The future was already here: Detroit’s Afrofuturist enclaves
I Excerpted this from an article that first appeared in the Detroit Metrotimes weekly August 10th, 2016 to use as my bio for a while because it is so beautifully written. Please take the time to read the article in it entirety at the link below. it goes into wonderfully narrative detail about the afrofuturist thinkers that populate detroit and make it a wonderful place to express new ideas.
"This architecture cannot be subjected to any law of historical continuity. It must be new, just as our state of mind is new." – Antonio Sant'Elia, "Manifesto of Futurist Architecture" (1914)
Onyx Ashanti no longer calls himself a cyborg. For now, he has mostly retreated from the world, confining himself to the underground. He is made of spare parts: taulman nylon, Arduino circuit boards, elastic bands, LED lights. He has created himself from materials so cheap you'd think he'd salvaged them.
Ashanti dropped "cyborg" after reading Norbert Wiener's groundbreaking 1948 book Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, where the term was first introduced. In the book, Wiener distinguishes the biological organism from the cybernetic device.
"I don't like the idea of considering myself to be the organism in that system," Ashanti says. "There's a word: 'concrescence.' It is a point of higher order in a field of lower order. Which out of these two words concatenated sounds like it's the field of higher order? Cybernetics — a designed system — or organism? Makes it sound like it's an amoeba."
Ashanti says he was once taken by the romantic imagery of the cyborg. Who wouldn't want to be the Six Million Dollar Man or Geordi La Forge?
But then Ashanti became disillusioned.
"All of the imagery and meaning that word has been encoded with leans toward the cyborg being a corporate-created slave," he continues. "It's the man-machine hybridization of the word 'nigger.' It's controlled. It's like in every movie, in every case, never have you heard of a cyborg inventing himself."
Ashanti and I are sitting at a picnic table at the Ohana Gardens Detroit in Highland Park. Ohana is an urban farm collective, and the gardens themselves are hidden behind a block of two-story apartments that are drab in contrast to the colorful crops. Owners Diane and Keith Hoye describe their haven as a "better-than-organic farm" because, in addition to other plants, they grow microgreens — vegetables not much larger than sprouts that are revered for their nutritious and aesthetic values.
Ashanti, who moved to Detroit two years ago, was brought to Ohana by a black mycologist named Kilindi Iyi. Iyi organizes an annual conference in the city on entheogens, chemical substances used to achieve transcendence in concert with other practices like prayer and yoga. Such radical open-mindedness in a majority black metropolis appealed to Ashanti, who has used psychedelics as spiritual conductive for his music. The Hoyes welcomed his presence and temporarily put him up in a guesthouse on the property.
The tree in the middle of the Gardens is like an altar encircled by overturned plant beds, trash bins, and a freestanding wire frame that would be prettier on a walkway. Three vivid paintings by community members depicting downtown Detroit hang from the tree. There is also ample land for two greenhouses, the aforementioned guesthouse, and an adorned fence by the celebrated Detroit artist Olayami Dabls.
He spoke sweetly of the plants' personalities, which he had come to know through this daily gathering ritual. It's what he does to be productive when he faces a design problem in his "lab," a dim, cramped basement in one of the Ohana apartments.
No, he wasn't a cyborg. I hadn't known a bionic man to have such a fondness for Mother Earth.
Ashanti is from the boonies of the South, a tiny town in Mississippi called Iuka. After majoring in music at Grambling State University, he moved to Atlanta, where he played the tenor sax as a street busker. Shortly after the 1996 Olympics, he migrated to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and then back to San Fran. Around the same time as hip-hop DJs and the great Detroit techno musicians were transforming live music, Ashanti was discovering instruments like the Yamaha WX5 wind controller, essentially a keyboard and flute spliced together, which he found at a pawn shop. Ashanti turned to FruityLoops, a digital audio workstation that eliminated the burden of heavy instruments, and MaxMSP, an accessible programming language that lets dedicated laymen create interactive sound landscapes.
