Sunday, April 22, 2012

Land of the Giants

Strangely Touching
x = y * 2 - 1

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Black Rook and Guitar Phase

Black Rook

Guitar Phase

When steve Reich created his Early Works tape pieces he probably had razor blades and tape everywhere. Just making a repeating tape loop of a small phrase would have involved some serious RSI-Inducing cutting and splicing. I did the second piece here using a few Ctrl-Cs and Vs while eldest got sorted into Gryffindor on Pottermore and youngest got disappointed by Everton's V.Poor Perf. on the wireless.

I am afraid that this is just another phase using the same 12 notes that Reich put together all those years ago. The difference is of course the gentle tweaking that gives it such a clean sound. It is possible to tweak the sustain and harmonics on the sound and then slap on exactly the right amount of ambience. It is just a pity that I've had to reduce the bit-rate to make the file small enough to upload. It sounds to me like the soundtrack to a new Alien movie set somewhere in the Flamenco belt. First piece is an early loop test. Boiled sweet to the identifier of the sample.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Katydids and Caryatids Redacted

"We're all bound for /dev/null" he thought sourly. The message had come back unedited and with no clipping. He had the nagging feeling that it had been rejected by machine, the first layer of any process of submission. There was now no point to saving the text so he deleted everything, the reply, the sent message, the draft and sent the almost-unreadable scrawl of his notes to the furnaces. The trick now is to forget it and simultaneously remember it for ever should it become expedient to bring it up in the future. His thoughts continued unseen and unincriminating; ever since he could remember he had excelled at concealing his inner world from the outer one, a trait that was common to all but the simplest of folks. And such was his cynicism that now he thought that whatever pain and suffering this brought on them was well-deserved. They were too stupid to get along in this benign fog and confusion that purported to be an administration.

So slow was his mind's own editing process that he would think about each punctuation mark along with the words. The half-hearted attempt to impose a thought-restricting reduction in the language has failed with him and his conscience was now full of adjectives and increasing numbers of alternates, everything that makes language beautiful and not utilitarian. He would have been heartened to know that this was common to many of his comrades but no one dared to mention it. And so by this process he committed an entire essay to memory, a solid and logical argument that could countenance no return argument, certainly not a real-time one and probably no written one either, such was his internal rigour.

It was not safe to commit things to paper these days. A few years previously, before the technology was perfected, paper was everywhere and any statement of fact could be countered with information gleaned from these forests-worth of data. And of course because this denial could extend through chains of arguments, nothing could ever be taken for truth or lies - everything was true and everything was false. There was no fact and everything was a fact - a logical fallacy which almost destroyed the state, the social fabric and ultimately threatened the death of civilisation itself. The solution was to ban paper and all writing instruments. Some technocrats argued that as it was only in the previous hundred years that more than a few percent of the population could read or write, no one would miss the physical word. Machines could understand words, machines could create their own more rigorously-defined arguments and ultimately they could read to you. There was no need to physically touch a machine for they had microphones everywhere. There was no need to look at any returned information for it would be read to you; it was only because the technology was old that the messages even arrived in visual form. Soon that interface would be gone too, indeed the screens in many parts of the building were already taped over and all communications would be through the gentle murmuring of humans and machines that filled his office.

And yet there was no feeling of coercion. Previous administrations had sought to crush the spirit of the population, to threaten them with disappearance and vapourisation, to keep them in scared line, unable to rebel, unable to consider rebelling. The world was a miserable place and it took a huge effort to maintain. Possibly due to financial restrictions, the expense of state oppression, this approach was ended. Now there was still the threat of danger but now it was more distant. The previously-false pronouncements of the happy state of the populace began to become reality as the government began to provide for the people, realising that making image and reality coincide was far easier than maintaining the lie.

And yet people were not free. Happiness is not freedom. The misery in the world is not there for any purpose but perversely it makes us feel real. maybe science and politics will one day coincide and some weird system of physics, counter to everything we experience will show that misery only happens to other people. What if a disaster retreats from reality the more you try and pin it down? What happens if you try to visit the scene of some huge devastation? It would be nice to think that the world would dance around itself, reorganising not only reality into some benign new configuration but changing how you remember it. So we see the pain and suffering of some Third-World Failed State and yet for the people we see about to die or wailing in aching bereavement, we are the ones in misery. It is our failing state, and we are the ones destroyed, ejected from our own lands. How can this reconcile in reality? It cannot apply if we have absolute understanding of the cosmos, a perfect record of every person and every interaction between people. For that would expose inconsistencies in seconds. But recorded history is but a fraction of real history. We can address a massacre here or a genocide there. If just two people can have opposite views of the destruction of an entire country, then there is no hope of getting agreement on whether it rained yesterday.

