional process experimentally searching for voices by coaxing my instruments to speak for themselves and to suggest musical paths for exploration and study. Like many of my other compositions, The Phoenix Bird began as an etude, a study of tonal and temporal shapes. It began to take its current form as I played with the instrumental design (orchestra or keyboard band) tweaking, fine tuning, and massaging its musical variables while at the same time building the conceptual and physical technique to discover as well as to come to terms with the overall "voice" of the composition. After a certain period of unfettered study I began to focus on a more defined set of musical materials. Based on those materials I alternated playing and recording with listening and more compositionally oriented study. When, after years of this sort of activity, I reached the time when successive versions of the composition began to take the same overall musical shape, I started thinking about recording seriously and making multiple takes. The current version has been chosen from the best of those ideas and various previous efforts. This compositional process is an area of my research in real-time composition. This composition has been programmed many times as a stand-alone sound piece, a score to one of my videos, or a piece to be used for multimedia performance projects. When I first started on The Phoenix Bird, I was still notating music in the traditional way. This was one of the last pieces I notated traditionally. Although I took great pains to notate as precisely as possible what I wanted the instruments to do musically, in the end I would have to sing it to a performer to get what I wanted. Because of this, I seriously began to doubt the efficacy of traditional notation to suggest much beyond gross mechanics (this realization was surfacing after 23 years of studying, performing, and composing with traditional music notation and learning a great deal about music composition and theory). At this point I find myself getting deeper and deeper into the notion of real-time composition in both solo and group settings and the idea of visual music in which the notation (the imagery) emerges directly from the same source as the sonic music.
"I shall go forth, against all sorts of things, towards bright, strong and righteous aims, towards a genuine art that loves mankind, lives with his joys, his grief and his sufferings."
- Modest Mussorgsky
Modest Mussorgsky was one of the so-called "mighty five" composers that came together in St Petersburg in the 1860's to create music with a truly Russian voice which would speak in loud contrast to the European popular styles of the day. The others in the "mighty five" were Borodin, Cui, Balakirev, and Rimsky-Korsakov. His music spoke dramatically and eloquently to all. One of Mussorgsky's most celebrated compositions, Pictures at an Exhibition
, is a musical interpretation of the visual experience of viewing several paintings. Each painting is vividly portrayed in sound, using a subtle variety of musical shades and hues, a virtual acoustic equivalent of a painter's palette of colors. Mussorgsky composed it for piano, and it is a tour-de-force for any pianist. Years later the French composer Maurice Ravel saw its potential for orchestra, and it is in his orchestration that Pictures at an Exhibition
has become most well-known.
LISTEN WITH YOUR EYES / SEE WITH YOUR EARS
The harmony of the senses.
As I am interested in developing my own sound processing programs for The Phoenix Bird project, I have been doing research about the future of creativity and sensation. I found an excellent book by F. Richard Moore (1990) entitled "Elements of Computer Music" which covers a great many topics in a very readable style.
An experimental project that deeply sympathizes with the theme of recomposing the "ways we sense the world" was originally performed in Europe under the name "Dialogue in the Dark"
--it takes place in a pitch black room, where one hears various sounds, touches plants...has a non-visual experience. Moreover, those who guide us through the room are visually handicapped. Experiencing the world of the blind through this para-experience makes one realize the extent to which our sensory circuits are shut down in normal daily living.
Details can be found at Dialogue in the Dark.
In summer, when day has fled, the plain covered with flowers
Pours out far away an intoxicating scent;
Eyes shut, ears half open to noises,
We only half sleep in a transparent slumber.
The stars are purer, the shade seems pleasanter;
A hazy half-day colours the eternal dome;
And the sweet pale dawn awaiting her hour
Seems to wander all night at the botom of the sky.
- Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo, born in Besancon, France (1802-1885). Novelist, poet, dramatist and critic. He is best known for his novels "Notre-Dame de Paris" - Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831) and "Les Miserables" (1862). Victor Hugo is considered one of the leaders of the Romantic movement in French literature. Hugo created poems and novels that integrated political and philosophical questions with stories of his times. He was the herald of the new spirit of liberty and humanitarianism in France. Victor Hugo died in Paris, at the age of 83. Over three million people attended his State funeral.
