Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mobius Strip,or "Why I am Not Looping"

To loop implies things. To loop implies that something heard once will be heard again. Is that even possible? I will leave that up to you, but from a certain perspective of time and progression it most certainly is NOT. That perspective is one which views time as an irreversible continuous flowing suchness, in which we float as little mice upon our leaf-rafts, on downward and upward through through the rivers of our lives. The rivers even change speeds, there are rapids...but this is the apparent perspective, the one most of us describe experiencing most of the time with respect to time.

Still, in all practicality, we do loop. We do it, or we say we do it. We move in circles and revisit recursive materials in time. And we say we do, we describe ourselves as doing "the same" things each day, going the same places, having been somewhere before. At least we don't know how else to describe these experiences otherwise, or it is merely too much trouble. Everyone understands what you mean, after all, so there is no point in delving into a phenomenology of time just to explain to someone that you have "seen that film before" when she asks you to the theatre.

Yet, hidden inside of this is something of a paradox. After all, the very thing which gives the "repetition" its experiential appeal, at least for me, is the very fact that a repetition highlights the fact of time gone by, or time going by. If the material being presented is kept exactly the same and presented in exactly the same way, which is not at all difficult to achieve digitally, there are still myriad changes in both the presented and perceived phenomena. These changes, the moving frame of the sounds, as well as the participative aspect of the mind and body of the listener and her environment (not to mention other listeners and their behavioral interactions with the aforementioned listener) are all highlighted by the presentation of repetitive material. The solid, exact repetition of a material of enough substance to take up a certain amount of attention or perceptual space, be it sound, or a physical object of static quality, can function to highlight the otherwise under- or un-perceived qualities of many experiences. The complexity implicit in our own systems and the environmental systems complexity which we are part of is highlighted by the regularity of the presented material, which inversely becomes a frame for the environment. This is, of course, a complete reversal of the normal framing aspect of an environment with regard to the sounds played into or on top of it to make music. And yet, there it is.

We loop, or say we loop. And in music especially. My friend Mike used to say when we were at school in California "everyone here is looping and drone-ing." Still, I am not looping even when I am and I will tell you why, after a little while.

To loop in music implies that material previously heard is heard again. In a sense it implies that it is played again and again either mechanically or physically. Regardless of whether that is philosophically possible (see paragraph one) I am not doing this. Not guilty.

The recurring materials that I set into play against one another are assymetrical themselves in terms of their phrase structure. Further, they are placed against one another in irregular and rhythmically asymmetrical ways. Thus they recombine on their own once set into play and these recombinations, since not sequenced or rhythmically quantized or otherwise locked into sync with one another, drift in time, and develop a certain amount of unpredictability, an indeterminacy in their relations. This is surprising and a source of great happiness to me, since the initial phrase material is quite set. This way I get to compose and be surprised.

This is true for almost all the "lattice patterned music" that I developed over the last couple of years and performed on the tours listed in previous entries to this blog. This music can be heard on the records Affinity Groups, which is not yet released, and on Box of the Last Help, which should come out on Zum records soon, I hope.

Where overall periods of true repetition in this music, that is to say, the point at which all individual patterns and periodic patterns of interaction between patterns become periodic (repeat), where such periods actually exist they are too long to be perceived as such, and likely they have been augmented by other material and their original orientation with respect to time and spatial function (background/foreground relation) in the music will have changed prior to the point at which repetition can be perceived where overall periods of true repetition in this music exist. Thus even when the material "loops" through the use of one or more electronic devices which play the recorded material again and again and again and again, it is either that the combination of two or more of these functions to create a highly changeable or even chaotic situation in which overall periods of repetition in the whole do not exist, or that the overall period is so long that it is negligible, where overall periods of true repetition in this music exist. Further, in these instances the material presented is not heard as a loop even when it is in fact, looping, in the sense of being re-presented by one or more electronic devices which record and then play back sounds in the manner of a tape-loop, but rather the material is heard as a continually shifting pattern of changeable pieces as in the manner of a polychromic kalidescope, in which individual sheets of colour are translucent and as such when superimposed affect one another in the manners described by Wittgenstein in his book about Colour. Sounds lack opacity in general. Though they can mask one another, when presented in a musical context sounds of similar timbre and amplitude will blend into an incredible variety of translucences. And this is what is happening when I play these patterns on top of and against one another, and since the colours are always changing the overall aspect is not looping. It doesn't repeat, even if the parts inside do, and the do, a lot.

In fact, the only way this recent music of mine can even be described as looping is in the most simplistic (overly simplistic, reductive levels of description) and with reference only to a few of the tools and techniques used to play this music live. Only in terms of construction can this even begin to be described in this way. In effect, it is something else.

The overall assymetry of the superimposed parts (themselves assymetrical) results not in bland repetition (which itself can be, or produce, very interesting effects as mentioned above in terms of functioning to re-frame the perceiving mechanism of the listeners themselves) but instead the result is the unfolding of a continuous process, which may only be described as looping in the specific cases where it wraps back on itself in the manner of a mobius strip, which is indeed a special sort of loop.

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