Monday, November 26, 2007

24 Hours of Ferneyhough

A time-lapse video of someone listening to the complete recordings of Brian Ferneyhough. The comments on YouTube are hilarious -- even someone else listening to this music makes people mad.

Me, I can get mad looking at a score. But the result is surprisingly listenable. You can almost always tell where you've come from and where you're going, at least in the short term. It's music for microscope ears. And, lo! A serenade!

Which isn't to say that 24 hours of it wouldn't change you.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hysterical up

The Oracle Hysterical is back online. Thanks for waiting --

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hysterical down

The OH is not available for the moment being. Either is having a problem or the files have been removed (?) -- I'm looking into alternate places to put them. Hang tight.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Brad and I are excited that Alex Ross mentioned our EP in his Book tour diary 3. Thanks Alex! I'm looking forward to reading his book -- as soon as school lets out and I can get on with my education.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Andrei Khrjanovsky - Armoire

YouTube - Andrei Khrjanovsky - Armoire

I'm on a Schnittke rampage and have come across a handful of beautiful cartoons he scored. Isn't this wonderful?

Friday, August 3, 2007


I've been working for most of the last year on a record with a friend. It's hip-hop if hip-hop is an abstract machine, an operation -- sampling, collage, the grid. We've done just what everyone else has done -- performed that operation to the music we love, and shaped it around his fantastic lyrics. I talk about it like its a silly just-for-fun project, but I'm secretly as proud and excited about it as can be.

I like working with samples because they never quite fit. When I'm writing music at the page, its easy to make a phrase fit the meter, peak where it should, interact harmonically the way I want etc. It's extra trouble not to. Working with samples is the opposite. They never behave exactly like I want them to, and so they demand solutions that stretch me. My job isn't to Express Myself; it is to make compromises, compute optima, lots of slight-of-hand. I like that much better.

It's of course naive of me to say writing at the page is easy. But it's only hard (and only good) insofar as I work with the same attitude: first, freely welcome irreconcilable elements, and then struggle for an acceptable solution. Irreconcilables are the bootstraps by which we transcend.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I'm amazed that I haven't ever been urged to copy scores. I've only spent a few hours with Toru Takemitsu's incredible string quartet A Way A Lone, and I'm startled. I feel much more conversant in his language, and much more confident at the page. If I ever teach, my students will do this. It's interesting to copy out a stretch vertically, stacking harmonies, and then take the a stretch horizontally to feel the lines. Working at that pace, hands and ears so slow, is a much better look into the composer's mind than listening, which changes too: even Takemitsu's inveterate Andante now flies by my ears in a blur.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Third Coast Noise

Thomas Helton and Danielle Reich have been hosting an outside jam the last few months. Recordings from last time here -- I'm playing accordion.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What Music Where

In music school everybody pretends that music is a thing by itself. They pretend that the concert hall is a transparent place for pure listening and the value of a listening experience depends exclusively how good the music is. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, having felt sadly unmoved and alienated by most everything I've put through my ears.

And then I went home to Austin for a few days. I spent some time with a group of guys who are playing guitar and writing songs all the time. Their songs are great and they sound great and I'm really impressed with them. I hope I find myself in a community like that someday. Their music brought me much more joy than anything I could think of to put on the stereo.

And then I met and hosted a house concert for (the) Giants of Gender, a really thoughtful, excellent creative-improv group from Ohio. Kate and I called everyone we knew, cooked a pile of food, and they made magic in my living room.

I’m becoming convinced that all music is socially functional, and that the social function is the seat of its power. That is to say, music (rather, the music-experience) is a vector for the replication of social norms. Every music transmits a social vision, not just in its content (comforting, challenging?) and place in the discourse (indie + Eastern Europe, Texas swing?), but also in the circumstances of its experience, which lend so much power to music that I think the two are inseparable.