Telematics and fuzzy dreamz.
...a net.art project by Doctor Hugo, explores the telematics of the mind, from fear to fun and the poetic power of a sense of wonder. A syntax of montage in relation to synaesthetic dream experiences in a film noir atmosphere.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.
- Scott Adams
What lies behind us
and what lies before us are tiny matters
when compared to what lies within us.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
Joseph II — Holy Roman Emperor (1741 - 1790) "Too many notes."
Joseph's comments were to Mozart regarding his opera Die entfûhrung aus dem Serail
[The Escape from the Seraglio]. According to Niemetschek's bio of "Woofie," Joseph was charmed by the stirring music, nevertheless commented, "Too beautiful for our ears and an extraordinary number of notes, dear Mozart." With the noble dignity and frankness so often present with genius, Mozart replied, "Just as many, Your Majesty, as are necessary."
THE MARKOV MELODY ENGINE:
GENERATING RANDOM MELODIES WITH TWO-STEP MARKOV CHAINS
So, what is the Markov melody engine?
Stochastic algorithms have had a consistent, if somewhat disreputable, role in western musical composition at least since the 18th century. W. Mozart's Musikalisches Wurfelspiel
is perhaps the best known, but other composers, including J. Haydn and C. P. E. Bach dabbled in this domain. As the name suggests, this method of recombining carefully composed musical elements in random orders according to a throw of the dice, was seen as an amusing novelty, not as a serious compositional tool. Peter Welcker published in 1775, in London, a "Tabular System Whereby Any Person without the Least Knowledge of Musick May Compose Ten Thousand Different Minuets in the Most Pleasing and Correct Manner".
In the twentieth century, the inclinations toward indeterminate notation on the one hand, and formalized (serial) compositional strategies on the other, came together in the application of formal probability theory to music. This has gone in two directions: One, indeterminate composition, in which the precise choice of notes is turned over to dice, coins, or a computer pseudo random number generator; two, compositions more or less formally inspired and structured by probability theory. The first mode has been advocated perhaps most prominently by John Cage, the second by Iannis Xenakis, who after some initial reticence plunged into the first as well.
Chance procedures can act on any element of music: pitch, timbre, rhythm, choice of musicians, time and location of the performance, choice of repertoire, etc. Most popular are random pitches, perhaps because of the superordinate role played by melody in Western music, and the early appearance of a tractable theory of musical pitches. The systems for generating random sequences of pitches have been generally of two types. The simplest approach is pitch-centered, most commonly a Markov chain, where each pitch has a distribution given for its successors.
A bit more continuity is achieved by interval-based programs. Here one might define, say, 15 possible intervals, ranging in chromatic steps from a perfect fifth down, to a perfect fifth up, and give a stochastic matrix which defines the probability of one interval following another. For instance, it might be that a perfect fourth down is likely right after a halfstep up, but unlikely after another perfect fourth down. Such a model can have a minimal sense of direction, but all sense of key is lost. The melody will wander willy-nilly over the available pitches, without significantly emphasizing the notes of any scale.
As an experiement, I would like to combine these approaches, allowing some control over the pitch statistics, together with some memory for the direction. The obvious thing to do is to define a Markov chain whose states are several pitches in a row. For larger values of ell, this will allow quite good approximations to the statistics of genuine melodies, allowing us to distinguish between the likelihood of, for example, C \Gamma D \Gamma E \Gamma F and F \Gamma D \Gamma E \Gamma F . On the other hand, as ` increases the complexity of the model grows exponentially. If there are n pitches, and the memory is ` notes long, then we need n ` (n \Gamma 1) numbers to specify the model.
There is a danger of overspecifying. If I imitate order-10 probabilities from a fund of prior melodies, I am likely to end up largely imitating them piecewise note for note, while excluding some possibilities that were musically reasonable, but which happen to be absent from the data set.
