Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Funnel is Moving

This blog, some time dormant, will now continue at funnel.elliotcole.com. Thanks!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

19. Imhotep

Architects and doctors in 2000 BC(E)
could actually hear Imhotep inside the minds of architects and doctors

[Thanks to Marsha Russell for making me care.
Historical psychology courtesy of Julian Jaynes.]


Thursday, July 31, 2008


Things to do in a labyrinth #4

Enjoy the sensation of discovering someone else in the labyrinth.

18. It's a Point of Pride

It's a point of pride what the Nubians are not.
They are not Egyptians. No. They do not just want your money,
they want to be your friend.
Save money till the end --
(then you fight.)


Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Things to do in a labyrinth #3

Walk with your eyes up. There's a good chance you'll get distracted and accidentally cross a line. Did you? Watch how doubt colors every subsequent moment.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


by Doug Balliett


Things to do in a labyrinth:
2. Enjoy the sensation of emerging from spaghetti and easing into a long arc.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Things to Do in a Labyrinth

I have been spending a lot of time at the labyrinth at St. Thomas. It is a copy of the labyrinth at Chartres in France. I recommend finding one near you.

Things to Do in a Labyrinth #1:

Start at an arbitrary point, and follow the path. Are you walking in or out? Enjoy the sensation of discovering the answer to that question.


The Bonnie Brae Tierkreis was a big success. Thanks again so much to our friends who performed, and to everyone who came. Videos will come up soon.

Here is my Libra, performed by the wonderful Mollie Marcuson.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Krebs - Cancer

Our habits are more generative than our efforts. I'm trying to harness mine.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Brother Metal

This Capuchin monk fell in love with heavy metal. "I do it to convert people to life, to understand life, to grab hold of life, to savour it and enjoy it."

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Brad and I are knee deep in Tierkreis, Stockhausen's cycle of melodies for music box.  Rehearsals of our realizations commence Sunday, and the concert is next Friday, the 25th, 8pm, at 1416 Bonnie Brae.

Tierkreis is gorgeous.  The generosity and fertility of these 'centered 12-tone melodies' is inspiring.  I am most smitten, at present, with Taurus.  Listen to this, and come to the concert!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Brad and I are writing furiously our own arrangements of Stockhausen's Tierkreis, a cycle of simple and beautiful melodies based on the Zodiac. A concert will follow -- soon. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

17 Fifty Topless Sunbathing Russians

Sunbathing Russians
is the theme of this song.

How come it's so, so sad?

The B/Bb cross relation (really B/A#) was gutsy but unsuccessful. I'll step to the Bb next time, maybe try to get an F in the middle voice. So much to learn!


Friday, July 11, 2008

16 Let Me Do It

We spent a few days on the Red Sea in a resort for Russians. It was a nice break from the heat, buses and hostels, but we found constant service as alien as anything else.

Let me do it
on my own, please.
I don't need your constant
help. Give me back
my bags, and get out of my room,
and don't you take my plate
until I'm done.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

15 Wedding Honk

Part of a wedding ceremony is to drive a bunch of cars around town honking 'da da dit-dit da, da da dit-dit da.'

Traditionalist taboos, together with the difficulties involved in getting married, are reportedly frustrating.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Oh, Gratitude!

Andrew Zukoski made this:

Saturday, July 5, 2008

14 Parsley, a Touch of Salt

Parsley, a touch of salt,
tomatoes, and some cumin
a good salad makes. Oh!


13 Waiter Screamed and Spit

This delicious evening of sheesha, shai bi naa'na and karkade in a Luxor 'ahwa is about to go awry.

Waiter screamed and spit and threw
my twenty-seven pounds into
my face! It was hard
to not collapse and get ripped off.
Oh I was shaking!


Thursday, July 3, 2008

12 If I Wash My Clothes

If I wash my clothes in the porcelain bidet,
will a terrible, terrible disease come my way?
Oh ants, begone!


11 Two More People on the Bus

Two more people on the bus than there are seats.
Here comes the station man. Will he kick us
off the bus? (Just look out the window.)