We try all we can to separate the music from its setting. The iPod is the most perfect achievement of a long line of attempts to effect this divorce. But it just creates its own setting, as predictable and impenetrable as The Opera: those twin tiny universes of “anything you want, only when you want it” and “alone.” It doesn’t matter how good the music is, if it comes on a CD it transmits and cements this vision.

On the other extreme, the rock concert, and everyone else who uses it as a model. Godlike performers and unwashed masses, the clear, policed boundary between the two, the illusion of participation – deeply alienating.

Of course, setting is just one element of what music ‘says,’ and the sense of participation in a distant time and a place you get listening to your favorite record may more than make up for the isolation of your headphones at home. That sense of participation is why people love music – suburban white kids communing with their urban black counterparts (about whom they are deeply curious), university professors communing with the Long Line of Genius, hipsters and everyone else using music to more and more finely draw group-membership boundaries. Those distant communities-in-music have been deeply important for me, but you can't cook with them. You can't sing with them. And so what kind of community is that?
(Hakim Bey: "If my eyes are free but my nose isn't, that's not what I call freedom. That's why there's no festival in cyberspace.")

No matter the fidelity, no matter what orchestra, the music on my iPod or concert hall will never sound as good to me as my friends singing in my living room.

[Or that time Clem led a fleet of bicycles out at midnight to the abandoned airport, out across the runway to a school-bus graveyard. He'd swept one out and filled it with candles, and then the strangest, most exciting music I will probably ever hear.]

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bang on a Can

The Bang on a Can Marathon was really disappointing. I’m sorry. I know it’s exciting that such a thing is possible. I know it signals good things for New Music, or whatever. And I didn’t go to all of it, so maybe I missed some gems. But nobody should be congratulating themselves for taking any chances. No, I take that back, I saw one brave act – Dälek, a posturing, hair-swinging hip-hop/heavy metal outfit that must have felt out of place and ridiculous up there but did their act anyway. That’s gutsy, and as alienated as I felt from what they had to say, I really appreciated them for taking that chance. Most everything else was calculated to amuse, programmed by a formula for guessing what cool might be – a grumpy hipster with a laptop and some violins – a D minor jam band with songs in five (!) and a bassoon (!!) – an orchestra with a heavy metal guitar (!!!) – Brian Eno – brake drums brake drums brake drums. Lots and lots of safe Danger Music, one dimensional, obvious, half-baked. I felt totally underestimated as a listener.

Except for the Books. I loved the Books. Go hear the Books.

That said, I think I really support Bang on a Can’s mission (as I see it) – encourage a culture of experimentation in pop music and discourage the culture of snobbery in classical music. That’s the force I’ve tried to be in my little world. But most of what I heard had none of the joy of pop, only the cool, and none of the brains of classical, only the formality.

So that’s the music. But even if the music had been incredible, the setting doomed it all. It was a huge atrium of one of the peripheral World Trade Center buildings – all glass and marble, a cavern. The sound was terrible. They fought the echoes by turning up the speakers until we all had to cover our ears sometimes (ooh, edgy). The audience made tons of noise, lots of high-heels, cell phone conversations and tour groups just wandered through. It got me thinking, and I have not stopped, about the relationship between music and its set-and-setting. Classical music depends on an atmosphere of reverence, as pop music depends on exuberance, and both were impossible here.

All of their attempts to appear legitimate – the high-profile space, the pro production, the stellar (and hip looking) hired musicians, Brian Eno – made it somehow inert, hopeless, like if the city were a drum it was a dead spot. No resonance. Very frustrating.

Sunday, May 6, 2007


Interactive map of the Lower East Side lets you control the superposition of interviews, music and field recordings from places inside. Really beautiful.


Where, exactly?

Interesting -- after spending all afternoon thinking about my last post I put on Berio, Notturno for string quartet, and it sounds exactly like what I was arguing for -- a music that warps the grid that engenders it. I'm suddenly skeptical of my ears. Do I often hear exactly what I want to hear? Or is that idea old news? -- probably some of both.

