Monday, April 27, 2009

manifesting the architectonic

I while ago Stretta put up this great talk given by a music professor, Karl Paulnack at the Boston Conservatory. I highly recommend it. In it, among other wonderful things, he says this:

. . . the Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us.

Now I love this statement and find it so true. But I worry about the the way that a distinction between "inner" and "outer," could imply a kind of interiority or subjectivism that would have been foreign to the ancient mind. Paulnack never mentions it, and I am sure that he would not intend it, but such an interior "self," is much more a product of post-Cartesian Romanticism with a dash of Psychoanalysis than it is of the Greeks who understood the relationship of music to astronomy. I love the way Paulnack captures so well our experience of music. I also want to emphasize the way that music overcomes barriers between people - especially those false ones created by ideologies of interiority and subjectivity.

So, yes to "pieces inside our hearts," when "heart" is construed as synecdoche for the psychosomatic unity of the human body and soul. But not so much if "heart" here is misread as something "touchy feely" - you know what I mean.

The key distinction is not so much between the "inner" and the "outer," when such a distinction is conceived in terms of a romantic interior life of a "true self." In order to avoid that connotation I would rather talk in terms of the more simple distinction between "visible" and "invisible," or between the "physical" and the "psychic," "noetic," or notional. But "notional," not in the sense of "that's just a notion," but in the thicker sense of something just as real, if not more real than the physical, that is the name for what is not physical about creation. So I guess I mean here the Christian theological distinction between the heavens and earth, taken in their theologically richest sense.

Astronomy is not an "external" to a music that is "internal." Astronomy just is the music of the visible heavens - the music of the spheres. Music is not so much the astronomy of things interior - and therefore merely subjective and private - within our souls. Music is rather the universal, "astronomically big," astronomy of the hidden, invisible and greater part of created reality: the invisible (but more real) heavens. Music puts us directly in touch with the architectonic structures of the cosmos that the visible heavens merely physically manifest.

So often, after Romanticism, creativity is construed in very private terms. This puts a lot of pressure on the artist to "prove" him or herself. The ancients of course, knew that this great flow of stuff didn't come from some place interior within ourselves. (Check out this other post on Stretta's blog where he embeds a video of the author Elizabeth Gilbert giving her own account of the ancient sense of genius and the creative "daemon.") Creativity, rather, is the manifestation of how we as human beings can sometimes get swept up into these architectonic and cosmic realities - realities far bigger than us - and come out on the other side and say: look, I made this. Or, rather: look what came into being through the way that I participated in things greater than I.

I think that is why I love the monome device as a tool for creating music: the decoupled grid seems to me to be this electronically beautiful mimesis of how in music in general greater patterns manifest within small constraints. The LED patterns keep going, even after you loose touch. Good music always has these moments wherein you get this little glimpse of the vastness that is being made manifest - all of which cannot be immediately made present at once - the grid would burst, our hearts too.

Making the distinction primarily between the visible and the invisible, rather than the physical and the so-called interior also takes the pressure off of the individual artist to produce (good stuff), and allows for the mystical to come back into the experience of creativity - and especially (at least speaking for myself) of creating music.

Near the end of his article he says the following to his new music students:

You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevies. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Man, I find that so amazingly well written, and inspiring. When we think of the role of creating music in terms of a distinction between the visible and the invisible parts of creation, rather than between an outwardly (and shared) physical world and a private interior life, I find it to be even more profound. In music, we cross the barriers between ourselves. The real ones, like my body isn't your body. That doesn't change but if anyone has ever been a part of a successful music ensemble you have known of moments when your body and other people's bodies were "one" in every sense that matters. But, thankfully, music also tears down the false barriers that we create to protect or to congratulate ourselves.

You know, like "I am so creative and unique" together with its ever implicit "so maybe you aren't." Or the self-deprecating inverse: "O, man, he is so creative and unique" with the ever following, "I only wish I could do that - be that cool - etc."

Or how about that whole romantic "nobody can really understand me" thing. No, no one will ever really understand you. And so what? Why should they? No one can even really understand themselves. But when we share music, we all share, together, in the great big Reality that none of us ever understands - but that we grasp at - and never alone, but with one another, with the music we give as gifts to one another.

So here is a big "thank you" to all of you out there that I have met in the "blogosphere" that have helped me see glimpses of the great-big-Real because of the music you have so freely and generously shared. I am so grateful to have my own "appropriate-to-who-I-am" sized role as well.

Thanks for following and thanks for the support. Peace

Monday, April 20, 2009

intergalactic arrival

Knobs, knobs, knobs. Joy, joy, joy. Knobs, knobs, knobs.

I got a phone call on Easter Monday. The guy at the music store said that the Easter Bunny brought me a surprise earlier than expected. Cool. An alien arrival from Andromeda (perhaps a strain?).

So I've had a week full of personal and professional busyness with little time to get to know this alien thing. I am happy to have found that I actually have enough experience with subtractive synthesis that I am not entirely lost. And I've done enough digital that I am not entirely inept with regards to all the inevitable menu searching that I still must use (ugh!) to program this alien. (And seeing as how I am not Brian Eno) I did take the time to read the (rather confusingly written) manual cover to cover. Still, how the heck do I just get some LFO to the filter cut-off?! . . . But it is fantastic!

So I'm not used to having two (real, analog) filters. Here is a (bit too long) little sample of me noodling with both filters' cut-off, resonance and the envelope modifying their cut-off.

Filter 1 is inverse BP, filter 2 is in parallel with filter 1, about evenly mixed. I know it is a little bit cheesy sci-fi of me, but I love that kind of Frankenstein synthesizer stuff! Add some world beat rhythm bed, a nice frenetic guitar line, some tricked out recording of somebody preaching madly (and about ten times as much talent/skill) and I'm heading for a track in the Eno/Byrne style!

Next: what is better than an Alesis Andromeda A6? An Alesis Andromeda A6 triggered by some cool monome application. I'll have to think about that one. Peace

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Paschal Joy

Happy Easter!

I find Daedelus' video, "LA Nocturn," to be about new life and a new way of seeing things. So what better monome way to send wishes for a joyful celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord?

Daedelus is one of the pillars of the monome community. In fact, I think he was the first person to purchase a monome device from its creator (tehn), making him, therefore, the second user of the monome device in the world. He has become, really, a monome "virtuoso." He is well known for his "arm flinging" technique which makes sense (the application he uses triggers upon release, rather than pressing of the buttons; his "flinging"  ensures proper timing) and is also just cool to watch. It shows his excitement and gets you into the music as well. But he also has great videos, so check those out too.

Easter peace