31.10.05

Happy Halloween

and NaNoWriMo
No trick-or-treaters yet, but we're ready for them, by Jove, and then we're ready for the Great Candy Shortage of 2005 if they don't show up en masse.

What we are not so ready for (by design) is the start of National Novel Writing Month at midnight tonight. Not so much as a title or a character's name. No outline, no themes, no nothing. About all I'm letting myself do to prepare is building up a satisfactory iTunes library so I can just hit shuffle and go. I'm sure I'll be posting something about the novel as it develops, but for now your guess is as good as. And my right arm is asleep, which has made typing this fun.
posted by Liar at 16:54

27.10.05

This is just stupid

but it's kinda neat.
Here's a link to a website that features--wait for it--your driver's license in .jpg form, including photo and license number, vital data, etc. Which is stupid, when you think about it (ID theft, anyone?), even though I usually like the FOIA.

You can submit an online request to have yours removed, which is probably a good idea. I know I did. (And don't worry, folks I know; I already looked yours up and laughed at the photo. It's too late now.)
posted by Liar at 21:50

22.10.05

What's heaven like?

Steve Reich and the Ice Hotel
I caught a show on the Discovery Channel the other day about the Ice Hotel. Apparently, these folks in Sweden build a luxury hotel entirely out of ice and snow every year. Like for real. The halls and rooms and furniture are all made completely of ice. It's amazing. The year the show was made, the bar had vaulted gothic arch snow ceilings, supported by pillars of clear polished ice. The glasses were made of ice.

Each suite is designed and constructed by a different artist, so there's plenty of variety room-to-room. One of the artists startled me; she said something like: "I've always thought that heaven would be very cold. When you think about the colors of hell, they're red and orange and yellow and black, but heaven is white and blue". That struck me--we think of hell as unbearably hot, so why not think of heaven as shockingly cold? Makes sense to me.

So I was listening to a bunch of Steve Reich the other day: his early phase process music, and his later only-slightly-less-strictly-predetermined stuff, and what the ice artist said came back to me. What's the music of hell like? In my head, it's lots of wailing guitars and sloppy improvisation. Remember the devil's fiddle solo in The Devil Went Down to Georgia? Like that--wild and expressive.

Well, what's the opposite of that? Quite possibly process music. In this essay, Reich explicitly contrasts process music with improvised music. The contrast isn't unexpected: process music is strict and orderly, while improvised music can often be just the opposite.

So now I've got this picture of heaven: made of ice and snow, and full of process music. But this isn't a fetishization of the boring sort of order, as it might seem: the order in process music is often fine enough to produce wild, disorienting, and unexpected effects.

Hell, on the other hand, probably has buildings made of fire? I'm not too clear on how that might work. But I bet the music there is also awesome.
posted by Liar at 12:03

21.10.05

Music as a Gradual Process

1968, by Steve Reich
I do not mean the process of composition, but rather pieces of music that are, literally, processes.

The distinctive thing about musical processes is that they determine all the note-to-note (sound-to-sound) details and the over all form simultaneously. (Think of a round or infinite canon.)

I am interested in perceptible processes. I want to be able to hear the process happening throughout the sounding music.

To facilitate closely detailed listening a musical process should happen extremely gradually.

Performing and listening to a gradual musical process resembles: pulling back a swing, releasing it, and observing it gradually come to rest; turning over an hourglass and watching the sand slowly run through to the bottom; placing your feet in the sand by the ocean’s edge and watching, feeling, and listening to the waves gradually bury them.

Though I may have the pleasure of discovering musical processes and composing the musical material to run through them, once the process is set up and loaded it runs by itself.

Material may suggest what sort of process it should be run through (content suggests form), and processes may suggest what sort of material should be run through them (form suggests content). If the shoe fits, wear it.

As to whether a musical process is realized through live human performance or through some electromechanical means is not finally the main issue. One of the most beautiful concerts I ever heard consisted of four composers playing their tapes in a dark hall, (A tape is interesting when it’s an interesting tape.)

It is quite natural to think about musical processes if one is frequently working with electro-mechanical sound equipment. All music turns out to be ethnic music.

Musical processes can give one a direct contact with the impersonal and also a kind of complete control, and one doesn’t always think of the impersonal and complete control as going together. By “a kind” of complete control I mean that by running this material through this process I completely control all that results, but also that I accept all that results without changes.