Grid Music

Music is too easily reduced to positive space: music is stuff, arranged in a particular order, with particular relationships. But so much of music's effect is in its negative space -- syncopation's invisible beats, the implied harmony in a solo line, the remembered head behind a jazz solo, sonata form or Bob Dylan (or where I'm from, Townes Van Zandt), abstract and looming.

The grid, as a feature in negative musical space, is endemic to our tradition. It is traditional notation's first axiom -- to map pitch on one axis, rhythm on another, with regular intervals and a 'snap to' default gives us enormous leverage to understand and organize, just as perspective revolutionized painting, and the Cartesian plane revolutionized, by way of mathematics, most everything we do. It's all one idea.

It makes me uncomfortable, though, when I'm writing music without a pulse. It feels unethical, somehow, to start the page "quarter equals sixty" and then fill it with ties, fives, threes, grace notes, dotted, shifted, irregular everythings. And it comes out sounding stiff -- I can hear the grid in there, despite what I've done to hide it. I've posed this question of conscience to my teachers, and I've often gotten some variation of Stockhausen's response -- I'm thinking of the story where Stockhausen is shouting at Morton Feldman that he "cannot live in the sky:" a sound either lands (while pounding time on the table) "here, here, or here." I disagree. Who the hell are you? Where did you come from? And why are you pounding the table through my piece?

I'm not arguing that it's a prison. That's an old saw -- most every composition teacher I've had has told me, at one time or another, to scoot this over an eighth, tie it over the barline, and hip people everywhere groan about obvious beats. And there's plenty of unabashedly gridded music that's fantastic too.

But the grid -- the idea of the grid -- has changed. The parade of ideas that gave it to us has moved on, and we should pause to consider the consequences.

Traditional notation locks us into a Euclidean geometry in that it is based on an immobile, transcendent frame of reference (give me a place to stand and I will count to four). To describe any form, you need to embed it in a larger box with fixed values (pure invention) and plot it according to correspondences between the two. Eventually, this method proved unsatisfactory to mathematicians who, like me, probably felt a little guilty about depending so heavily on something so arbitrary. We were all eventually liberated from that box by Gauss and then Riemann, who invented a way to describe forms without it. As I understand it, they used a continuum of differential equations to describe change from one point to another as the form is traversed. Bingo -- we can exhaustively define anything by relating all of its points to one another -- no grid.

[Almost a century later Schoenberg introduces his method of composing with "all twelve notes related only to one another." I'll have to think about it for a while, before I get too excited, but what an analogy! Only his grid wasn't the grid, it was tonality. Taken together these describe a kind of liberation strategy.]

Then, working out Riemann, Einstein: matter curves space. IF you were to draw a grid, its lines could not be perfectly straight. They cannot be indifferent to what they traverse. Motion too, will warp even the emptiness around it.

While I don't think we are required by Progress to imitate science, I do find it beautiful that ideas transcend discipline, and I think connections like these are worth pursuing. It's not clear how to begin applying this to music. I suppose one route is Riemann's escape -- find a way to describe the shape and placement of sounds through self-reference. Goodbye notation as we know it. Another approach would grant a grid but allow it to be warped by the music embedded in it, just as it shapes that music. It would require a new musical math, a counterpoint of space.

Counterpoint already does all this, just on a different scale. In counterpoint, every change shapes the environment that shaped it -- general relativity. Events don't warp the pitch/rhythm grid, but they do warp the grid that describes each line's possible paths. It's a nonlinear dynamical system, de Landa would say, and, as such, is an organically generative machine (like CI). I want to apply the same to the physics of music. (See Sower) An explosion in the brass? How could the winds not be shaken from their tune?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Two Routes to Unity

1. A few materials subjected to many transformations.

We hear a lot about this one. In school, economy is paramount -- everything must be connected to one chord, one melody. It doesn't seem to matter whether these connections are audible. If they're on the page, you can't argue -- they're coming into your ears. It adds up to a kind of modernist's mysticism: you can't hear its unity, but once you know its there, can't you feel it?

