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Of Patterns and Patternists; A Sonocybernetic Manifesto

everything before this document-in other words, my life-has been research for what this document lays out; a multi-dimensional language orbiting a sono-spatial musical protocol. Read More

The John Coltrane Theory

what if along the way to looking for transcendence, coltrane discovered that he was trapped in a psychic matrix made of sound? what if all that we perceive as his genius was actually him trying to escape this construct? Read More

How to design a wireless 3d printed digital musical interface

A friend asked me if I could give her some pointers on how to start designing a 3d printed digital musical interface. realizing that the answer would be more than a few paragraphs I decided to write a blog post on the topic, for posterity. Read More

What would CYBORG mean if the word were invented today?

Part 1 of 3 Read More

Bitcoin, Art and Thermodynamics

The first of a series of notes and thoughts on the evolution of self realization through sonic pattern creation and feedback.(2 of 3) Read More

A 21st Century Musicians Guide to Busking-Free Ebook

Ever thought about performing in public with electronic gear? I wrote an ebook on the subject which is available for free download. click this link and happy busking! Read More

TED TALKS

A playlist of all the TED and TEDx talks Ive done over the last few years Read More

Through the looking glass...
"I am a guy i thought up when i was a kid..."

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of patterns and patternists; A Sonocybernetic Manifesto

 

I feel like I have some theories. some gleaned from experience…some from research…some im just making up because they feel right and I will roll with them until I create or discover better ones.  I use a lot of made up words to describe some of them-especially the use of the prefix “sono” which refers to sound or “sonic”- so there is no need to message me to “inform” me that this word actually means “that”…I don’t care. these words are my spells…I am merely sharing them for those that give a shit.

what is music?

 

 

music exists between dimensions. it is a sort of catalytic glue between what we think of as the physical plane where our bodies reside and the plane of thought, emotion, dreams…a sort of mathematical plane that informs the thought plane and the physical plane. sound exists without you.  if a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? yes. sound does not need an observer to do what it does. cymatics can demonstrate this. sound creates a spherical bubble of order that permeates matter. so sound exists without a human observer to hear it. music…hmmm…that is a different question. music implies a greater order. more complexity…intention.  if sound can influence and create so many things in nature, what must music be able to do?

in sufi mythology, existence began with a great sound and sound is a form of mathematical expression.  we live in a deeply ordered mathematical reality. the interaction with this great truth is profound to a degree that I am humble to. I seek to know it and to create ways for it to order itself through me. to be an ordering conduit for its expression. any truth above, below or around that, will come through how successful I am at that core purpose.

in my studies over the last few years I see that sound, and music, affect every aspect of the human construct. music and sound wash over the entire body, which just so happens to be coated in neurons…we are distributed computing systems. our mind is not simply in our heads…nor completely in our brains…it surrounds our entire body, I believe.

there is the music of computation and technology, expressed as pure binary math and boolean logic. the music of light and spectral frequency. the music of biology and its fractal expression of information. what is music? it is the point and the next but it must be asked AS music.

Terrence McKenna once said, while quoting someone else that, “language was invented to lie”.  that was as funny then as it is now because the word that I keyed into was not “lie”…it was “invention”.  language as invention.  this is odd.  it seems as if language just always was. that we as a species just popped out talking, but the more I study the more I see that this isnt the case. carbon dating of ancient musical instruments suggest that music is older than homo sapien.  so if language is an invention, then that means we can invent others, right?

I mean,we do it all the time. there are dozens of programming languages used to talk to computers…languages of law, medicine, money…languages of the drum and of the body in the form of dance, gymnastics, fighting, swimming, car driving, motorcycling, climbing and musical expression….all languages with syntax and nuance and emotion and symmetry.

music as a language

 

Ive been hiding out, working on a new kind of language for a few years.  something that would be easy to begin learning (especially since I will have to learn it as well) but could expand beyond what one believes to be their capability to learn. in fact, this system would enable the capability to communicate multidimensionally, with “dimension” defined as mutually exclusive realms of expression. speaking and dancing are two different forms of communication but painting  and cooking are as well. they are dimensions of expression. so my idea is to create a language that is, by its nature, multidimensional. the elements that will weave all the dimensions together are sound, binary logic, computers, 3d printing and basic electronics.