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

10 Oh Poverty!

First day it's charming.
Second day it's oh so quaint.
(Look at the donkeys and you'll just faint!)
Third day it's sleepy.
Fourth day it's sad.
Oh, Poverty!


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Weekend off

I recorded today's round, a muddy six part dirge titled "Oh Poverty!" only to discover a bald and annoying parallel octave in the second bar. I can't go back into the studio until Monday, and besides I'm spending all weekend moving -- so see you then.

If you read this, you probably read Daniel Wolf as well. If not, you missed this:

Friday, June 27, 2008

09 Keep it up Goma!

We made friends with Goma in Siwa. He is 20, and in two years expects to be finished building himself a house. Then he can get married.

He's lucky he can do it himself. In Cairo, many men work their whole lives unable to afford the necessary apartment, and never wed.

Keep it up Goma Goma! Keep working on your house.
When it's done you can get married at last,
married at last.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

08 Doopity Dots

In Aswan we explored the Nubian village on Elephantine Island. We ended up guests at the house of a man who sells local handicrafts. He made us tea and we arranged for Kate to get some henna done. His house was full of crocodiles, most stuffed but one live. But this round is about henna:

Doopity dots and swoopy knots
hey na na na.
Sha na na na Nubia!


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

07 If You Want to Ride a Felucca

Oh if you want to ride a felucca out on the Nile,
please share your beer: your captain's waited a while.
Chicken's in the pot, the tea is getting hot and sugary.
I won't sink you and for a good price!

Felucca are the sailboats Egyptians have used on the Nile since antiquity. Sometimes they do sink -- two boys in Aswan took us out for an afternoon, struggled against the wind, and gave up, getting us a cab on the shore. Why? They didn't want to risk it: four other feluccas full of tourists had sunk that day.

I was worried about the A#/A cross relation in the last bar. Not a problem, it turns out. Both are properly generated and the opposition helps too, I'm sure. I should have worried instead about total density.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

06 The Suez Canal is Bluer than the Sky

The Suez Canal is bluer than the sky;
it carries water from Med. to Red, and ships
that carry freight trains.


Monday, June 23, 2008

05 Careful of the Waiter Who is Nice to You

Because there are no fixed prices in Egypt, everyone tries to win your business (or, having won it, your loyalty) with the promise of a discount.

And because Egyptians don't make enough money in their regular jobs, they often do other work on the side. This usually amounts to squeezing in the middle of some existing transaction. Had we gone shopping with this waiter, he would have certainly received some portion of whatever we paid anyone.

The sly turning of a personal relationship into a business relationship was our chief frustration in Egypt.

Careful of the waiter who is nice to you:
He may take you on a shopping trip to the Grim
City of Suez.
Good discount etc.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

04 I Love You Siwa

Siwa is an oasis and town on the Libyan border. Fresh water just comes out of the ground there, irrigating date palm groves and gardens in the sand. Boys from the age of six or seven drive donkey carts and aspire to be tour guides. Children run freely through streets thick with dust. Marriage ceremonies last several days, a full tenth of the town may be invited, and there may be three in one week. They build everything from a mud that has salt in it, and so dissolves in the semicentennial rain; in the 1920s it rained for three days, and the Siwans gathered outside to watch their 400 year old city melt. They are much friendlier than Cairenes, their profit motive present but not dominant. They all tell you they're happy (though we never spoke to a woman). They sugar their tea to a syrup. People like us tend to like it there.

If it comes to pass that I must flee my home,
don't tell them that I am raising children with no shoes,
chasing dates with tea, and leading package tours:
I love you Siwa.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

03 Mish Mish and Hoch

One terrific thing about Egypt is the abundance of inexpensive fresh fruit and juice. Mish mish are apricots, hoch are peaches, and talaata is three pounds Egyptian (60 cents). (Sorry about the mouth noises.)

Mish mish and hoch
just talaata for a kilo.
I'll take a kilo, shukran.
So good; a mess
down my chin.