Then something changed. MaxMSP gave way to another language called Pure Data, an open-source project that enabled musicians to make external sensors that received information and performed specific functions. It was, simply, a new nervous system. Ashanti's wind controller could do things it had never done, but there were still limitations. He could only do what the technology manufacturers had prescribed. Still, Pure Data was the primordial stuff that would spawn something unforeseen.
"I knew at that time that once I was able to free my hands, once I could do one thing with one hand and could control a different set of parameters with my other hand ... I could do multiple things at the same time and give the impression that I'm doing vastly more on top of that," Ashanti says.
We eat a salad that tastes like earth and Bragg Liquid Aminos, and Ashanti puts on an orange nylon glove that has been lying beside our bowls like a severed hand. It resembles a skeletal prototype of Iron Man's laser glove. There are sensors above each knuckle and, Ashanti explains, the amount of pressure one applies to these sensors will determine which musical notes and parameters are played. A circle on the palm of his hand will replace a drum machine. Want more reverb? Less delay? A conga drum instead of a snare? An immense combination of choices will be controllable with a single exo-hand.
"Exo-hand" and "exo-foot" are some of the neologisms that Ashanti has coined over the last two years. You wouldn't be wrong to call him a musician, per se, but Ashanti prefers the term "patternist," which describes the network of telepaths from Octavia Butler's 1977 novel Mind of My Mind. Ashanti's particular patternist is what he calls a sonocyb, and the instrument he is developing with 3-D printers (including a mask called the exo-mask) will form part of an interface he is calling Sonocyb 1. The music will be called sonocybin (sonic plus psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms). He creates these words because "jazz" and its connotations have become functionally obsolete for him. This rejection is dispassionate and not spiteful in the least. He wants to program the sounds that his mind produces, sounds that are novel enough to merit their own vocabulary.
Years before these experiments, after George W. Bush's election in 2000, Ashanti decided to become an ex-pat in London. His plane was scheduled to leave on Sept. 12, 2001, but 9/11 stalled his plans for a week.
He had recently discovered raves and Ecstasy in California, but London was to be the manic culmination of it all. For the next five years, Ashanti squatted and partied with punks under railroad arches, raved in derelict high rises with sound systems on every floor, toured with Soul to Soul, and jammed with Booker T. Jones and Basement Jaxx. Ashanti divulges the effect that certain drugs had on his music. Ketamine, an anesthetic that induces a trance and memory loss, helped nobody. Ecstasy and coke were enjoyable for Ashanti, but all the audience heard was trash. Weed and shrooms were holy.
Hoping to find someplace in America that matched London's feverish music scene, Ashanti took his MIDI to New York City in 2005. What he found instead were hostile DJs and promoters who, perhaps out of jealousy or misunderstanding, made his life hell. Again he went to California, this time to throw his own parties, which he called Backlit Lounge. Laptop performers would sign up through MySpace to play 45-minute sets. Afterward, Ashanti would film the musicians, almost like a post-game wrap-up, asking them how they felt about their performances, the latest specs, the best plug-ins.
Ashanti's life seemed to be stabilizing when tragedy struck. His father was hurt and his mother was killed in an accident, and he flew back to Mississippi uncertain of his own future. When his father recovered, he gave Ashanti his blessing to go elsewhere if he wanted. Ashanti had toyed with the idea of seeing what Berlin was all about. First, there was something he had to do.
A new genre of music was in its birth throes, and Ashanti wanted to go to San Francisco to see it through. This style of music, "the exploration of improvisation and electronic rhythm," would be called beatjazz.
(A big piece of the article-possibly 2/3rds-was in this space but would have not been useful for inclusion in a bio. the full article is available here)
Ashanti arrived in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood just before the recession with an artist's visa and a rare gift: time to sit and think.
He had grown up with more R&B and pop than jazz, but in Berlin he became an animated disciple of John Coltrane and Sun Ra. He frequented clubs occasionally, but much of his time was spent in his room.
When he did choose to perform, he showed out.