"The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible."
--Arthur C. Clarke
"Good jazz is when the leader jumps on the piano, waves his arms, and yells. Fine jazz is when a tenorman lifts his foot in the air. Great jazz is when he heaves a piercing note for 32 bars and collapses on his hands and knees. A pure genius of jazz is manifested when he and the rest of the orchestra run around the room while the rhythm section grimaces and dances around their instruments."
- Charles Mingus
Double Bass Player; Piano Player; Composer; Vocalist; Arranger; Philanthropist
Perhaps the most influential bassist in the history of jazz, Charles Mingus also earned acclaim as one of the greatest composers in the history of music. In addition he was also a bandleader and an accomplished pianist, however -like many jazz greats- his contributions have been minimized by critics and various segments of society that have historically marginalized jazz music and continue to do so today. The lack of respect and appreciation for jazz in the United States was and continues to be a defeating paradox, as jazz (along with the blues) is the only genre of music that can be classified as distinctly American. Charles Mingus deserves his legend status not only in jazz, but in American music as a whole.
Born on a military base in Nogales, Arizona in 1922, his early influences were classical and gospel music. The gospel influence grew out of his religious home life and the fact that his stepmother only allowed gospel music in her home. After moving to California at an early age, Charles studied composition and classical bass and played in the L.A. Youth Orchestra. Unfortunately, Charles -like so many others- had to abandon his dreams due to the cruelty of societal ignorance. He was told that because he was black, he would never be able to play classical music the way it should be played. Charles Mingus crushed this stereotype later in life, as several of his classical compositions went on to earn widespread acceptance.
Charles deliberately incorporated a variety of different styles into his unique sound. He developed a "conversational" approach with his playing, characterized by a single line "vocal" type of playing. This technique was centered around the idea that the bass deserved equal footing with the other lead instruments. By nature, this leads to artistic improvisation which, at the time, was frowned upon by jazz critics. Those critics claimed that improvisation was nothing more than "spontaneous composition," but Charles refused to allow the critics to detract from his art and often encouraged instinctual playing and improvisations in his bands (Trios, Sextets, and Octets). Interestingly, even his style of composition favored improvisations, and at a certain point in his career, he rarely wrote down fully developed scores. Rather, he would sit at the piano and sing/hum melody lines and then allow his band members to expand on the line and contribute melodically, technically and (perhaps most important to Charles), personally.
Even though he had an extremely prolific carreer, Charles was not free from financial troubles. As is true for most musicians playing for what they believe rather than for money, Mingus tried earnestly to break ties with the mostly "white commercial jazz scene." In an attempt to free himself from the financial lock with the jazz record companies, he organized many concerts (out of which emerged the Jazz Artists Guild), wrote an "autobiography" entitled Beneath The Underdog
, and started two of his own recording companies; Debut Records
and the Charles Mingus label
. However, despite his best efforts, Mingus failed in his efforts to beat the system and disappeared from public awareness towards the latter half of the 1960's. In describing his feelings before his descent towards poverty, Charles was quoted as saying, "I've come to the point, musically and personally, where I have to play the way I want to. I just can't compromise anymore." Unfortunately, these words weren't just a feeling that Mingus had, rather, they were a solemn sign of the times.
Forced back into public performances by heavy financial burdens, Charles resumed his carreer in 1969...and by 1971, after he published his book, and acquired a Guggenheim fellowship in composition, he was basically back to full speed composing, arranging, singing, and playing. Sadly, in 1977 he became extremely ill and was later diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. One year after his last recording session (1978), Mingus passed away leaving behind more than fifty albums and about 300 individual works. The achievements of Charles Mingus live on through his archives at the Library of Congress (he is the first jazz artist to have papers admitted into the archives), and through his music, and most importantly through the musicians that he signed on his record label.
ANGER AND RESISTANCE:
What's the Meaning of This?!