I call this form, Sonocybernetics.

the idea is to learn these basics in a manner that feeds the idea.  that sentence is recursive which means that it feeds back into itself. the same way that we humans learn by doing things over and over, is recursive. the very idea is recursive. learn something that feeds back into itself to constantly give feedback while also propelling forward based on this process. and since its not one thing-one dimension-that feedback cross pollinates all the things you do, resulting in increasingly serendipitous results.   how you do one thing will have a direct impact on how you do another thing because they are all governed by the same core idea. my 3d printed designs have a direct impact on their playability which influences how they sound, which influences how I move  which influences the expression of the data they generate which influences the machines I have connected to those data streams….and so on…

the basic structure of sonocybernetics rest on  a number of core “pre-elements”, the first of which is to always move toward and embody open source philosophy as a life philosophy.  language can not thrive if one has to ask permission to use any aspect of it. any non-open source elements must be either reverse engineered into something that can be shared  or pushed to the outside edges of the idea…never the core. when I say “pre-elements” I mean a few very specific tools that form the core toolset.

  • a computer, running linux(prefereably the raspberry pi platform)-yeah I know…linux is for geeks and nerds, but guess what youre gonna have to be to do this?  yup.  this is not for people who want to take the easy road. if you need it easy, go do something else…this isnt for you  AT ALL. don’t waste your time. this is powerful, not because it is easy but because it is NOT easy (note: its not hard either, its just strange, which some mistake for hard) and currently, the world runs on linux. to know linux is to realize you are connected to the nervous system that runs the world and it just happens to be completely open source meaning that later, you can change it how you feel.
  • Pure data, specifically, pd-extended.  yes, I know…either youre not a programmer or you use c++ or java script or python, well I chose pure data because of its inherently spatial layout and power with number structures that make it easier to show to someone at a glance without having to hunch over and read down a long list of text. I find pd to be soooo much easier to teach and to share and its easier to share ideas of fractality and nesting. also, it is a gateway to programming in other languages, which can be used to create pd objects.
  • a reprap 3d printer-yes I know….you use a makerbot and/or you don’t want to build a 3d printer from scratch but the reprap is what the makerbot is based on and steals all its upgrades from.  it is a machine that makes machines! and not only can you build it but you can evolve IT…as YOU evolve. this is very very important as the dimensions move out past plastic forms and move into the micro/nano scale and well as the macro scale. because if you can build and evolve a small reprap, you can build a house sized one as well as a molecular sized one so internalizing this technology as DIY, is important.  and 3d printers don’t have to be overly complex.
    here is one I designed out of spare parts that is handheld, requires no CAD software, and uses pure data, running on linux for control and is built around an arduino. this can form the basis of a larger 3d printer later (and of course, it is open source)

the arduino platform-yes I know…youre not a hacker and whatever else but understanding the arduino allows you to program functions directly into the machines you make, as in the above example. your printed machines become programmable. and you learn to use and eventually create better faster microcontrollers later.

with these tools you have the basis of a multidimensional language. you can speak sound, physical form, code and and current simultaneously. and these form the basis of completely new kinds of thought not possible any other way.  these tools allow for the view of computer as prosthesis. as recursive augmentation; a tool for exploring self which when focused outwardly, reveals an increasingly malleable programmable reality. this can give some insight into parts of the process as well

how does it work?

sonocybernetics is based on cybernetics, transduced using patterns of sound that evolve as you evolve.  cybernetics theory is based on two dimensions of communication systems; information structure and the physical representation of that information.  feedback into the system is key, as feedback of high enough gain, takes over from the input.  so lets look at that statement like this; youre a jazz improviser and youre playing with your combo and you begin a ballad.  you are inputing inFormation into the system but instantly you are listening to your band mates who are also inputing information and you all stablize on a key, a tempo and mood. but then maybe you decide, as a flourish, during your solo, to play something that sounds a bit like salsa, which instantly makes your drummer hit a bit of a salsa beat and now your bass player has jumped into the action and youre now all playing salsa based on subtle cues of information feedback.  as any musician knows, this happens all the time. jazz and cybernetics have more similarities than you would imagine. this feed back can be sono-cognitive, mechanical, design, programmatic, realtime, dietary, kinesthetic….

the feedback relates very specifically to the “sono” part of sonocybernetics. this is the part ive been trying to figure out for years. ordered sound has an imprinting effect on the physiology of the brain, which means that it affects the way you think. ordered encoded sound is the glue that makes the whole system work in a manner that is self evolving and self iterative. this is a new kind of music, specifically for creating new forms of sound order:

binary logic

this system regresses to a base2 number system. the whole idea orbits around the “on” and the “off” pair. as you will note, all computing is already based on binary numbers but binary number systems have been around since ancient egypt and probably longer. so it is a system that is simultaneously ancient old and new new. it is based multiples of 2 but at its simplest its easier to think of it as groupings of on/offs called “bits”. if you touch a surface with your index finger, this could be considered on.  if you lift your finger off that surface, this is off. congratulations, you have just completed a 1bit calculation. with 1 bit, you have 2 positions-on and off. and “off” is equally important to “on”. with out an off, there is not music. there is only a building cacophony of sound. sound is ordered by off. music is ordered by relationship of the off to the on. this is what the bit represents, musically. you can do a lot of very relevant things with 1 bit.  drumming comes to mind, as does morse code. you can change the spacing between the on/off to get different rhythms as well…that is with just 1 on/off.  with 2 on/off, or 2bits, you now have access to 4 positions;

