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.