Required Reading: Computational Periodics (1975) - John Whitney

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Film strip of John Whitney's Arabesque, 1975

We may assume that a time will come when that which I am about to describe will name itself—but for now: 'Computational periodics' is a propositional and tentative term which may help to designate a new unified field for a heterodimensional art; a field whose special dimension is time. An art which is temporal, as music itself; being, that is, spatio-temporal. An art whose time has come because of computer technology and an art which could not exist before the computer. Even though this art will be found in the notebooks of Leonardo and has been in the collective imagination, like the flying-machine, since his epoch it was a technological impossibility until the development of computer graphics.

Rhythm, meter, frequency, tonality and intensity are the periodic parameters of music. There is a similar group of parameters that set forth a picture domain as valid and fertile as the counterpoised domain of sound. This visual domain is defined by parameters which are also periodic. 'Computational periodics' then is a new term which is needed to identify and distinguish this multidimensional art for eye and ear that resides exclusively within computer technology. For notwithstanding man's historic efforts to bridge the two worlds of music and art through dance and theatre, the computer is his first instrument that can integrate and manipulate image and sound in a way that is as valid for visual, as it is for aural, perception.

-- EXCERPT FROM "COMPUTATIONAL PERIODICS" BY JOHN WHITNEY

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Originally via DINCA

Buchla Christmas by Warner Jepson

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Need tunes for your holiday party? Brooklyn-based experimental label SHINKOYO just released this little gem - a 1969 recording by Bay Area composer Warner Jepson of Christmas carols, recorded entirely on the Buchla 100 Analog Modular Synthesizer housed at the Mills College Electronic Music Studios. Jepson, in a description accompanying the track, recalls that he produced "Buchla Christmas" as a soundtrack for a children's holiday party, hosted by SFMOMA.

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Elements of Vogue: A Conversation with Ultra-red

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Ultra-red is an activist art group founded in 1994. The group proposes an alternate model for art and activism, one in which it is not the artist's critical intervention that serves as the source of cultural action, but rather that art might contribute to and challenge the process of collective organization and relationship building itself.

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Voice Operated: On VOICE: Vocal Aesthetics in Digital Arts and Media

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VOICE: Vocal Aesthetics in Digital Arts and Media, a new anthology edited by Norie Neumark, Ross Gibson and Theo Van Leeuwen from MIT Press, takes stock of the voice’s various transformations in the arts in the wake of the technological innovations of the digital age, and the ways in which artists anticipated these changes. One might expect musings on Barthes, man vs. machine, hauntology, linguistics or body politics, and those are all here; but there is also a refreshing and suitably wide-ranging cross-section of pop cultural examples and namechecks (Wolfman Jack, Portishead, Winnie the Pooh, BioShock, Meshuggah). Beyond its interdisciplinary parameters, the more theory-oriented papers are counterbalanced by an experimental essay (Theresa M. Senft’s “Four Rooms”, which juxtaposes phone sex, cancer care tapes, a voice recognition program, and Alvin Lucier’s “I Am Sitting in a Room”), a poem (Mark Amerika’s “Professor VJ’s Big Blog Mashup”), and a meditation (Michael Taussig’s “Humming”). The multiplicity of forms and inclusion of writerly as well as scholarly voices create an appropriately reflexive resonance.

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Eula (2007) - Brian Joseph Davis

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Several years ago, forward thinking Sony/BMG created a new form of music by creating CDs with computer viruses and hidden contracts. This is a cover, by a women's chorus, of Sony's best song, End User License Agreement.


Originally via UbuWeb

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Mister Modularity: Vittore Baroni, TRAX, And Network-As-Artwork

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The concept of networked art, or art which relies on exchange and collaboration across great geographical distances, has had a rich history prior to the Internet's first rumblings (and is now, fittingly enough, being archived, reappraised, and 'blogged' all over that same Internet.) Unlike the "one to many" presentational modes of the museum, shop, or gallery, networked art pieces were comparatively intimate "one to one" experiences, absorbed by one recipient at a time. Whether we call the collected efforts of this culture "mail art," "correspondence art," or simply "networking," its history is unlike other 'art historical' narratives, insofar as few people feel qualified to act as a spokesperson for the admittedly varied intentions of other networked artists: there is an almost universal reluctance to promote oneself as the "head" of anything in this culture. Especially on the European continent, where the most radical art collectives (e.g. Surrealism) have splintered into warring factions while under the mismanagement of paranoid leaders, no one is particularly eager to waste their otherwise productive time on internecine squabbling about whom deserves what title. So, in these situations, those who are just the most enthusiastic about their work, and its place in a larger creative milieu, end up becoming "ambassadors" by default.