Mauerpark, Berlin, is Ashanti's 1965 Newport Folk Festival, his 1967 Monterey Pop. His improvisational, live looping performance in 2009 — jamming with his MIDI while seated on a stone slab and almost unrecognizable in a patterned fedora, blue jeans, a polo, and shades — did not bring him the fame of Dylan nor Hendrix. It was, instead, a defining moment of musical bravado and the fullest expression of the beatjazz aesthetic.
Beatjazz is music that has found and captured the soul of the cosmos. It crushes elements of synth-funk, Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts, and late Coltrane into a fine powder, then blows them through an electric flute.
We are watching the video — one of hundreds Ashanti has kept on a hard drive over the years — and, though onlookers try to remain aloof, they are enchanted. Ashanti doesn't always know if his audiences will dance, but if they do, he can foresee how they will move. His sounds produce recognizable patterns in human movement. He compares the effects to that of fear or pain, except music is less chaotic and more beautiful than either. Ashanti's performance of "Sunny Day" is an instance of what he calls "encoding the moment."
"There are all these dimensions around us that are permeating, influencing, and interacting with the dimensions that we perceive," he says. His music is liquid sound converted into code and back again, ceaselessly. It programs the environment, changing its shapes and colors. Without a trace of ego, Ashanti grooves to his own music, snapping his fingers and bobbing his head. He tells a simple truth: "I designed a system they can't ignore."
The evolution of his discography (available to listen for free on his website at onyx-ashanti.com, though he accepts donations) is drastic. His work from about 2012 onward retains few characteristics of commercial music. The newest songs (sonic fractals? sonomorphs?) are pockets of sound that edge into a distorted terrain reminiscent of the noise-makers ("intonarumori") of Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo.
I look around Ashanti's lab and understand his perfect happiness. This man could make a decent living if he wanted to, maybe even a fortune. He is that good, and that innovative. Instead, his body and brain are his currencies. He has few material possessions and makes no more than a person on welfare. The few times he does accept gigs, he requires payment in bitcoin. He spends about $60 on food every month (Spirulina diet supplement, rice, and trail mix are his staples). There's his cot, a pile of clothes under the stairs, his cluttered workstations. A cloudy mirror. Sketchbooks and an inactive robot he named Boogie (apparently, upon seeing the robot, the Taiwanese "damn near shit their pants").
He has sufficient space to move and work. It's the same reason why he loves ONE Mile. He says it's about "seeing how you can have a future that you can participate in, and that you can construct here right fucking now."
It's not a place to escape the world, but to briefly tune out some of its channels. It's where creators and the curious ask questions about what their community is and who is in it.
For the first time, Ashanti looks at me shyly. ONE Mile is a place that has avoided the monsters of money and, until now, the media. I feel suddenly sinful, and tell him I hope the article does more good than bad. He does not mean offense.
"It's so pure," he says. "And exactly what it seems to be."
Aaron Robertson is a Detroit native and Metro Times intern. He studies Italian literature as a senior at Princeton University, where he is editor-in-chief of The Nassau Literary Review.
initial notes on a piezo disc contact mic bone conduction mouth interface
been working on a mouth interface that could replace the air blown metaphor and the microphone metaphor, while retaining the best features of both, while then being easier to implement, repair and modify. the answer is bone conduction through using those cheap piezo discs you find in musical birthday card and cheap electronic toys.
i like this because it can be "blown" like a mouthpiece-with MUCH faster action and more intimate articulation-and it can also be sang into using bone conduction which means that the vibration of your singing vibrate from your teeth to the disc, directly. the side benefit of this is there is no feedback when around sound systems.
the thinking is that the oral cavity and larynx are amazingly capable synthesizers already, so by capturing the full range of the voice, and extending it, the tonalities that can be achieved will be...something i can describe yet.
the possibly bigger benefit is that potential patternist dont have to know how to play anything or sing or play a wind instrument. they only must be able to make noises with their mouth, which then get modified thru movement. like dancing new phoenomes into your own syntax.
gonna whip up some prosthetics to mount it on my face today and get the system wired for gestures.