Friday, June 20, 2008

02 Taxi! Hadiet al-Azhar

Taxi! Hadiet al-Azhar
merges with overpass
karunch! Get out and hail a


Thursday, June 19, 2008

01 Land in Cairo, Hail a Taxi

Land in Cairo,
hail a taxi,
almost die-o,
air is nasty,
eat some fetir,
and run straight into traffic,

(Sharia Talaat Harb; fetir in Luxor)


30 Rounds about Egypt

I spent the last month in Egypt, and set myself the challenge of writing a round a day. I will now spend the next month recording and posting them here.

Why rounds?
I got the bug from my friends at An Exciting Event who started singing Moondog rounds together and have since written many fantastic ones of their own.

Rounds are great to listen to because they guide attention in interesting ways. I can follow one part until a certain a certain threshold in complexity. Then my attention tends to explode into a dizzy, non-linear sampling of everything at once. And then a feature might grab my attention, and I can't help but hear it in the foreground, over and over again, moving around the ensemble. It's a kaleidoscopic Gestalt-grouping experiment. The simplest round can be heard over and over in new and interesting ways.

But most of all I wrote these to be sung. I just graduated from college. My opportunities for free, top quality performances of my music are probably over for a while. I want to be able to make my own music again. Most, I want to make Singing Together a viable way to spend time with my friends.


Thursday, May 1, 2008


My dear friend Rene is in the Chronicle this week.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I wrote about transcribing some of Takemitsu's string quartet last summer.  Directly out of that exercise came Ouroboros.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Rhetoric, long-listening

My teacher, Tony Brandt, talks a little bit about 'rhetorical reinforcement;' that is, the alignment of phrasal, harmonic, rhythmic effects to articulate a single rhetoric. Otherwise, the discussion of rhetoric was entirely missing from my music education. This strikes me as bizarre, since it is the feature that most contributes to music making 'sense.'

It certainly trumps harmonic language. I've been noticing an illusion lately. Maybe some of you can corroborate. I am hearing more and more serial music as tonal. I'm using the term loosely; I suppose I mean that it sounds harmonically conceived. I hear the harmony align with rhetoric of a phrase. I hear the harmony working as harmony. This effect is particularly strong at the ends of phrases, when the final chord can really linger in my ear -- it often sounds like a perfect chord for closure, and I cannot believe it was chosen out of serial necessity. I think, surely Webern cheated here.

[This is what I think is happening. First, I've been working on my listening. I'm too focused on details, and teasing out intervals, and I miss the long phrase. So I've been practicing long-listening -- don't get hung up on details, be more patient. Listen for the rhetoric. And as I let the rhetoric have more influence over what I'm hearing, it is casting harmonic detail in its own shape. If the rhetoric of a phrase creates convincing closure, the harmony I hear is one of convincing closure.]

And it certainly trumps motivic unity. How many pieces have you heard that were supposedly motivically watertight but were impossible to follow? And then compare that type of piece with these:

Brad got me hooked on Boulez, Notations for Orchestra. I don't know enough about how they're made; maybe they're working motivically too, but I can't hear them that way yet. For now they are rhetoric alone, and it is absolutely enough.

And our resident quartet, the Jasper, played Ligeti's Metamorphosis Nocturnes last week. There's a piece where the motivic consistency has a fantastic effect -- but it is reinforced by an absolutely direct and clear rhetoric.

Who is talking about this?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Endgame Study

This was my major project last fall. The big idea is this: musical styles are separate from each other only politically. Formally -- in terms of the structure and preoccupation of their rules -- they are neighbors in a continuous space. It is possible, then, to move smoothly between them. This piece, for example, modulates one rule: it gradually and systematically restricts possibilities, while concurrently restricting range-space. At times, the result resembles familiar styles, but it also traverses the space between them, of which much is beautiful.

Listen here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Around Hear

Ethan Frederick Greene is putting together a concert in Mandell park (at Richmond). I have two pieces on the program -- two duets for violin and bassoon and a round, sung to a dance by the wonderful Kate Halpern. Come and bring a blanket.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Conway Organ

I'm working on a max instrument based on Conway's Game of Life. Here's a first improvisation. Its also my youtube debut.