 

1.00 off/off

2.10 on/off

3.01 off/on

4.11 on/on

 

an easier way to think of this is with drums and drum sticks which are 2 on/offs many forms of african drumming were used to transmit messages over long distances, complete with recursion (resending the message over and over again so that the intended message is received), error correction, routing and swtiching, so binary logic has been with us for a really long time, which was why it started making more and more sense.

12tone equal temperment is not very good at controlling robots or communicating or evolving. it was made to make orchestras sound good together. this was the hitch point for me for the last couple of years. it was the one thing that had to go. it was hard to think of throwing away 30+ years of experience, at least it was until the john coltrane revelation. he had to rip his way out of it but beyond that, his tools were always bringing him back to it as a starting point everytime he touched his horn. I have no such limitations. whatever I do not have, I can create. pure data can convert any number series into any type of frequency output I deem relevant-ultra low, below human hearing or ultra high into radio frequency range and beyond.so it was with this in mind that decided to step away from sax fingerings and 12 tone ET as a primary sound interface concept.

as you can see in this video, I decided to design a 2bit system to test the theory.  this uses a couple of nuts in a printed shaker type construct that lets me play around with 2 bits in a musical way. no brain implants, no quantum mechanics…just a shaker with two nuts to investigate 2bit interfacing.

there is another form of input that is crucial; the analog input which I call a stream. this is the other stuff-sensors, breath, motion…all the stuff that isnt simply on or off. so if we go back to the finger tapping example, this is tapping with intensity or adding an accelerometer to the 2bit shaker so that the angle it is being shaken at can be used as input.  with bits and streams, you’ve got just about any sort of input covered. every added input is considered either an added bit or an added stream. in this way you are able to completely maximize your input potential. it doesn’t mean that you have to, it simply means that you can. so rather than 2 buttons just being 2 buttons, they can be 4 positions. 3 buttons can represent 8 positions, 4 can prepresent 16 positons but for the sake and scale of this system ive designed it around a 8bit matrix, with a total of 255 positions.

the 8bit matrix

I believe that binary numbers are the key to this sonocybernetic system, but its not that easy. there has to be an initial limitation- a learnable one -but one that can one day be expanded easily. that limit is 255. this is the full range of 8 bit numbers. the 8 fingers on my hands can create 255 positions.  if I include the thumbs, it shoots up to 1024! if I were to try 16bits, id be tying to swim thru 65,000 positions! that is out side the realm of comprehension for me right now. the goal is to create a full 8bit “pattern” in my mind, then evolve from there. this pattern would consist of any number of bits up to 8bits then any other range of bits would be another group of bits. all streams would have a range from 0 to 255. in this way everything has a definable, learnable space that it operates within.  instead of learning 12 octaves of 12 notes, this system would be 1 range of 255 note intervals, definable in any way the “patternist” sees fit. 255 becomes the resolution of a grid that is 255x255x255 which results in over 16million possibilities ! in multiple dimensions. 255 notes, 255 parameters positions, 255 points for each sensor range….there is a mind boggling range of combinations to be explored.

within this initial 255x3 matrix, possibility is granularized and can be built up in any way that suits the patternist. lets say I want to use sax fingerings. I do not have to discard the binary input system, I merely need to assign interval relationships to the keys that I normally used to finger sax notes so in that way I can play sax fingerings but I can also play any binary finger combination and play those intervals as well. this applies to ANY MUSICALLY RELEVANT INPUT, like flute, drums, trumpet, mpc drumpad…anything! the interaction can be as familiar as the pilot wants it to be but can mutate outward to encompass the maximum number of input possibilities. lets say I want to type words. I can assign letters to numbers and assign sound intervals to letters based on on vowel spacing.  these “scales” are endless in function and variety. scales for gcode (3d printer control), scales for algebra. scales for video projection control, hexapod interaction, drone flight control AND feedback from proximity sensors…its infinite.

most importantly, is that every “bit” of data is stored. it forms a fractal map of your journey. the 8bit matrix is a sort of holographic “read-head”, viusually, but it is powered by a time-coded dataformat that lets you look at every moment you interact with the system, which will become more and more important over time as more intimate sensor information becomes integrated, such as EEG, and full body “state” information.