In studying society, we often unconsciously assume we are studying "them" -- but we are not. We are studying ourselves and we resist that, we dislike that. It makes us uncomfortable and it makes us angry. Socrates wasn't given a medal and a tickertape parade after all. As the Russian existentialist philosopher Shestov said, "It is not man who pursues truth, but truth man."
When you turn the TV on, in effect, you turn the world off. The TV is only two feet high or so, yet we are fooled into thinking we are watching life-sized things. How is it that everything on it appears real and life-like?
Technical events produce the illusion of being natural and realistic. They produce the feeling of being non-produced (a good cut is one you don't notice, as the editors say). In the same way, we are unaware that the practice of watching TV is a practice because we have never experienced it as a phenomenon in its own right. Doing the Technical Events Test forces us to notice that watching TV is a practice, an active, ongoing achievement that we accomplish "for another first time through" each time. We see what the texture of the experience of watching TV consists of. We are shocked into seeing what it is we've been doing all these years.
By counting the technical events as we watch TV, we bring about a "paradigm shift." What is a technical event? We've all seen TV cameras in banks and jewelry stores. A stationary video camera simply recording what's in front of it is what I will call "pure TV." Anything other than pure TV is a technical event: the camera zooms up, that's a technical event; you are watching someone's profile talking and suddenly you are switched to another person responding, that's a technical event; a car is driving down the road and you also hear music playing, that's a technical event. Simply count the number of times there is a cut, zoom, superimposition, voice-over, appearance of words on the screen, fade in/out, etc.
When you focus on the technical events you can't focus on the plot or storyline. You learn very quickly how difficult it is to divide your attention. Either you watch the program or you count the technical events. You are unable to do both at the same time. In terms of the phenomenology of perception, this is a little like the famous demonstration of either seeing-the-vase or seeing-two-profiles, but not seeing both simultaneously in any sustained manner.
As we watch, we notice the discrete segments of independent footage that are presented with a rapid-fire quality. We, the "passive" viewers, apparently put together, synthesize and integrate the scenes: we link, we knit, we chain, we retain the past and anticipate the future. We methodically weave them all together into a coherent narrative. A high-speed filling-in-the-blanks and connecting-the-dots occurs. Our actively synthesizing mind, our labor, goes on while we sit back, relax and absorb. This high-speed integration of often wildly disconnected phenomena (angles, scenes, persons, music) is experienced in the mode of blank and passive absorption. It would seem that our minds are in high gear without our knowing. To address this we want to look at the following:
This difference between internally generated and imposed imagery is at the heart of whether it is accurate to say that television relaxes the mind. Relaxation implies renewal. One runs hard, then rests. While resting the muscles first experience calm and then, as new oxygen enters them, renewal.
When you are a watching, absorbing techno-guru, your mind may be in alpha, but it is certainly not "empty mind." Images are pouring into it. Your mind is not quiet or calm or empty. It may be nearer to dead, or zombie-ized. It is occupied. No renewal can come from this condition. For renewal, the mind would have to be at rest, or once rested, it would have to be seeking new kinds of stimulation, new exercise. Television offers neither rest nor stimulation.
Television inhibits your ability to think, but it does not lead to freedom of mind, relaxation or renewal. It leads to a more exhausted mind. You may have time out from prior obsessive thought patterns, but that's as far as television goes. The mind is never empty, the mind is filled. What's worse, it is filled with someone else's obsessive thoughts and images.
This dramatically reveals the functions of the political institution of television in
(a) training us to shorten our attention span
(b) making ordinary life appear dull
(c) injecting a hypnotic quality into our ordinary awareness
(d) coercing us into its reality
Television is the quintessential short-term medium. Like jugglers, television lives for the split second. Its relationship to viewers is measured in tiny fractions. Solemn hierarchies of men and women react to overnight program ratings with something approaching nervous breakdowns, because one percentage point can mean $30 million a year. The result of this manic concern is to design programming that will serve attention-getting rather than the humanistic substance that will stay with the viewer. The ratings race serves the advertisers, not the audience.