This feeling of unity is faith, though few would call it that, and it profoundly shapes our listening. Analysis class turns out to be primarily a faith-raising exercise -- Boulez sounds illogical doesn't he? Well look, he's not! The details tend to not be important except in that they demonstrate a Deep Unity and Serious Intellectual Rigor, (and we're easily impressed). Put it back on the stereo and, if we bought the analysis, we listen differently, reverently, trying to be open to the Mystery as it pours in.

It's a rare thing to get to be both a humanist and a mystic. I think that's probably why I'm drawn to it. But there are a lot of problems with this model, specifically hylomorphism and essentialism, which I'll outline soon.

2. Many materials subjected to few transformations.

This approach is very exciting to me and, as far as I can tell, underexplored. Transformation is the foreground -- the materials are irrelevant except that, in passing, they describe unseen forces. The music is a river or a whirlwind; leaves, dirt, houses may pass through them, but it doesn't matter which. They can be in any order, have come from any place. All that matters is that they help reveal the whirlwind's form. It's the 'melting pot' -- unity isn't in the ingredients, its in the fact they've all been melted.

Some material can be a description a force -- dirt is great for a whirlwind, anvils are not. But a diversity of materials is best. We need to see the behavior of both dirt and an anvil to know the extent of the whirlwind's power. The greater the variety of materials, the better they describe the unseen force. As a result, it 'works' differently than other music. It works exactly like Contact Improvisation, in which coherent dances are effortlessly created by funneling all freedom through a single constraint.

(This is how I hear James Dillon, and why I'm wild about his music. The details are chaotic but the forces acting on them are clear, effortless to follow.)

So this music's form and construction is in its negative space. The positive space -- the sound -- spontaneously takes on forms generated by (but not simply the inverse of) the negative space.

I suppose you could say that this is how the Boulez-types construct -- the method-machine is the negative space and the music is what happens when you turn it on. But there is a distinction to be made: while the sonic matter of the piece may be an accurate product of the method's generative forces, it does not necessarily follow that they are meaningful description of them.

To be a meaningful description of forces, the forces have to be recoverable -- if you listen and find it impossible to meaningfully abstract, if you cannot take a derivative and see a line -- there has been a rupture, a disunity, between the form of the music and the form of the music's source. This position takes too small a view of music. It's like studying an animal but ignoring its environment. We should take the larger view. Unity isn't a function of numerical correspondence, motivic development, thematic return, arc shape -- although these all may be evidence for it. Unity is continuity between a form and the forces that formed it.

And we learned everything we know about forces from our bodies.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Recital 4/29/07

Notes and recordings from my first recital. Recordings are all hosted at the Internet Archive, where you can also stream smaller versions of these files.

The Parable of the Sower

The first twenty-one notes of the Bach D minor violin partita are imagined as seeds planted in a row. Each seed sprouts and blooms. Each chord-blossom imagines an inner nature of its seed note, based on the quality, tension and direction of that note as it lies in the original line. The line thickens but maintains its continuity and direction.
The chord-blossoms are in their prime in the middle of the piece; after three or four iterations the line is robust and its shape remains clear. Beyond this point, however, are diminishing returns: as harmonies become intrinsically rich they become extrinsically inert. Each new note perturbs the trajectories of its neighbors. Chords no longer want to lead from one to the next. I lose control of the line. Imagine blossoms, over-ripe, one by one quitting the vine.
But even as this happens a second and opposite process is taking place. Not limited by the same diminishing returns, secondary properties – dynamics, rhythm – define their own line with increasing clarity. These properties create, or rather reveal, a kind of physical momentum that originated in the tonal momentum of Bach’s line – the acceleration of the scale, the traction preparing the leap, the weightless denouement of the leap itself, the resulting tumble. As the tonal logic is gradually peeled away, the physical logic is revealed to be freestanding.
A parable, then, about music history.