of patterns and patternists

I realized something interesting in the last couple of years; music by itself is meaningless.  what matters is the patterns. same goes for sports, paintings, agriculture, space flight, writing, swimming…all human endeavors are all pattern based. we discern patterns…we create patterns. we make predictions based on those patterns and when someone can challenge our predictive capability, we either praise them or burn them at the stake.

everything is patterns!     

not only that though. we seek out “novel” patterns. patterns that tickle our sensibilities in some way. this is the reason why a style of music or design becomes “old” or “classic”; because the ability of that pattern to be constantly novel, has been exhausted but the stored exploration in the form of records or clothing style, yielded a stability of beauty, form or usefulness. some people like me, seek out the patterns in sound and people and internet information flow and others are obsessed with sports for the exact same reason. they predict that this player or that will score ( x ) much this season based on ( y ) and because of the new rookie they picked and the loss of this or that coach.  same goes for video games…everything to humans is patterns and prediction.

it is with this understanding that I decided to test a theory back at the beginning of 2013: it was at this time that I decided to stop playing “music” as I had understood it to be, and to begin playing evolving patterns of sound. I was fully ready to have fruit thrown at me and stop getting bookings but I hypothesized that as long as the patterns were ordered, complex and continuously evolving, I would be talking directly to the pattern part of the human brain and the rest of the human would stay put and absorb it and I was right…very right. from that moment, I became a patternist

the term patternist is my choosen name for what I do, what I am and what we do together as sonocyberneticists. I cribbed it from an octavia butler book called “mind of my mind”. the patternists were a race of telepaths, eugenically created over a time span of about 5000 years by an immortal named Doro. their defining feature as a group besides being powerful telepaths, telekinetics and shapeshifters was that the “pattern” allowed them to live together in harmony and draw strength from each other when necessary.

my personal definition is slightly different. each patternist creates a pattern that evolves as they do. anything they want to learn or do can be grafted into their pattern. in my case, even though 3d printing isnt necessarily a musical skill, it is part of my pattern, as is everything I want to learn, because if I can break down anything I want to internalize, to a sono-spatial kinesthetic interaction construct, everything reinforces everything else (ie, I move in a way that lets me create sound in a way that affects me by postioning the sound when it sounds like it is coming from anywhere 360° around me, by using pure datas built in surround sound panners).  the more complex this meta pattern becomes, the more easily new information can be grafted into it and the more readily it can be imprinted. this process of imprinting is called “psycho-cymatic, sonosynaptic, reconfiguration”. this is the actual writing of patterns of meaning onto the brain using spatialized sound. I should note at this point that I reinforce this process with brain stimualtion modalities such as transcrannial direct current stimulation, and with cognitive enhancing “nooptropic” (new-oh-trow-pick) compounds such as piracetam, both of which I have been doing for a number of years.

this process has been happening with me since at least 2012 when I got my 3d printer. every thing I do and learn feeds a meta-pattern in my mind which affects how my brain works and processes future information.  but it was hampered by 2 things;

1. music as entertainment rather than purely patterning modality

2. the music itself, because of the leaning toward music as entertainment, I wasn’t using the music to store sonic patterns of relevance to things I was learning or wanted to learn. the system was only meant to sound good and not to design with or run a 3d printer or operate a mechanical system like a vehicle or a robot.  this is an early sonomorph of constructed intent that moved away from a listener model toward an encoded intention model.

but now, with a binary core concept, the system speaks the same language as the computer it is running on and can be programmed, in realtime, to interact with the brain and become a system of expanding feedback t; what one hears influencing the next thing they do, perpetually. the feedback is the key. this does not throw away beauty and symmetry or “funkiness”…it re-imagines them as having a new relevance as encoding metaphors. syncopation can have a function…something that makes a body move has a pattern that is relevant so all this pattern talk does not mean that said pattern must sound like r2d2. that said, you hear what I have sounded like? well, its gets stranger…

 

Patternist != cyborg

I have written about my issues with the word cyborg here and here so, to summarize, I’m not a cyborg. primarily because

cyborgs do not create themselves.

they are created by someone else for someone elses purposes and not for the cyborgs transcendence and evolution.  in addition, the concatenation of the terms “cybernetic” and “organism”, upon closer inspection is very dis-empowering. it implies that a system of greater order is being “imposed” on an “organism”. this to me is the same type of wordplay that reduces a “citizen” to a “consumer” or turns the “people” into the “public”.  Norbert wieners book on the subject was entitled “cybernetics: control and communication in the animal and the machine” and so concerned with the misuse of this technology was he, that he wrote another book entiteld “The Human Use Of Human Beings: Cybernetics And Society” to discuss these topics. “cyborg” is a small word with great power.  I designed “Onyx Ashanti” as a word of power. “beatjazz” is another such word as are “sonomorph”, “sonic fractal matrix” and “exo-voice”…inspection of the elements of their construction reveal words of empowerment and strength.