It is easier to shorten attention spans and increase distraction than to lengthen attention spans, increase concentration, and calm, quiet and still the mind. There is an old Zen analogy that the way to calm, clear and quiet the mind is similar to the way to clear a muddy pool -- not by action, by doing, by stirring it up, but by stillness, by letting it be, by letting it settle itself. The function of TV is to create, maintain and constantly reinforce what -- in the Zen tradition -- is often called "monkey-mind." The question to ask is: What is the good of a jumpy, volatile, scattered and hyper monkey-mind?
Since the emergence of long-term space flight in orbit above the earth, a new physiological phenomenon has arisen among our astronauts. They found that as a result of long-term weightlessness, some rather drastic physical changes began to occur in their bodies. They experienced a marked and dramatic reduction of muscle size. Even their hearts became markedly smaller. The astronauts also experienced a loss of co-ordination abilities -- such as the ability to focus on and follow moving objects with their eyes. All of this seems to be due to taking the human organism outside the experience of gravity. In order to preserve their earthbound physiology in conditions of weightlessness, astronauts need to do two to three hours of custom-designed exercises per day. Perhaps watching TV produces the equivalent mental condition of weightlessness for the human mind, together with the attending shrinkages and deteriorations. The normal, invisible, all-pervasive pressure of mental gravity, of our ordinary, active, incessantly thinking mind is suspended when we turn on the television.
COERCING US INTO REALITY
Our culture and education conspire to condition us, to create a reliance on media to reinforce our actions, feelings and self-perceptions. When we seek media confirmation we acknowledge and assume that our personal experiences are not qualified as reality any longer. We lose the drive to pursue direct experience as well as the drive to participate in co-creating reality. We no longer do, we watch, and reality is someone else's creation. As Todd Gitlin has said, it's not until an event (institution, thought, principle, movement, etc.) crosses the media threshold that it takes on a solid reality for us. Stretched out across our world is the media membrane, over the threshold of which -- and only over the threshold -- lies legitimate, confirmed reality, and though we don't have to believe what the media tell us, we can't know what they don't tell us.
TV WITHOUT SOUND
There is such a thing as a narrative trance, a narrative-consciousness. We have been programmed to become narrative subjects, subjected to the developmental narrative mode, intertwined with the storyline. In this, we're suspending our narrative consciousness and hence de-stabilizing the narrative subject. We identify not with a character, nor with the omniscient author, but with the camera. During usual viewing, however, our eyes do not see what is actually there because our narrative-trained mind overrides our eyes. We don't see with our eyes, we see with our programming, and we are programmed to see stories. TV programs are made so that we don't notice the "technical events," the details -- so that we don't pay attention. We are programmed to be unaware of the programming, the non-narrative structure and possibilities of that structure. To watch TV programs is to be lifeless and unresisting. This is the state that allows the commercials to take full effect and operate our minds for us.
THE NATURE OF THE NEWS
As a usual daily routine, only the unusually tragic or triumphant is shown -- not the ordinary routines and day-to-day reality of our lives. It is true that the news show has fewer technical events. There is a good reason for this. With fewer technical events the news show appears realistic relative to other shows in the TV environment. Further, it appears super-realistic relative to the commercial shows in this environment. As earlier, we witnessed the joining of technical events in a coherent narrative. Here, we witness the reduction of worldly events into a narrative.
The problem is not that TV presents us with entertaining subject matter, but that TV presents all subject matter as entertaining. This transcends TV and spills over into our post-TV life experiences. TV trains us to orient toward and tune in to the entertainment quality of any experience, event, person. We look for that which is entertaining about any phenomenon rather than qualities of depth, social significance, spiritual resonance, beauty, etc. In this sense TV doesn't imitate life, but social life now aspires to imitate TV.
Further, we become greedy. Not greedy in the traditional sense in reference to material wealth, rather, we experience a greed to be entertained. It's not just a need for entertainment, but a downright greed for entertainment, and it becomes a 24-hour obsession. In the absence of entertainment, we usually entertain ourselves with plans for future entertainment.