Quintet for Solo Clarinet

Angelique Poteat, Clarinet
Emily Dahl, violin
Kaoru Suzuki, violin
Karen Raizen, viola
Jay Tilton, cello

Though notes sound like discrete points and lines, they emanate inaudible, but not imaginary, fields. Their fields of tonal influence interact, producing the distinctive sounds of intervals. They generate fields in our memory which interact in much the same way, producing motivic, thematic, or structural resonances and dissonances. There are fields in a possibility-space that describe the likelihood of future events, which inform our expectation.
The Quintet for Solo Clarinet explores this idea. Imagine that the clarinet is alone. The other sounds are fields emanating from her line – memory trails, harmonic implications both real and imagined, unexplored paths, alternative interpretations and consequences. And though the clarinet generates these forms, they aren’t strictly determined. They often diverge from their source and achieve a brief independence before fading, as if swept away by irrational, chthonic forces.

The Tourist
1. (Emerging)
2. The Tourist
3. (Submerging)

Cynthia Bova, piano
Dan Sedgwick, piano

Imagine that the music we hear is only a slice of a deep, unbroken continuum, surfacing briefly like a whale, a thread in a tapestry, or incompletely like the tip of an iceberg. Or an animal in a zoo – certainly ours is the domesticated form. How does it behave in the wild, untouched by human hands?
The Tourist is the music – well behaved, presentable, a product of my ear (which is to say, bred in captivity). The surrounding movements imagine states prior and subsequent to its brief incarnation, as if it were first congealing, and then dissolving back into the silent, unbroken line.

Selections from the Origins Etudes
1a. Separation
1b. Sedimentation
2b. Cantus Firmus

Francis Liu, violin
Stephanie Nussbaum, violin
Lauren Magnus, viola
Josh Boulton, cello

“To be original is to return to your origin.”
Narcis Bonet

1a. Separation
A study in musical mitosis. An open fifth is pulled apart; smooth pitch (glissandi) becomes striated (semitones); rhythmic streams struggle for independence; dynamics and articulation, initially mapped isomorphically to pitch, diverge. Then a phase change: pitches solidify into three harmonies (major chords separated by whole steps) which are themselves teased out one by one; those chords diverge, rotating independently through the circle of fifths; rhythmic unisons skew. V I cadence – another phase change: I begin to separate myself from the music by surrendering control of first the rhythms, finally the pitches.

1b. Sedimentation
The registral range of the quartet is treated as a space. The middle of this space, around middle C, is fertile and generative. Half and whole steps pour out. Spontaneous and relentless change in this region pressures the line it generates to adapt. Half and whole steps get pushed outward, with the smaller, lighter half steps drifting to the edges.
Sedimentation is a search process. When loose elements (here, scale steps) freely spread throughout a system and settle, their resulting shape is a description of the relevant constraints of that system. Recall how iron filings describe the shape of magnetic fields, or how trees at high altitudes hug a timberline. In the same way, this sedimentation of notes reveals the shape of my range-space: a single bulge to which volume, tone color and tempo conform.

2b. Cantus Firmus
Cantus firmus technique, in which added parts decorate a fixed melody, was used as early as the tenth century. It was the dominant polyphonic practice for the following five hundred years. I borrow two cantus fermi and treat each with rigorous three-voice counterpoint. The added lines it observe strict rules governing linear motion and dissonance treatment, and only seven pitches are permitted – no sharps or flats. But the quartet does not play this. Instead, they present an analysis of it based on an observation about the composite nature of musical lines:
When a line leaps, it is heard as the abandonment of one line and the introduction of another. The abandoned line does not completely disappear. Its final pitch hangs, lingering in our ear and memory until it is resumed, or another voice merges with it. These hanging pitches subtly influence our sense of harmony, and must be controlled carefully. Bach, for example, fastidiously resolves dissonant hanging pitches before final cadences.
In this movement, one line of counterpoint at a time is systematically broken into its composite lines, which pass between the instruments. Hanging pitches are sustained until they are resolved by another voice.