I have been living with the word “patternist” for a couple of years now, just to see how it evolved over time and in that time, the word has come to mean more than it did when I chose it. when veiwing patterns as multidimensional recursive information structures, the full time investigation of such structures, makes calling oneself a a patternist, more and more fitting.  it is a word that can grow and evolve. it gives the direction of focus, more light without being overly general.

technically, I also like the terms “sonocyberneticist”, but that sounds more academic than im comfortable with in general use. I also sometimes simply use the term “pilot”, but that’s more of a slang than a descriptor. patternist and patterns work extremely well and their use will easily detract from any cyborg references once they have more of an establish body of expressions. note though: the use of the word “patternism” is not used.  that is something else entirely and feels more like an ideology than growth term. sonocybernetics will work in those moments, just fine.

there it is

that is the super super basics of the idea. this rabbit hole is crazy deep but I don’t want to monologue on it without working examples, which are in the works.  now when I describe things that are coming, this can be the proper reference point. everything refers to this now. and the best part is now that sonocybernetics provides such a comprehensive umbrella under which to place all of my expressions, I don’t have to shun beatjazz anymore. it is a “form”  within sonocybernetics and a sonomorph is another. from this point forward, everything refers to sonocybernetics as the ecosystem within which everything else lives and propagates.

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The John Coltrane Theory (pre-element#1)

the following is a thought excercise i have been using for teh last couple of years. please note; this is not "the" truth nor is it even "a" truth. it is a myth i have used to investigate an idea concerning the nature of sound, music and control.

My name is Onyx Ashanti. I gave myself that name 3 days after the Rodney King riots in Atlanta Georgia in 1992. I have been a musician my whole life, beginning with flute then on to saxophone, then wind midi controller and eventually on to to self designed constucts; the beatjazz controller, which eventually evolved into a prosthesis called an exo-voice.  all of these systems had one thing in common; they were all fingered using woodwind fingering systems, ie, even though they were different instruments, i have mostly been using saxophone fingerings to play all of them. because of this, i tended to gravitate toward listening to saxophone players alot.

growing up in mississippi in the 70's and 80's there wasnt much jazz.  most of my cultural conceptualization came from either church, radio or tv.  at this time, satellite and cable were bringing new channels to us country folk like BET and MTV and others.  those channels tended toward a wider pop sensibility than local channels in northern mississippi so i became immersed in the then new phenomenon of hip hop and the constantly mutating RnB form. 

back then, most pop groups had a sax player and most pop songs had a solo section for a saxophone solo.  it was a great time to be a kid playing sax, especially a kid who lived waaaaaay out in the countryside (or as we called it, “the boonies”) where said kid could just go out into the field behind the house and play such profoundly important music artificacts as "Word up", "Glamorous life", and of course, "Maneater". even somehow convincing the marching band i was in in high school to play some of these songs  during football games...ahhh...good times...

the point is that at no point did names like john coltrane, miles davis or charlie parker ever come up.  ever.  not even when i graduated from high school and went to Grambling State University in Louisiana.  or rather, they and their music DID come up but the pop-program i had running in my head was strong enough that when we were tasked with playing these gems from the "realbook"(a book of jazz standards that all gigging jazz musicians carry around with them, physically and mentally), i could sight read it and play the notes but I didnt know why i should care. i just thought it was one of those things you do in school, like tests and essays.  some sort of overly complicated history lesson.

by the time i left university and moved to atlanta, all i wanted to play was RnB and hip hop, but luckily Atlanta had a great jazz scene that spanned from the contemporary jazz that i loved, ala, gerald albright, kirk whalum david sandborn et al, all the way over to the "standard" stuff, as i called it, of coltrane, miles, parker...so there was a very useful oscillation between the pop sensibilities and the standards, leaning toward pop. 

thankfully at that time i met a man by the name of yusef sharif. a bebopper extraordinaire. it was from watching him that i decided to become a street busker. he was the man who gave me lessons for a couple of years and took me to jam sessions where "real" jazz was played. i watched as he would proceed to intimidate an entire room of jazz musicians with nothing but the fire that would erupt from his horn. a fire of true jazz. of mathematics and algorithmic sound. it was thru him and his playing and his words that i was finally hipped to what jazz is and was and should be.  and more importantly to who these legends were and what they represent.  the pop-program was beginning to mutate but it wasnt time yet because other sounds had begun to draw my attentions, namely jungle, house, 90's timbaland and puffy (mary j, jodeci, etc).  this was the emergence of the dominance of the DJ and beat culture into mainstream pop culture and the submergence of instrumental music as it had been in the previous era(thanks kenny g).