John Cage has used processes and has certainly accepted their results, but the processes he used were compositional ones that could not be heard when the piece was performed. The process of using the I Ching or imperfections in a sheet of paper to determine musical parameters can’t be heard when listening to music composed that way. The compositional processes and the sounding music have no audible connection. Similarly, in serial music, the series itself is seldom audible. (This is a basic difference between serial (basically European) music and serial (basically American) art, where the perceived series is usually the focal point of the work.)

What I’m interested in is a compositional process and a sounding music that are one and the same thing.

James Tenney said in conversation, “then the composer isn’t privy to anything”. I don’t know any secrets of structure that you can’t hear. We all listen to the process together since it’s quite audible, and one of the reasons it’s quite audible is, because it’s happening extremely gradually.

The use of hidden structural devices in music never appealed to me. Even when all the cards are on the table and everyone hears what is gradually happening in a musical process, there are still enough mysteries to satisfy all. These mysteries are the impersonal, unintended, psycho-acoustic by-products of the intended process. These might include sub-melodies heard within repeated melodic patterns, stereophonic effects due to listener location, slight irregularities in performance, harmonies, difference tones, etc.

Listening to an extremely gradual musical process opens my ears to it. but it always extends farther than I can hear, and that makes it interesting to listen to that musical process again. That area of every gradual (completely controlled) musical process, where one hears the details of the sound moving out away from Intentions, occurring for their own acoustic reasons, is it.

I begin to perceive these minute details when I can sustain close attention and a gradual process invites my sustained attention. By “gradual” I mean extremely gradual; a process happening so slowly and gradually that listening to it resembles watching a minute hand on a watch – you can perceive it moving after you stay with it a little while.

Several currently popular modal musics like Indian classical and drug-oriented rock and roll may make us aware of minute sound details because in being modal (constant key center, hypnotically droning and repetitious) they naturally focus on these details rather than on key modulation, counterpoint and other peculiarly Western devices. Nevertheless, these modal musics remain more or less strict frameworks for improvisation. They are not processes.

The distinctive thing about musical processes is that they determine all the note-to-note details and the over all form simultaneously. One can’t improvise in a musical process – the concepts are mutually exclusive.

While performing and listening to gradual musical processes one can participate in a particular liberating and impersonal kind of ritual. Focusing in on the musical process makes possible that shift of attention away from he and she and you and me outwards towards it.
posted by Liar at 13:47

16.10.05

What a day!

Yowza.
This has been a phenomenal birthday. It started right at midnight, with LJ showing me the incredibly sweet birthday post she put up for me. She is tremendous.

After just a couple hours of sleep, it was time to wake up and get to band practice. And what a practice! Everyone was on in a big way this morning; Sean and Matt are sounding more and more like one four-handed musician who can play two guitars at once, Eric plays the congas so they sound like blood, and I was pretty much at my limit just trying to take it all in.

Then it was off to the shore, to help some friends take in their dock for the winter. Most of the work had been done by the time Lauren and I arrived, but we got to help a bit with the hard part (hauling the wood up a steep rocky slope). Got to do the family celebration with my folks afterwards; there was delicious casserole and key lime pie (my favorite!) and cribbage and wonderful gifts and great company.

To top it off, today has been the first day we've seen so much sun in about a week and a half, and the wind was howling all day. The clouds were motley and complex and layered, too. This is my kind of weather. THANK YOU EVERYONE for a wonderful day!
posted by Liar at 21:08

15.10.05

NaNoWriMo, and LJ!

plus another redesign
So it's a bit over two weeks until National Novel Writing Month, and in preparation, I've been downloading some software intended to make the writing go smoothlier. The best piece of the bunch, I think, is Jer's Novel Writer, a word processor designed for, well, novel writing, complete with built-in character database, margin notes, and plenty of other nifty features that should help me focus on meeting the insane writing pace it'll take to write a 50,000-word piece in 30 days. It's Mac-only, though, suckers.

In addition, this here site has been significantly redesigned, and for the first time, it's from scratch! No more only-slightly-tweaked Blogger templates for me.

Lauren has a hard time keeping secrets, so she gave me my birthday presents tonight! There's some fantastic dollar-store fare, a bag of those strawberry hard candies with the delicious strawberry goop inside, and a beautiful framed painting she did. The painting is called "David's Autumn", and it's an abstract oil in reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. It's gorgeous, and I'm still seeing more and more in it. It feels very grounded. I'll probably post a picture of it when I'm not feeling quite so lazy. I'm so blessed to have Lauren in my life.
posted by Liar at 00:52