The Parable of the Sown

Lauren Snouffer, soprano
Katina Mitchell, soprano
Ryan Stickney, alto
Meghan Tarkington, alto
Jacob Barton, tenor
Ross Chitwood, bass
Charles McKean, bass
Daniel McNickle, bass

You, in my garden, in my secret soil! In my sowing I was careful, and yet you are not the seed that I remember planting. Your strange and curled crown – your leaves all twisted round – you seem to find me stunned (but I’ve been cold and kind of breathless in the mornings when I’ve slept too long for dreaming you) –
I’m unsure in my garden, in my secret soil, (growing!) for I know that weeds can flower fair (and yet you’re growing!) – and what about this garden I was charged with keeping? Flowers, dreams and weeds are not the same.

I’ll make some space for you –
if you make some space for me.

String Quartet - "Birds"

Here is my old string quartet (Fall 2005).

From the program: "I like to imagine that music exists whether we write it or not. Like radio waves, it fills the air always, but we do not have the equipment to hear. Writing is the way we listen. In doing the paperwork, we open ourselves to flashes of intuition about how it goes, and slowly wrestle it out into the open. I want my music to describe that drama. From a cloud of bird cries a song is pulled – at first slowly, with great effort, one note drawn out at a time. From more struggle comes more clarity, and then the music is made incarnate and set free. It has a life of its own: it moves of out of its own momentum, developing out of its own needs and tendencies, its underlying structure overgrown with organic details. After it lives out its destiny, it is pulled from us, disappearing back into the air."

Waltz of the Googly Eyed Dog

I'm making my recordings available online. Here's the first. Waltz of the Googly Eyed Dog.

Written for the Fall 06 JUMP! children's concert.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Real Estate Roller Coaster

Of all of the different ways to model information, the best are the ones that take advantage what we do well. We don't process lists of numbers well. We do, however, process huge amounts of spatial and physical information every moment. So if a model lets the body do the processing, it has an enormous advantage.

The obvious disadvantage is that the information is unquantifiable -- no numbers. But quantity is just a little slice of the pie. It has all the allure of real knowledge but is often just a smug substitute. [I suppose this is what Serres is on about - his contempt of geometry is making a little more sense to me.] We always need to draw trends from numerics and embody them somehow in order to grasp their consequence. Graphs are necessary. If they're not drawn for us, we draw them in our heads -- it's going up, going down, it's smooth, it's striated. And to identify that embodiment is our primary strategy is to realize how little we've tapped that resource. A graph appeals to our understanding of space without actually touching our bodies. Imagine if it did --

Other examples coming to mind: the method of loci, video games, conducting, music by James Dillon.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Double standard

Today I'm playing in an ad hoc band for an event at my school. Covers of the Chili Peppers, Styx, George Michael. I signed on cheerfully enough, but as it neared I began to resent it -- why spend my time working on music I would not listen to? And its more than taste -- why mimic a kind of relationship (rock star to crowd) that I reject?

And then, a change. Rehearsal yesterday was an absolute blast. I'm so overjoyed to be playing that I don't care about the rest. So exciting to interact again with my chops, to make musical decisions in real time, to really get warm and free and relaxed in playing. They have me playing bass guitar sometimes, which, I had forgotten, is probably the true instrument of my heart. I can't wait to get on stage, and bop around, play rock star.

I'm impressed by the contradiction - so thorough, yet so unproblematic! Maybe its an ethical lapse, to be aware of a product's faults and sell it anyway, but maybe I just need to loosen up about music!

Clear: as a composition student I deny myself so much musical pleasure -- and the pleasure of music is not its weakness, but its first goodness. Naked in the garden, before the Fall to Art.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Clarity, Service

Though I've been aware of Contact Improv since high school, when I was part of Austin Bodychoir, and I know its old news to many, I'm rediscovering it now.

A CI dance is subtle, complex, full of ideas, rich in significant detail, unpredictable, surprising and utterly beautiful -- while at the same time remaining completely transparent. No event is unjustified, and every justification is self-evident. All is revealed.