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:
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;
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
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.
(EDIT: although patternist is still applicable, new terms have come into being that fit better. the term “Sonocyb” is now the default term to describe a sonocyberneticist/patternist. the initial system is now called “SonoCyb1” and the resultant sono-patterns are called “Sonocybin”. )
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.
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.
Naima interface revision 1
so, finally got around to revising naima.
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
Naima’s First Flight; why this interface exists and why it’s important (to me)
(first, an apology to the MIT Media Lab. for not being able to demonstrate my latest Exo-voice construct on account of not having a working knowledge of the wifi modules I chose to use. with that said, I plan to come back that way with the evolved systems to share why it may not have been such bad thing for the concept to have failed at that exact moment.)
soooo….hey ! its been a while. in October of last year, I ended my workshop residency at 5200 Chene st (thank you again Ben and Vanessa, for allowing me to inhabit your space all summer) and came back to where I have been living here in Highland Park and began pondering something I had discovered slightly earlier in mid September; that
all the fingers have a direct relation ship with the thumb.
I angled the pinky key so that it was facing the thumb position, like grabbing a baseball, rather than facing down, like typing on a keyboard. this single tweak changed the whole feel of the system. the fingers seemed to simply “fall” where they were supposed to. it was a completely new experience!
jumping back to october, newly relocated back at what we will call the “home lab”, I was trying to make sense of this revision. it uncovered the optimal hand positioning for the hand units, but then I realized that the thumbs position out to the side of the hand was now obviously wrong. a few days were spent investigating changing the thumb positon AGAIN when it became obvious that this hand unit design was not gonna make the cut.
the previous hand units were designed for the previous-perfect hand positoning and for its modularity. one thing I have learned throughout this process, is that you can not get too attached to a particular form because what is perfect today is tomorrow problem to solve. as such I went to the note book and began playing with this thumb to finger relationship and came up with this design sketch.
around that same time, 3d printed circuits were haunting my dreams. I had spent most of the summer rebuilding my reprap to extrude dual materials, for the purpose of creating integrated circuits inside all of my future designs. so with the new design, there was already an inbuilt 3d printed circuit and sensor conceptualization, which are represented in the sketch as those small black lines. this was the most efficient touch/pressure sensor I could imagine at the time.
And so it begins
So, at the crib, ive got loads of materials; f-electric conductve, taulman nylon and ninjaflex flexible filaments, a half dozen ESP8266 radios (more on these later) and some atmega 328p IC’s. the goal of the winter period was to evolve this new construct as the basis of the release version of the exo-voice system. that system would be even more 3d printed, more ergonomic and use less expensive components that were also more powerful than the currently used ones. designed properly the exo-voice system would convey its gestural trajectories by virtue of the design, be easier to assemble, and cost MUCH less; going from a total of about $350 to about $60; TOTAL!
You can see here how hand position can convey gestural axial position by using the flat side as a sort of meter. in this pic the left hand is all the way to the extreme of the xaxis and the right hand is in the very middle. it is easy to see from the front or the back, as the pilot.
most of october and november was spent experimenting with printing circuits and sensors and testing them with LEDs
By december, I felt I was ready to begin work on the new hand units but felt “distracted” by the existing (working, refined) exo-voice. it was going to be harder to go where I needed to go with the other system there acting as a net when (not if) I failed, so I made a choice; send it to one of my contributors (who shall remain nameless). this solves two problems simultaneously; 1. its not here influencing my design decisions or giving me an excuse to just use it instead, and 2.being a sort of “soft” start to campaign fullfillment, I can get feedback from one of my contributors on how approachable the concept is currently and use those notes to refine the current system. in addition, I get it back once I have the release system ready to swap out with him later.