so lets fast forward scan the years from the late 90s until around 2010; playing on the street helped develop an improvisational concept that allowed for more intricate playing of the wind controller in the club scene that was life at that time.eventually i began to feel the edges of my abilities so i began to dig deeper in to learning more about improvisation as well as programming my synthesizers and along the way the internet became useful as a place of investigation.  all of a sudden (for me) i could just type in miles davis and hear everything he ever did.

as i was reaching the limitations of my previous improvisational ideas i rediscovered, first charlie parker and bebop. i could just type his name and listen to everything! it was like being a world class record collector! i had everything and in chronological order! by this time, around 2009, i was beginning to become bored with the beat scenes i had been part of, for now going on 20 something years, so this re-emergent jazz expression was so fresh and new to me. streams of flowing thought encoded as rhythtm, harmony, syncopation, metaphor, humor, emotion, intensity, anguish...fuck...i could hear it, but i still didnt know what "it" was. i had spent so many years doing "else", that i was coming to this archive of genius, new. the difference was that i had been investigating the inside of my own head for 20 years as an improviser, so i could begin to understand the reasons for certain choices they were making and at what point in the pieces. the true freeing moment came when i stopped trying to convert what I was hearing, into words. when that happened, BOOOOM!!! all of a sudden i was hearing heirogyphics! my mind was just blown!  how the fuck could this be freely available?!  this wasnt music!  this was the fucking point!!  whoaaaa!!!

so needless to say, i was hooked. i was hearing the internal dialogue of a genius and i could hear everything they recorded right in my little flat in berlin all day all night. so let me interject here...i am a patternist (this term will mean more soon); i discern patterns easily and i can incorporate those patterns into my expressions.  i was drunk on charlie parker patterns for about 6-8 months of 12 hours a day immersion until one day the thought hit me...

"hmmmm...whats this coltrane thing about?"

...before i go on, let me note that this is coming from a, then, 40 year old (beat)jazz musician so whether that is an embarassment or not, is up to you but, needless to say, i became a disciple of coltrane on that day, at that moment, literally crying while listening and saying over and over to myself and anyone around me, "I GET IT!! I FINALLY GET IT!!" his math washed over me and i was reborn again! he took the conversation that parker had begun in my head  and expanded on it....debating some points while cosigning on others then building his own thesis.  i say conversation because he began with a bop sensibility then evolved toward  greater and greater complexfication. 

oh my the complexification...from fire to butter to chocolate to chaos to architecture...portals to other dimensions. history reprogrammed...futures diagrammed and flowcharted...it felt like i was in my own fortress of solitude and i was kal-el and coltrane was jor-el and these recordings were those crystals that stored all the knowledge of krypton...yeah, like that!

by the time i began my coltrane listening era, i had a wonderful place to live in kreuzberg in berlin with endless amounts of time to "study", so i made a point of beginning with the earliest recordings first and meditated on them repeatedly until i had them memorized, then would move on to the next and the next, chronologically and methodically all the way up to a recording that was made at a performance he did 2 weeks before he died in 1967, then i would just playlist them in order.  eventually i asked another of those funny questions...

"so...whats the deal with this sun ra dude?" 

and so we arent going to go there in this essay but you already know , so lets move on to the theory

the john coltrane theory

cut to the recent past, winter 2015. by this time, having moved from berlin to detroit to expand my project within the exponential "now", my listening-to-coltrane-all-the-time era had ended and i had become interested in scores of other jazz musicians to the same depth of investigatory interest; eric dolphy, ornette coleman, archi shepp, cecil taylor, and of course sun ra, as well as others, but many others do not have the depth of recordings, so they were short studies.

one night I was having an interesting debate with a friend about systems of mind control and how pop music is part of such a system (briefly, overly simplistic music begats overly simplistic thought forms). coltranes name pops up in the debate. i was arguing, in a nutshell, that he was stretching the bounds of music and my friend was arguing that he was well within the range of what constituted music, which offended my sensitivities since i had been diefying coltrane for a while at this point (note, at the time of this writing, i am 45 so this whole reconfiguration of mind is less than 5 years old), so i was becoming argumentative but he was making a couple of solid jabs that stung enough to make me think carefully about my reasonings. for the next couple of days i let my mind ponder and investigate our dialogue.

during this time i began studying micro tonal systems, which means music that isnt tuned to 12 chromatic notes like western music.  and simultaneously i was investigating non 4/4 timing.  within this span i had become bored of the predictability of 4/4.  its monotonizing effect on the brain and the mind.  I was asking question about why is "music" music?  what is this thing we call music and why is not something else "music"?  electronic sound aids this investigation very very much. and this was going thru my head while i was pondering the coltrane conversation when an idea hit me;

what if along the way to looking for transcendence, coltrane discovered that he was trapped in a psychic matrix made of sound? what if all that we perceive as his genius was actually him trying to escape this construct?

maybe this is old-hat for some but this was new to me.  so i decided to "go in" and explore this idea.