Every moment is meaningful, and that meaningfulness is achieved effortlessly: without a choreographer, without themes, without motives, without repetition, without reference, without set, characters, costumes, allegory; without a minimum-education requirement for the audience (and, by extension, without the arts archipelago; institution, lineage.)

This is staggering. Themes, motives, repetition, self-reference, concealment of form and minimum-education requirements - in music, bread and butter. Concealment was the power play of modernism -- "You can't hear it, but it's totally organized," we are promised. We gravitate to a handful of Geniuses -- not because they aren't pulling the wool over our eyes -- but because we have faith that they are not taking advantage of us when they do. And though we're finally thrown clear of the modernism train wreck, we still fetishize concealment.

I absolutely do. My writing is full of things you won't hear but Are There. And in my listening too, I love to be disoriented; to not Get what I believe is inside. It reminds me of myself as a child, fantasizing deep, invisible significance into everything. Music without motives or repetition -- fine -- but if you tell me that a piece is totally clear, totally obvious, accessible to every audience, I'm probably not interested.

And yet CI has all of my interest. Why is this?

The accessible, the obvious -- they aren't what turns me off. The way they are achieved does. The Moral from the Megaphone, or the Feeling You Want To Communicate, declaimed from above and loudly, as to a foreigner -- "AM I MAKING MYSELF CLEAR?" -- I don't want to be spoken to that way, especially in music. If you have Something to Say to me, use English; its a fine language and I'm fairly good at it. But don't make me sit through your show.

A CI dance achieves its clarity honestly, humbly -- in the same way it achieves its form, detail, drama, beauty. They are not the goal. Dancers are engaged in an act of service, not Artistry. When beauty emerges, no one can claim responsibility; they are only responsible for physics, anatomy, and their point of contact. They are like scientists with a beautiful theory -- sure they wrote the paper, but the universe did all the work.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Friday, April 6, 2007

"Artists are the probe-heads on the tip of the search process."

Manuel Delanda speaks to art students at Columbia in this RealVideo. He introduces Deleuze - the best summary I've heard not having read the stuff - and recommends the genetic algorithm to artists for use in their work. I got very excited thinking about that, and want to use it to build a movement of my Origins Etudes. It will begins diversely, each bar different with no repetition, and evolve, reconciling forces, internal (formal tendencies) and external (my whims), into a single repeating form. I don't care that Kwinter, when I mentioned the video to him, said the idea of the genetic algorithm in art was "horribly depressing."

A parable

The king woke and peered out his window. He was amazed by what he saw: a sea of colors dancing wildly down below. He summoned the royal astronomer. "What is this that I see?" The astronomer replied, "I do not know, but it seems to be at the level of the third floor." "Fantastic" said the king, "I must know all there is to know about it." So the astronomer met with the vizier to make a plan.
First they needed to know how big it was. They created a large wooden frame, four boards in a square, which they attached to the side of the castle. They had to cantilever it from below and suspend it from above, but it worked. "They fill the square and continue for miles," the astronomer reported to the king. "How large is the square?" the king asked. "Forty square feet." "Excellent" the king mused.
Next, the king wanted to know what it was made of. The astronomer provided him with a fifty foot stick so that he might see for himself. He leaned over the edge of his turret and began to poke it. The colored mass separated slightly at his touch. Once he heard a terrific pop. The astronomer stood by him, scribbling down notes.
Then the king demanded that he know what caused it, so he sent a page down to the ground to investigate. The page returned and reported, but the king did not believe him and he was banished from the castle. The king sent a second page, and a third, but they each reported the same thing:
"It is not one thing; it is many things. It is a crowd of people down below, people like us. Each of them has a string around their wrist, tied to a balloon, and they are walking about. That is why the colors dance."
Then the king noticed a tugging on his own wrist. He looked up, following a string that he hadn't known was tied there. He looked up, for the first time, at the vast, multicolored sky. He gave a tug, saw it dance.