As you can see in these photos (there is much more detailed information in the video), design concessions had to be made to get it all flowing. I had been all gung-ho about printed circuits but I found their conductivity to be too low. for sensors, printed conductive traces are great and revolutionary. sensors are now a design element. the entire design is now much more maleable thanks to this. but they are shitty for circuits. the electricity gets from point A to point B but at a greatly reduced current density. I decided to save that skirmish for a future date and went with wire.
the benefit of forgoing printed circuits first was that I could just run branches of anode and cathode wire to wherever they needed to be.
the Leds are brighter than previous leds I have used so only 2 of them were needed ; one for system feedback and one for edit parameter feedback. their placement is much more fortunate and also help convey axial postioning in addition to the “L”-shaped design.
note at this point; this stage was reached 2 days before I was to fly to Boston to present and demonstrate the latest aspects of the system at MIT. everything in these pics worked wonderfully except one thing…
The ESP8266 wifi tranciever
I do not believe there is anything wrong with the ESP. just as I have learned dozens of times before, the lapse is/was in my over, under and inner-standing of the module. there are so many ways to approach programming it now, including NodeMCU, Arduino IDE, Python, as well as AT commands. there were 2 days at this point to figure it out and made great progress!! but not enough progress to get it working in time for my demonstration
although I always warn clients that I have no idea what I will be doing on the night of an event, it will usually at least work slightly or catch fire (has happened) or something. but on this night, the system still existed in a future that is still pulling me toward it. it’s the equivalent of not being able to speak so it was very frustrating but somehow, necessary and very non-coincidental. my router died earlier that day as well and none of the very helpful staff or students at MIT could get anything out of it either, so something was in the air, I feel. and that something usually pushes toward more novel abstractions so rather than trying to brute force it to work I meditated on it for the week spent in new york and in philly , before flying to morocco 10 days later.
while in New york visiting friends, I was haunted by this inability to perform. when not meeting up with friends, I was studying basic programming (arduino IDE uses a variant of C++ as its language)and kept getting close but finally realized that it was going to be a big gamble as to whether I could get the wifi going properly, then refine the construct before the casablanca event on feb 4th.
so I shifted gears; what if I took some of the spare parts I brought with me, and designed a “something” playable? the limiting factors were
- arduino fio
- an RN-XV radio tranciever
- some LEDs
- an accelerometer, taken from one of the new hand units
- some wire
- an old air pressure sensor
- NO touch sensors-after 4 months of experimentation, I knew how to make working printed pressure sensors and switches.
a single arduino has 8 analog inputs and 12 digital pins that can be input, output or pwm (pulse width modulation) which mean they can output a dimmer-like signal. I use these to control LEDs.
the first idea was this-a playable mask
it would be played by placing my fingers on the sides of my face and blowing into the mouthpiece. I may still try this one day but under the crunch I was feeling, I quickly scrapped this idea but not before I got this from it
when laying out the fingering, I realized that rather than using all the analog inputs for finger keys, meaning no analog inputs for breath and accelerometer, I could use 1 analog in for breath, 2 for accelerometer and 4 for the fingers, namely the thumb and index finger on each hand, then use 3 digital switch inputs per hand for the keys. those 4 analog inputs would respond to finger pressure, allowing them to be use as a key when pressed lightly and as a edit mode function when pressed hard. (imagine holding a tiny sandwich with just the index finger and thumb of both hands…this is the mental construct.) those 4 would form a 4 bit array by typing 4 bit values in, there would be 15 different finger combinations that could be used to control things. yaaaaay!!! it ends up being an accidental gestural wind controller!!
the next stage after this was to scrap the mask idea a go for a horn like design.
same fingering concept, using the same components. the accelerometer would be in the end and I could turn the horn left to right or up and down to use it. in addition, the octaves would be controlled by the accelerometer, adding to the new simplicity. but as I printed the parts for this design, I realized that it was going to use A LOT of material and a lot of wire and was going to be bigger than my previous wind controller, which was instantly not interesting. I didn’t escape from wind controller-dom just so I could build a shittier one later.
so by now I’m in Philly staying with a friend who goes by the name grouchofractal and meditating on this issue. efficient use of material. efficient ergonomics. 4 bit array. hmmmm….then something blinked into view just before heading to the airport .
from the player position, the 4bit array would feel like this.(remember the tiny sandwich reference above?)
the circuit became much simpler and cleaner, with the accelerometer down at the tip, the pressure sensor embedded in the upper part of the mouthpiece with its own embedded LED and of course the new sensors.
it is really great to realize that all the design iteration practice of the last few years can be called to service so easily and quickly.