…………………………………

over the last few years of evolving the exo-voice, i kept discovering walls. so many of them that it made me begin to question what they were. for instance, the exo-voice is interacted with using saxophone fingerings.  I use these because i played sax and wind midi controller for so many year and decided that it would be easiest to just use that muscle memory but because its electronic, i gave it 9 octaves of range which is better than the 7 octaves afforded by the wind controller and the approximately 5 octaves you can get out of a saxophone. and i played ALOT so i began to notice that even with 9 octaves of range, i could feel that there were things i could not play because of the coarseness of octaves split into 12 notes each.  the exo-voice can change the pitch of 4 simultaneous notes using hand positions, but i still interface with this "quad-note" using 12 equal steps per octave.

to get over this limitation musicians use segementation concepts such as "key", which restricts the notes one can play together. using different "keys" is the difference between sounding "bluesy" and sounding like a military march.  much can be done but i could feel the limitation in all the things i couldn play and had no concept of why i would want to...i knew there was something in between these 12 notes and i've been working to escape out of this coarse construct for a while.

by the same token, another listen to coltranes discography revealed such a desire.  listening to his earliest stuff first, what you hear is almost perfect mathematical form.

 

  like sonic geometry;everything is where it should be. by the time he dropped giant steps, he was buoyant and joyful in his expression of this mathematical form.  he was a man who had it all figured out and wanted you to know it. beautiful and symmetrical. then came my favorite things!

he ran a broadway show tune thru his algorithm and transformed it so completely that no one can barely remember the orginal. all hail jazz!

hmmm...but then you listen, album after album and something emerges. where there was once certitude, there is now, not doubt...no, more like an itch....a meta question.

 

 

he started to ask, in his music, why...why do i play these mathematical intervals in this perfectly aesthetically acceptable way? what is tempo? why is this right and that isnt? i could go on but the point is that questions werent with words...they were with his sound and that of the musicians he surrounded himself with. he was known to gravitate toward the outliers and freaks of the jazz world. the questions were always in the music.

so, lets cut away one more time.

almost all western music is based on the pythagorean tuning. without going into a deep music theory lesson, the intervals (notes) in this system are based on mathematical ratios. for instance, a double of any interval is its octave or 2 to 1 so, say, if the frequency is 100hz and you double it, it is becomes 200hz. thats an octave. and its logarithmic meaning that rather than 100, 200, 300, 400, it is 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, etc. so you get the note intervals within the octaves as ratios as well. the entire 12 tone scale is based on these ratios but there is an issue...

perfect mathematical intervals do not result in octaves

octaves are perfect but perfect intervals dont create them. perfect mathematical interval ratios actually go past the octave point by a small amount, called a pythagorean comma, so to "remedy" this, western music uses a thing called "equal temperment" which means that all the intervals are squeezed a bit so that the 12 tones always come around to an octave every 12 tones.  otherwise, the intervals would actually "spiral" outward logarithmically, like a whirlpool.  as is, its less spirally and more cyclical, like a slinky.  this allows western instruments to be standardized so that they can be tuned together and orchestras can result, as well as pianos, guitars, and horns such as tubas, trumpets, flutes and saxophones.

in addition, base two frequency tunings have a strange relationship to many frequencies in nature. base2 means multiples of 2, ie, 1,2,4,8,16,32,64 etc...the schuman resonance, which is known as the resonance of the planet, is around 7.8-7.9hz, very close to 8hz.  frequencies such as 128hz, 256hz and the famous 432hz are all multiples of base2 frequencies and are known to sound and feel more calming and resonant.  ive been playing with these tones for the last couple of years and although not earth shatteringly different (probably owing to my sound designs) they do tend toward being less abrasive than sounds that i was making pre january 2015.

one interesting conspiracy concerning the power of tuning was that the rockefeller foundation had been pushing for the international standard of tuning to be shifted from 432hz to 440hz apparently because it made people work harder. some say it was the nazis  whatever…but in the summer of 1939 “whoever it was” succeeded in getting the international standard organization to make the shift...3 months before world war 2...just sayin...(this aspect is less important than artificially constrained octave based systems, but this isnt a scientific paper, it’s a myth I made up as a thought exercise, so…)

who or whatever it was, all instruments from that point forward would be tuned to a concert a that was at the frequency of 440hz.  this tuning could be variable in instruments like pianos, which could be tuned string by string, but an instrument like a saxophone would have both systems "hard-coded" into the instrument-the 12 tone equal temperment interval relationship as well as 440hz tuning. this tuning standard still stands to this day as does 12 tone equal temperment, although both are less permanent with the emergence of programmable electronic sounds...

