the obliteration of the mind through algorithmic timbres

November 23, 2008

i want to break my brain apart, so that the constituent neurons must reform in a wider web. 

i want to upgrade my goddamn ram. 

 i can feel, tangibly, the limits of my intelligence.  they translate into patience, memory, and speed.  when i solve a problem in my head, i’m always running up against these things.  one has to be able to appraise the entire problem with speed, have the patience to hold the whole problem object in the brain, and have the memory to remember the benefits and limits of solutions one has explored.  expanding these capabilities must be possible.  drugs, maybe, but i’m going to say that i think we have much more capacity for use than we are ever aware of.

so can sound be a way of transforming the mind? 

they say mozart makes you more intelligent, concentrate harder, etc.  this must be the tip of the iceberg.  in mozart and beethoven, you can ‘hear shapes’ such as themes, or harmonic structures that are then manipulated and turned around, making visible intangible thought processes such as ‘seeing something from a different angle’, or ‘stretching an idea’.  these are common facets of music.  in bach, the parsimony of the theme becomes something that often creates the entire foreground and background of music, the equivalent of, say, having a statue of an ant made out of ants.  not only that, but he builds cities of ants, civilizations, theories and languages.

sadly, there is a limit to what the mind can percieve.  with very complex music, the inner workings can get lost to the listener.  it’s arguable that nobody can really hear the inner workings of serial music.  there’s the famous story about a musician misplaying schoenberg in rehearsal and confronting him with the fact (ps.  what a douchebag).  schoenberg said (paraphrasing) ‘i couldn’t tell the difference, but perhaps your children will be able to’.  that’s some eugenics at work.

we almost have absolute control over sound at this point.  we have the ability to create perfect dynamics, perfect timbres, perfect manipulations in time, dynamics, and timbre.  we can sample, resample, and synthesize pretty much anything.  there’s a bit of space left to explore with resynthesis and digital hacking of sound, but those are quickly being chewed through with love and vigor.

the next advances in music will not be in these areas.  they will instead be in the areas of structuring sound,  finding and creating meaning through the interplay of change in timbre, dynamics, and time. 

with computing, you can in essence create a brain smarter than your own in order to appraise a problem and then solve it.  you could make models of life, growth, chaos and death, and show how a consciousness (a theme, for instance) would be changed by death.  you can create a way to make yourself smarter, by inventing a small problem, abstracting it, structuring a decision process, and then solving a bigger problem via the computer, and then studying the result of that. 

hacking the brain.


10 Responses to “the obliteration of the mind through algorithmic timbres”

  1. Gregg Says:

    or you could like… take a picture of a cat.. right? and you could…. like make that picture into a waveform and… you could like.. hear the result…

    but that would not be as cool as building your own Mazda Marimba.

    I dunno… I kind of think that with this effort towards perfection, this methodology of thought that seeks a “computerised representation of the brain/asthetic/humanity” We loose something: Imperfection(Magic)

    and gain something else: Arrogance, Sloth, false confidence.

    while there are those who seek truth with progress, there are many more who seek the opposite.

    I say that with the tools to realise such heady aspirations such as sonic smartening, there will be those who will be adversely moved towards the opposite in a more and more extreme polarity.

    this is a human trait. One we dont like to admit much. Take the Channel Changer or the steering wheel radio controls. Or now “Psychoacoustic” modeling used to recognise a song and find it on i-tunes using a 3G network so you dont have to bother to remember a single fucking thing about the actual artist you seem to like so much.

    I dunno. I hope we lift ourselves up with technology… But I tend to see a more degenerative effect.

  2. Gregg Says:

    I used the word You alot.. I didnt mean “you” as in you personally scott.

    I know you will use these things for self realization.

  3. astronymous Says:

    i think the problems you’re talking about are of music in general. songs written for revolution are used to sell cars. beethoven’s 9th became hitler’s personal anthem.

    music as science wouldn’t be any less ripe for abuse than music OR science. atom bombs and propaganda.

    think of the technologies represented by the last t-pain single. multitracking, the manufacture of plastic, lazers, quantum mechanics to operate a cathode ray tube, electricity, algorithmic software to correct his voice, the cresting wave of the computerized industrial state, and what do we get? a guy talking about money and getting laid. maybe also about getting fucked up.

    do we stop trying to make any progress? if so, why did we ever start? why plug a guitar in? why make music? in fact, why not stop making music that isn’t about promoting a morality, and then giving up on that and going into politics or maybe just wholesale genocide?

  4. Gregg Says:

    Of course you are right. I guess I am talking more about tendancies than possibilities.

    Your hope is endless. I feed greedily on it.

    nom nom.

  5. ricemutt Says:

    awesome blog scott. good responses too. what a good conversation. I was thinking along the lines of gregg’s first response when I read this, but I also feel what scott is saying.

    I think that, for me, a missing element in your description of what would be some sort of total realization of human capacity to render and comprehend music is the spiritual dimension. for me, the most consistently moving element in music that I love would we what I describe as the “spiritual” aspect of it, the wordless communication. You know, when it feels like someone is reaching out with their piano and feeling you in your million-year-old soul.

    I would say, from my perspective, the most important thing that we need to “move forward” with is our sensitivity to how sound and music affect our souls, and how to understand what create these effects.

    In a way, that might not be that different than, say, a person’s ability to perceive many layers of complex counterpoint or thematic development. But, truly, I think it is quite a different thing.

    I completely agree that there is all kinds of untapped potential, and sometimes i’m grappling with how to draw it out. I also think that sometimes the best way to bring it out is allowing yourself to surrender to chaos, too, haha. I am all over the place.

    love the ideas… if you keep posting them, i will keep firing my bullshit back!

  6. astronymous Says:

    spirituality seeps through every piece of music, every thought…

    i feel very comfortable having the multiform essence of music being the totality of the spirituality, but this blog, i actually alluded to the spiritual aspects of it. i would never tend to hit someone in the head with that…

    but when i say “you could make models of life, growth, chaos and death, and show how a consciousness (a theme, for instance) would be changed by death.”
    -that is maybe the most spiritual thing i could think of doing.

    these are all metaphors, after all. if you are lucky to have the subtle spirit of your personality soak through into a tangible life in your sound, you are truly creating art and not imitating for some other purpose.

  7. ricemutt Says:

    yeah, when talking about that spiritual core of anything, it seems like the more you talk about it the more trivial it sounds, so I think you’re right to not try to bash it into people’s heads, haha.

    I wonder, if what you’re saying, that somehow the tangible (or audible) form of something holds a spiritual presence. That is something I am not sure about either way, but is a beautiful idea. something to explore…

  8. Gregg Says:


  9. TSGolden Says:

    Fascinating blog, SB! I’ve been seriously studying fractals and chaos theory, which could have some potential in music. Have these areas been explored successfully and enjoyably? Have you used Adobe Audition? It has been fun and challenging to explore sound experimentation and combining it with video/visuals (as seen at my channel, but there is so much to learn so I can relate to the obliteration of the mind. I definitely relate to “feel[ing], tangibly, the limits of my intelligence.” So in a sense I have joined a kindred journey. Thanks for the link to your blog. If you ever want to collaborate, definitely be in touch.

  10. astronymous Says:

    fractals, i’ll do a blog about that actually. short answer, no, they haven’t been done well.

    haven’t used adobe audition.

    i have sensed your kindredness:)

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