I arrived in Casablanca and while going thru the exit scanners before exiting the airport, gave a little presentation to the customs officers who were more curious than worried about the bag full of gadgetry I was coming into their country with.
the driver and I had a wonderful conversation consisting of mouth noises, single words and hand gestures on my way into the city, which was very interesting and WARM. I was driven to meet up with Michy Mano, the man who arranged for me to come and play for the opening of a place he was opening, Mano Club. we hung out for a while and had a really interesting conversation about many things and he played me some of his music and music he likes and during this exchange I felt a strong resolve wash over me and announced to him that I was going to build the system I planned to play at his venue opening, while I was there in Casablanca. this was the sketch I made while we were chatting
he kinda looked at me to see if I was kidding and when I didn’t laugh, he expressed that “well, at least you have your other instrument, just in case…” to which I replied, “um, not really…I don’t have anything that works right now…” it is a moment like this that having a camera around would have been perfect. he went a bit blank for a few seconds- I don’t think he could figure out if I was crazy or joking because we were just meeting for the first time-but I think he chose to believe I wasn’t crazy for the moment.
as soon as I arrived at the beautiful penthouse they set up for me to stay in, I set my lab up and got straight to work
the idea translated extremely well!! the only really design fart was not putting support underneath the keys. other than that, it worked exactly how I envisioned and went from sketch to working system in about a week.
it is not without quirks. I taped conductive fabric to my fingers to make the keys and they are extremely sensitive so I was not able to use them properly at the event. instead, I made it a completely gestural instrument with minimal looping abilities. the pd patches for my exo-voice were easily adapted to this system. it is played by simply blowing and tilting the head either side to side or up and down.
the most profound aspect of this new system are that it is a full gestural breath controlled wireless interface on a single arduino!
it uses printed sensors and printed switches and can literally be played by anyone that can move their head! .not to mention that it is much more easily printed than any of my previous designs. and because the sensors are printed, in this current state it would cost about $80 to make. when I have the esp8266 working and use ebay bought arduino pro mini’s, this system can be built for about $17!!
this is the seed constructive been trying to design for years but was asking the wrong questions (a seed construct is simplest expression of the idea) and because there is one accelerometer tied to head movement and breath there is the completely surreal feeling of being the snake charmer and the snake simultaneously. it feels like blowing into a tiny stargate. one blows, and just after blowing is an LED, which feels like you are blowing into the LED directly, then there is the 4bit stage of interfacing and then next is the note interval sequencing (either 8bit fingerings or sax fingerings) with an associated other RGB LED it is a surprisingly hypnotic instrument to play and will serve as the basis of the workshop build for the upcoming sonic fractal matrix workshops in the spring!
Her name is Naima.
I was referencing a very famous coltrane song when I thought it up, but then was told that Naima is a moroccan name, which reconfirmed that the events of the previous weeks had meant to culminate in the birth of this form because I had not been thinking along these lines at all, and it took a crashed performance to serve as the catalyst.
Sonic Fractal Matrix-Mystery school:What, why, how, where and when
In ancient Egypt, all of the knowledge of the ancient world was taught and learned at the Mystery schools. the "mystery" was the wholistic integration of the measurable and the immeasurable into a cohesive framework. science, art, philosophy,music, math, religion, were all part of a well structured construction of mind.