so back to coltrane...

in the early 60's coltrane was an international star. My favorite things was a massive crossover hit and he was playing all over the world and was able to interact with many varied artists and musicians. around this time he began to be fascinated with indian music and indian artists such as ravi shankar.  around this time, i believe the questions were becoming more overt. with a more bold spiritual conceptualization came a bolder more intense investigation of how to transcend these worldly constraints, two of which were the saxophone with its built in constraning mechanisms, of 12 tone  fingerings and tuning as well as the time signatures he could now see were holding him back.

he began to commune with his horn up to 18 hours a day.  45 minute solos at concerts (and longer).  a complete change of band. his music became a mutation engine. tempo and key were shed like a discarded crysallis. his soul clawed at the walls of this jazz/horn/12tone cage multidimensionally. he went into hyperspace to find the answers. it was there, i believe, that he discovered the matrix of interwoven control mechanisms.  that the saxophone, western musical form and jazz itself were conspiring to keep him grounded. it was then that he set off on his grand research project to investigate this cage and and free himself from it.

first he sourrounded himself with musicians who could build a new kind of portal...one free of the limitations he could now see very clearly.  together they would rewrite the code in realtime. as the portal threw off the energetic particles of new possibilities, he turned his attention to his horn-his ship...his cage...his weapon...his laboratory...his voice...he re-comprehended what it was. each key, each sound that escaped from each vibration was a bit in a quantum space. he would stack the intervals so fast that they sounded as if they were played simultaneously. he was programming his own perception of himself thru this interface. there were no longer 12 equal tones. there was only cymatic computation projected into a portal of sonically encoded intent.  if you listen closely to when he squeals a note, this is no random sqeak for effect. this is a new form of note...an emergent high pitched meta-note birthed from intention, experience and physics. its not one sound. there are overtones and harmonics that come from placing the lip, the tongue, the breath and the throat cavity into a precisely exact position. feedback and control. cybernetic perfection.

listening to this recording which was done shortly before his death, you hear a lifetime of research assembled into a meta-portal. a portal of portals. a wistful prayer. it feels like he knows that he is not long of this earth and wanted to build a construct that was the expression of a life of investigation. this was his unified theory of jazz. it never once has a discernable tempo or key, but there is an order that is undeniable.  i feel that he realized that this was his opus moment. that there was nothing more to do within this construct. anything else would be him crossing tracks he had already made. he completely exausted the possibilites of these constructs and he knew it. the screaming that comes from the horn in this concert is simultaneously the expression of perfect control of an interface of limited dimensional resolution and the voice of Self inhabiting his body and experience to speak new dimensions thru them as fully as could be done with his construct in that moment. he clawed his way free of the cage and became the angel.

 

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Naima interface revision 1

so, finally got around to revising naima.

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i am taking my time with learning the coding neccessary to program the esp8266's. i'm using the Arduino IDE so there are more than enough tutorials. its just amatter of learning the function calls and the syntax. i currently have connection in one direction and only 9 bytes of data, so i want to comprehend why, more fully, so im gonna just meditate with it for a while.

in the meantime, i decided to finsh the Naima interface. it was unfinished from running out of material and time in Morocco and since i need a proper playable testbed while im learning to code the new parts of the exo-voice, i figured it was time to finish it.

the hand braces are neccessary so that my fingers "float" above the sensors. the dome is neccessary to refract the light from the rgb led in all directions smoothly. otherwise its just a little annoying point of light.

although it is a sort of hybrid of wind controller and exo-voice, it feels very different from both. the angled side-by-side hand positioning connected to the mouth, feels more singularthan the exo-voice...and simpler...like a wind midi controller, but pressure initiated function calls, gestural sound sculpting, binaural panning, looping and ganular sampling are all from the exo-voice and i couldnt even dream of such things being built into the wx5 i used to play so this wont be a step backward...more like a step sideways.

oh, and to add to that...im not using saw/boehm fingerings in this interface. ive been working on an 8bit fingering system for over a year and i think its time to implement. im already out in the woods with this thing so i might as well forge on #forwardretreat

i will begin posting the sounds it makes soon.and will post the files to build it next week. unlike the exo-voice, this one wasnt planned or promised so it'll give me practice in releasing the exo-voice more efficiently, when that time comes #verysoon


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