As one formula puts it, Media Power = Political Power Squared The TV has shown us that politicians can't be trusted but TV can. That is, according to Joshua Meyrowitz in No Sense of Place, implicit in showing us this about politicians is the message, "We who are showing you this, the TV, can be trusted." We can trust TV, and the institution of TV, to reveal how politicians and the institution of politics can't be trusted.
TV AND THE ILLUSION OF KNOWING
Marshall McLuhan says TV opens out onto an electronic global village. It would seem, rather, that it gives us only the illusion of being. It reinforces security by presenting danger, ignorance by presenting news, lethargy by presenting excitement, isolation by promising participation. The media confines reality to itself. And it limits knowledge by giving the illusion of knowledge. In the same way that the most effective way to deflect, diffuse and terminate a social movement is to announce that it has been achieved (the feminist movement must contend with this on an almost daily basis), the most effective way to deflect inquiry is to present it as fulfilled. TV acts in this guise as a thinking presentation device which offers non-experience as experience and not-knowingness as knowing.
In the words of Mat Maxwell, "Television becomes the world for people.... The world becomes television." The overall and cumulative effect of the media is to heighten our insensitivity to reality. Rather than breaking the chains of ignorance, political domination and illusion in our Platonic cave, something insidiously similar yet different is going on. Instead of actually turning away from the shadows to see the realities, instead of actually leaving the darkness of the cave and going up into the sunlight, we merely watch an image of ourselves doing this, we fantasize about doing it and think it's the same.
"If you can be free of conventions, that is extraordinary; if you intentionally value the unusual, that is not extraordinary but weird."
-(Huanchu Daoren, c.1600 trans. by Thomas Cleary)
"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers."
- Pablo Picasso.
Pablo Picasso created paintings, sculptures, prints, and ceramics and is famous for his pioneering work in cubism. During his 75 year career, he continued his creative output at a prolific pace and with a vital energy more equivalent to today's accelerated technological and cultural changes, than to his own comtempory culture.
As a 'sculptor-painter', Picasso observed: "Sculpture is the best comment that a painter can make on a painting."
IMAGINATION AND CREATIVE GROWTH
The process of inventing reasons and meanings to explain things about the world.
Psychologists and physiologists have discovered that words and images are particular impulses which originate in separate parts of the brain. The left hemisphere generates words; the right generates images. If I ask you to describe the breakfast you ate this morning, you will probably experience both visual and verbal thought. You might see the food in your mind and then select and organize the words needed to describe that picture. Brain activity influences personality. The left-brain is the seat of logic and linear organization; of structural certainties - lists, outlines and scientific proof; of sensing the order of time. The right-brain is intuitive rather than mathematical in influencing judgment, recognizes the parts of a thing as an integrated whole (gestalt), yet is divorced from knowing time. Visual impulses move through consciousness as images, impressions, and sensations like dream experience. Visual thinking is our ability to imagine. The right-brained person might be accused of being a dreamer - lost in "imagination".
The word "imagination" is often associated with young children. We find it cute that children have such vivid "imaginations" when they play, pretend and invent.
As adults we lose interest in imaginal thinking. Robert Fulghum, a former (part-time) Unitarian minister and author of the book Everything I Wanted to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
, once visited a kindergarten class and asked, "Can any of you draw?" Every child raised their arms emphatically. "Can any of you dance, sing, act?" For each question every child could do all of those things, and wanted to demonstrate with an impromptu audition. Then he visited a college classroom and asked the same questions. No one could or would admit to drawing, dancing, singing or acting. Picasso observed that "all children paint like geniuses"
. Then asked, "What do we do to them that so quickly dulls this ability?"
If we examine the word imagination we see that it has "image" in it. An image is a mental picture. It also has "imagine" in it. To imagine is to create mental pictures, to see with eyes closed. We all imagine in common ways everyday, in remembering - "did I turn the stove off?"- , daydreaming - what will I say at the next committee meeting?"... Through imagination we project our feelings and expectations onto objects in our environment, like Van Gogh’s painting of a chair or Leonardo’s notebook descriptions of seeing dragons in the clouds and faces in the cracks of sidewalks.