I chose the term "mystery school" very specifically for these references. it is not the goal of this project to create another makerspace or become a fulltime teacher in the currently accepted definition of the word, but to share a very interesting revelation about the nature of the "now" we find ourselves embedded in. we have inherited the exponential now. this NOW is a fast evolving, global organism. this NOW has a technological nervous system through which flows oceans of ideas and memes which can choose to remain intangible or can corporealize into forms that simply didnt exist 10 years ago. this NOW encompasses a historical database that itself is a lifeform which is currently cutting its own umbilical connection to time and seeking to correct itself for its own valditiy and longevity.
no one is in control.
the change we are experiencing is so fast and so resonant that even the most powerful entities within the human species can only watch or swim but no one is going to build a damn which can hold it back or control it. welcome to "the" future.
of course there is no such thing as "the" future. the future doesnt exist in that way. futures are models created by quantum minds. predictions intermingling with action and intent. the ability to create futures is our birthright. collections of resonant futures are what create "the" future. this capability gets misused. groupings of people give away their birthright and begin to believe that "the" future is some monolithic moment that we are all collectively barreling toward, because the movies or the news told them so and this is a problem. we need as many futures as possible so we can "surf" them and construct the vibrant sustainable scenarios neccessary for the unfoldment of the next (st)age.
over the last 4 years, the combination of readily available internet access, open source information sharing, software and hardware, and 3d printing has allowed me to do and create things i had no concept of when i began the project to create "the most amazing live music performance system ever!", as was the title of my first crowdfunding campaign. with the tools i have access to and/or have created, i can investigate any topic i want and then design and create models based on what i studied. this allows for a new kind of dense multidimensional model learning and expression. if i, for instance, get into robotics, i have the tools to design, print, program any kind of robot i want. or, say, the exo-footware. spend time studying biomechanics online, make some sketches, print some test pieces then print out wearable footware (although that process took about 2 years total).
there is almost nothing i can not do with this cheap/free-ish toolchain. open source tools are evolving so fast that there is something new to interact with almost everyday. and when that new thing pops up, it can be interacted with using the tools and techniques used to build the exo-voice system. the exo-voice is a node in a network of individuals using compatible versions of the Beatjazz system. this network is called a Sonic Fractal Matrix. the exo-voice itself is a tool for programming ones self using sound patterns called sonomorphs. a sonomorph is similar to music but less for entertainment and more for self-neuromodulation. why? because spoken language isnt granular enough to form the thought patterns neccessay to interact with the next age. language will have to evolve to be relevant. programming environments express this. games and VR express this. spoken language could be seen as the nursery rhyme precursors of the languages that are emerging right now. (i believe spoken language will sound more like rap music/poetry in the next age, but that is another blog post). psycho-cymatic, sono-synaptic reconfiguration will allow the mind to form patterns neccessary to interact with and mold the next age.
so as you can perceive from the above paragraphs, there is a chunky stew of theory, science, art, marinating in an esoteric broth. the idea of the mystery school is to create to possibilty space that births the sonic fractal matrix. the things that must be grasped are:
- the ability to vision: lucid dreaming and day dreaming as design modalities.
- basic sketching and mindmapping
- basic CAD design
- basic electronics
- programming with pure data
- 3d printing
- basic music theory
- performance (sonomorph theory and gestural dynamics)
from these basics, combined with community interaction, comes a holographic idea womb. the ability to program, first in ones mind(dreaming, mindmapping sketching), then the form (CAD), the functions (electronics), the protocols (pure data), then the interaction (performance), creates an interdependent multidimensional ideaform that mutates and evolves "as" you do until it eventually evolves you itself. there are many other vectors to be explored such as robotics and brain machine interfacing but for now, the above listed items form the basic toolchain.
currently i have enough components to build 2 more reprap 3d printers. i will buy more as i attract more funds. one one set will be a perpetual build up/tear down reprap, specifically for learning. the other will be built and kept assembled to make parts for more printers.
I am looking for self-confident self starters to learn the entire concept.but note; i dont care about your non sonic fractal matrix obligations. i only care about the strong propagation of this idea. i want people who want to know this and want to use what they learn to evolve themselves. once they learn all the stages, they can do with it what they want. and as they learn they must also teach. in this way the school becomes fractal and the idea can proliferate frictionlessly. i goal is 1-3 months commitment to know the basics of this model.