Exploring the exponential now-Episode#1:Leaving Berlin (The Nomadic Diary of Onyx Ashanti)


For those that don’t know, I have packed myself and project development of the exo-voice and associated projects, into my trusty duffle bag, attached by trailer to my folding bike, and decided to leave Berlin for the time being. It must be noted at this point that primary focus is still on developing and shipping crowdfunding campaign perks to my contributors, but I don’t need to be in berlin to do so.  truthfully, it is quite a bit cheaper to purchase parts and ship from here in Mississippi, than from Germany, but that is not the reason for leaving.  it is simply an assurance that “perk-iteration” is still my primary focus; making the people who supported me, happy, is still the overriding goal Smile .  The reason I left is to explore a “now” that is so profoundly interesting, that I can not be in one place to do it.

Exploring the exponential now.

Over the last couple of years, my mind has been a vast terrain of unexplored adventure.  I never dreamed of what awaited me once I turned off TV, movies, radio, CD’s, etc.  although I have become obsessed with sun ra, Terence McKenna, John Coltrane, Polynoid, online research papers, ancient Egypt, pre-colonial Africa, and Japanese Tech culture, I've done so at my own pace, using the internet, then disconnecting and letting all of these disparate topics interact freely in my mind.  the interactions between them and the hundreds of other topics, has been thrilling in completely unpredictable ways.  not “finding”congruencies, but just sitting quietly long enough for them to drift together effortlessly has created a pattern of its own and this pattern needs stimulation that can no longer be had primarily through a computer screen information interface.  tactility is now necessary.  personal experience.  fields within fields of influence.  the attraction of a future which wants to be experienced physically with mind and body, here in the present.  the now.

But this “now” is different from the previous “now” I remember from the last “nomadic era”, of which there have been 4;

The first one i n the late 90s living in a van in LA,

The second living in a squat in London in the early 2k’s,

#3 was living on the A-train in NYC in 2006DSCN1779, and was the first one I blogged http://nomadicjunglist.blogspot.com/ and

#4 was summer of 2010, living in a tent, camping, and busking around Europe and Ibiza, also blogged http://onyxashanti.wordpress.com/page/3/.

In all of those nomadic phases, there was less certainty of what I was doing, where I was going and why I was going.  the “now” was just a place that my body and mind happened to inhabit.  and all of these were pre exo-voice, pre-open source, pre-investigation-of-self.  I was a street performer who was looking for good pitches to play.

Since 2010, “now” has gained several new dimensions based on my expanded perception of it and on the explosive growth of human connectivity and technological expression.  “now” is no longer a tiny point wedged in between a future and a past, but an exponentially growing life-form.  it consumed the past long ago, parameterizing it and making it increasingly easy to parse, but it now also stalks the future like a seasoned predator. 

We have the tools and the minds to create any future we can conceive, right now.  the now has become an increasingly vast multiverse of possibility and expression.  so vast, that one must approach it as artist and anthropologist.  any expression can be constructed as quickly as ones mind can use and/or create tools to construct it, but then one must shift perspective and investigate said construct with a respect previously reserved for ancient artifacts, whose age and detail beg  for serious inspection by trained “professionals”.  the new now…our now, must be played like music while also studied like any other science.  its boundaries grow exponentially and we must look out from its event horizon, to gain even a slight glimpse of the futureverse. 

So, looking at the “now” as a terrain rather than as a point-or maybe a really expansive point, with us as particles on or in it-then the impetus is to map it.  to explore it and see where it leads, and maybe find other explorers and trade notes.  “now” exists in berlin as well but not only in berlin.  the new now is a vast reality topology abstraction that can be experienced in part from any point, but must be traversed physically to try to grasp its scope and depth.  nothing in the virtual sphere replaces personal experience.


Another reason for this exploratory journey, is the birth of a new metaphor for the exo-voice software.  As I have mentioned ad nauseum for the last couple of years, I am obsessed with fractals in all forms.  from mathematical constructs to trees to nervous systems…they have changed my interaction with myself and with the world.  so the guiding principle for the evolution of the synthesis system of the exo-voice has been to make it “fractal”…to give it an evolving “fractal logic”.  to my mind, at a particular point, this was just an abstraction like “funky”  or “swinging”, but then a few months ago it came to mind to create a simplified version of the system for practice.  something that would be a little bit of everything in the system, condensed into a single synth/looper…POW!!!!!(insert matrix-y sound here)ZOOOREEROOOOMMMMMPOP!!!!  THAT WAS IT!!  THAT WAS ALWAYS IT!  make a single point from which to iterate the sound! The iteration is multidimensional in that it is an interaction protocol (how it is played) and a design protocol, which then feeds back into the interaction protocol.  this means that changing a very few things at a time can result in massive sonic personality changes.  basically, instead of changing an instrument metaphor, it is that of changing a “seed” metaphor.  tweaking the sonic genome, produces new morphosonic structures (“morph” is Greek for form).