We create analogies and metaphors to connect with things outside of ourselves, as in the classical myths where the forces of nature are personified into gods and goddesses, and with the inner aspects of human personality, as the characters of fairy tales - giants, witches, trolls, fairy godmothers, princes and frogs.
Through art, personal analogies and metaphors are shared through the visual language of the imagination.
This is clear in the Haiku:
- Jack Kerouac’s haikus (Spring,1958-Blues and Haikus):
The tree looks like a dog/ barking at heaven.
In my medicine cabinet/the winter fly/ has died, of old age.
- or from Basho the 17th century inventor of Japanese Haiku:
Bright moon: strolling around the pond all night long.
- Kobayashi Issa: (early19th century)
Under my house an inchworm, measuring the joists.
Imagination is the source of fantasies - daydreams, the visionary’s ability to create unseen worlds and discover unknown routes to familiar places. We seem to have an instinct for inventing images to identify the intangible forces of our lives. With the ability to visualize, to see through our mind’s eye, we project our hopes and plans for the future, and the identity of who we are and how we connect to the world around us. The images we create determine the reality of personal existence. We become what we imagine.
John Lennon asked us to :
Imagine all the people, living life in peace... no countries, ... no religions, ... no possessions, ... no need for greed or hunger, ... Imagine all the people sharing all the world...
- John Lennon, Imagine
We use imagination in remembering, daydreaming/fantasizing, empathizing, dreaming, and seeing.
It provides the atmosphere in which the arts can breathe.
It provides images which suggest answers to the hard questions: What am I? Why am I living? What is real...
Research activities by buster & friends’ d’da
include the following projects:
io 0.0.1 beta
Automatic Morricone Machine
Church of Sonology
...all of which include tongue-in-cheek experiments with A.I. (Artifact Intelligence),
granular synthesis, vocoders, pseudo-random number generators, iteration, recursion and loudspeakers.
NOTE: Software component of io
written in HMSL.
Download, install and Jam with the Multiplayer version of Webdrum 2 from TransJam.com.
"Composing is a slowed-down improvisation; often one cannot write fast enough to keep up with the stream of ideas."
- Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
Arnold Schoenberg had considerable influence over the course of music in the 20th century, particularly through his development and promulgation of theories of composition in which unity in a work is provided by the use of a determined series, usually consisting of the twelve possible different semitones, their order also inverted or taken in retrograde form, and in transposed versions. Schoenberg's earlier compositions are post-romantic in character, followed by a period in which he developed his theories of atonality, music without a key or tonal centre. Schoenberg's most important opera is Moses und Aron
, of which he completed only two of the three acts. Schoenberg's music for orchestra includes a violin concerto, a symphonic poem based on Maurice Maeterlinck's medieval drama Pelleas und Melisande
and Five Orchestral Pieces. In addition to four string quartets and a late string trio, Schoenberg's post-romantic Verklärte Nacht
of 1899 is particularly noteworthy. Gurrelieder
, written between 1901 and 1903, is a work of Wagnerian proportions and mood, for solo voices, large chorus and orchestra. Other, later vocal music includes A Survivor from Warsaw
, written in 1947, for narrator, male voices and orchestra. Solo songs range from the 1909 settings of Stefan George in Das Buch der hängenden Gärten (The Book of the Hanging Garden)
to the cabaret songs he wrote for the Berlin Überbrettl in his earlier years.
Words half spoken and half sung, speech or singing?
In The Pierrot Lunaire
, a study of madness --based on German translations of seven poems by Albert Giraud-- Arnold Schoenberg used the technique of 'Sprechgesang" to express the ideas from the poems. According to Schoenberg's own explanation, "the pitch is indicated, however left again immediately."
These are not "operating instructions", but interpretation instructions, requiring practice in order to express properly. The method remains controversial despite experimentation. Perhaps the "ambiguity" of the instructions, separates the inability to deal with the term "speech singing" from the interpretation in performance that NEVER followed instructions or methods, but was intended to be subject to a continual dialectic principle.