Data fills the world, it multiplies exponentially and our lives grow in complexity. Which comes first, the data or the desire for data? I long for a simpler life and yet I also long for the technology that I see all around. These two desires cannot exist together. The truth is that most data is rubbish - pointless collections of pictures that once taken will never be seen again. We could fill the newspapers with fiction written by machines and no one would care for so much of it is already fiction, urban-myth dressed up with journalism to become the truth in the eyes of the readers. There is no questioning of truth, no ethical desire to do the right thing and not believe in every minor hatred that the press whips up into unreal anger. I am cynical like my protagonist in that I believe what someone once said in that we get the press we deserve. I say we. I'm not sure I deserve it. I read it and it soothes me even though the flashing warning lights of questioning accompany every scan of a newspaper, every half-heard clip of gossip used to fill the gaps between programmes when the adverts have dried up. This is not truth. It saddens me that people have to be told what is ethical and what is not. You can incite an angry mob to kill and injure some soul with ideas at odds with most and yet that same mob will happily behave in a manner which has equally-disastrous consequences for society. Equate the deviant with the dangerous driver.

This rant is strangely soothing. It has no solutions which is normal but it at least identifies a problem and raises issues for examination. It is just sad that only machines will ever read it, their comments falling forever into the spam folder.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Remember Lavolta Lakota

Bass Phase

Two Bass Guitars y'see. Though they both never played the same thing. If I get time and the space for 30 Meg, I'll do the full 15 minutes

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Piano Phase - First Section

Piano Phase

Pulsar (No Pulse)

Who says I don't do cover versions? Well it's sort of a cover version in that there is no way I can play even one Piano that consistently let alone playing two with a gradual slipping of phase. I couldn't even use the standard VB timer as a tick because it was just too coarse to be any use. Had to dig deep into the CPU clock to manage it. So the bottom line is that this is simply 12 notes played in succession by two clock signals ever so slightly out of synch. Piano Phase actually has three sections, of which this is the first. I don't have the score to get the other two parts though I know that the last part is just a subsection of the first. One day Rodders.

The second piece is almost as simple though I actually did press all the notes in real time. It uses a VST which simulates a massively long tape delay - including tape noise and stretch and flutter if you want it - which is basically Frippertronics but without all that tedious mucking about in Hyperspace with massive tape loops wound over broom handles and the like. In standard mode it doesn't actually produce any sound until it's been through the delay once so part of the beauty is the randomness and guesswork it involves. I just need to get some programmatic access to the instruments and I can take the weak point out of the whole set-up - ie me. The other clicky sound in the first few minutes of this one is from some notes I meant to cut before I rendered it which were an attempt to use the sound of a real pulsar in it. I will try again when I get that sound processed into something a little more suitable. This be the Star.

And now all very apt (or maybe just a tenuous link) my son's hero, Marcus du Sautoy presented yet another Horizon Programme yesterday. This was on The Search for AI and managed to avoid loads of Gee Whizzery, so much so that it gave over about ten minutes to watching said Maths Superman trying to tight-wire walk to illustrate the suggestion that machines will have to have attached bodies in order to achieve anything close to human consciousness. I suppose this undoes some of the idea of human's being downloaded into some sort of global machine. It looks like we'll have to make substitute bodies for ourselves, something like The Borg.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Swallows and Amazons - Liverpool Playhouse - March 31st 2012

You Look Here!

Well my Buckle has never been so swashed! I was slightly worried that this would muck about with the story but it didn't. Almost everything from the book was there and with no slant to address any lingering issues of lack of political correctness - Ransome has always seemed quite egalitarian anyway - it had glorious adventure and a rip-roaring fight culminating in a beautiful plank-walk. There was an obvious touch of Blue Remembered Hills in that the children were all obviously adults but only in body. And in 1929 no one died.

Everything is on stage, from the musicians to the stage hands, all of whom double up as cast members anyway. The instruments become props, all being flown and manipulated furiously by whichever of the cast aren't actually in the scene. From the flying arrows and the leading lights, to the Charcoal burners and the sweaty policeman. Nothing missed and not an ounce of the original spirit diluted. I'm almost ready to book my passage on the nearest canoe to Wildcat island for a spot of buttered eggs from the common dish.

Onwards for Henry Five and Mary Shelley at the same venue. Fights ensuing over who gets to accompany daughter to which. Me - I'm excited about both. However, some slight worries in that the poster for Henry V appears to show Darth Maul in the title role - though his double-headed light sabre seems to have taken a battering. Oh well.