the way this relates to leaving berlin is that berlin has a very pervasive “morphosonic field”.  a morphosonic field is a term describing the “sound” for which a place is known.  I derived it from the concept of a morphogenetic field put forth by Rupert Sheldrake in his book, “a new science of life”, in which he describes his theory that nature is made up of fields of influence and that each species has fields of memory that guide their collective habits.  Google and YouTube are your friend in researching this further.  from that theoretical point of view, a morphosonic field is the sound habit of a place.  berlin has sound habits , just like London has a sound habits, or Hawaii has sound habits.  so now if one interjects an iterative sonic construct into an existing morphosonic field,  you get very interesting interactions between the two; either the iterative sonic construct changes itself in the face of the exiting fields dominant concrescence, the existing morphosonic field incorporates the new novelty of the sonic construct, OR, both, simultaneously.  one or all of these processes has been happening in every city I have ever lived in but, now, with a fractal sonic iteration system, it is much more profound.  since each place gives its sonic genomic material freely,  a fractal sonic construct, like the exo-voices internal logic, can, theoretically so far, be interacted with in a manner that incorporates this genetic material in novel ways, and if it gets “stumped”, its own iterative, programmable genome can be modified to do so.

so now…substitute Detroit or Rio or Tokyo, or Goa or the Congo, for berlin and my desire to touch these fields, makes much more sense;

It is the traversal of multiple morphosonic fields, all “collectivized” (I just pulled that one out of my ass, but it felt like the right word) within the expanding membrane of the “now”.  rather than attempting to predict a sonic end result, by way of trying to sound “good” or even “musical”, I feel that developing a personal experience based interaction model of swimming through the “now”, with the exo-voice acting as  the snorkel in this metaphor, will result in outcomes that no amount of precognition will produce.  the sound will interact with any morphosonic field it encounters and mutate accordingly.

this sonic fractal is of the first interaction with this new metaphor.


vlcsnap-00002the mask iteration is coming along nicely now.  the minimized mount points, i.e., having as little material touching the skin as possible, have been working very nicely except that abs is no longer considered a suitable material for the high stress mask design.  around the mouth, the stresses are too much for abs.  it snaps eventually.  but nylon in just about any form, fits the bill nicely.  getting the angles right, has been a bit of a pain in the ass.  the teeth must sit on the tip at a certain angle so that when one blows, the air only goes into the air hole, otherwise, there is too much adjustment of the embouchure before and during playing.  now I feel like I can abstract the positioning into the design as a rule rather than a theory.  this is why the design process is taking so long; it must be played enough to develop solid design rules.

the hand units have been mostly stable for months now and are 98% done, as a release-able construct, with the holdouts being adjustable hand mounting, more robust circuit design and adjustable thumb positioning. 

20140217_115223the software took a quantum leap in efficacy a few weeks ago when I FINALLY shifted ALL development of the system, over to a USB flash drive based debian audio distro called Tango Studio.  the difference between this one and many others I had tried was that the real time kernel was enabled by default and after a couple of tutorials, I was able to turn on persistence.  this means;

  1. I can distribute the exact code I use, in the exact environment I created it in, and the end-patternist has only to insert the USB stick into their computer and boot it up.  no config (for reasonably modern machines) required
  2. the distro can be loaded with all my notes and pics
  3. real-time enabled out of the box means it will run well on 90% of computers that its put into (with some addendums, because someone will still try and run it on their commodore 64 or some shit)
  4. said patternist can iterate their distro their way and save it to the stick itself as well as back it up much more easily and transport it to any other computer.



Episode #1 was just the first video of a new series of “nomadic diary” film expressions.  I haven't spoke in this (visual) language in a while so I am relearning what I knew while incorporating new techniques, ideas and motives.  my videographer gave me a Black Magic pocket cinema camera to document my travels with.  as you can see from the video above, the quality is stunning (thanks Tom and Darren!).  I will have to really dig into the capabilities of this camera over time, but definitely expect to see more artistic visual expression over time, starting with this video but extending through episodes #2-4 which document the 2 weeks it took to finally make it back to Mississippi, where I currently am.  loads of crazy footage from PIPSLAB and DDVTECH in Amsterdam, the slingshot festival in Athens, GA and the national society of black engineers conference at Opryland in Nashville Tennessee (which, previously unbeknownst to me, is a massive climate controlled biosphere).  in addition, detailing the final stages of getting the exo-voice and associated perks out to contributors, will be much more interesting as I investigate the visual story hidden within the exercise. 

I can not or will not say what happens after that.  but I feel confident that it will be interesting and now, well documented multidimensionally (blog, film, audio, 3d printed artifact, etc.).  the new now awaits…


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