One such ambassador, Vittore Baroni, is an individual who makes introductory biographical surveys like this one such a daunting task: his work spans every conceivable medium from rubber stamps and "artistamps" [mock-'official' postage stamps] and stickers to novel fashion items, and his tastes run the gamut from sublime atmospheric music to graphics exhibiting an exaggerated 'comic book' sense of humor and horror. Other than a general disregard for the taxonomy of art genres, the defining characteristic of Baroni's artwork is the nurturing of paradox and contradiction (he tells me that "[the term] 'paradoxical' is for me a great compliment, and a very positive adjective.") However, I may be getting ahead of myself here, since Baroni disavows the word "artist" entirely. In an early manifesto for his TRAX 'networking project,' co-founded with Piermario Ciani and Massimo Giacon, Baroni demurs "we are not artists, because art is a word that means everything and nothing," and proceeds to apply this to more clearly defined creative categories: "we are not musicians, but we create sounds. We are not actors, but every once in a while we get on a stage. We are not writers or publishing houses, but we can print our own writings." So what exactly is Baroni - and who are "we"?

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Max Neuhaus Performance and Screening at Dia:Beacon

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Max Neuhaus, drawing for Time Piece Beacon, 2005. © 2005 Max Neuhaus. Photo: Cathy Carver

In case you're up at Dia:Beacon this weekend, on October 31st at 2pm, in celebration of the new publication Max Neuhaus: Times Square, Time Piece Beacon, the museum will host a performance by composer David Shively of Max Neuhaus' early concert realizations of works by New York School composers such as Earle Brown, John Cage, and Morton Feldman. A screening of rare Neuhaus films and videos, like Phill Niblock's Max and documentation of Drive-in Music, will follow the performance. More info here.

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Conjuring Sound: Arcana V: Music, Magic and Mysticism, Edited by John Zorn

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Music is analyzed and discussed using tools from many different fields - history, musicology, and sociology, to name a few. But words like “magical” and “mystical” rarely enter into the critical vocabulary when talking about music. Perhaps it’s because words like that tend to bring to mind the wilder, wackier reaches of the “New Age” section of the bookstore. Perhaps it’s also because “magic” and “mysticism” seem to imply that there are aspects of music that elude our critical grasp -- intangible qualities that escape the bounds of conventional analysis. For people who study music, this can be a hard pill to swallow. But musicians throughout the ages have openly referenced mysticism and mystical concepts in their work - a roster that includes everyone from composers like Alexander Scriabin and Olivier Messiaen to jazz musicians like John Coltrane and Albert Ayler to stadium rockers like Led Zeppelin.

A few months ago, after visiting the "Brion Gysin: Dreamachine" exhibition at the New Museum, I came across a dusty book in a small East Village bookshop titled Music, Mysticism and Magic: A Sourcebook, edited by Joscelyn Godwin. The book was published in 1986; the cover was purple and covered with symbols. The 61 brief chapters featured excerpts from the writings of figures ranging from Plato to the avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. I was intrigued.

After looking up more information on the book, I came across a new book with an oddly similar title: Music, Magic, and Mysticism, edited by John Zorn (Tzadik, 2010). It is the fifth installment of Zorn’s “Arcana” series of anthologies of critical writing on music, most of it written by musicians. The contributors to this volume are impressive: Terry Riley, Pauline Oliveros, Yusef Lateef, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, David Toop, Gavin Bryars, and Alvin Curran, to name a few.

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Pi House Generator (2008) - Paul Slocum

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This software randomly generates house music using the number pi. Pi is the ratio of a circle's diameter to its circumference, a number with infinite digits in a random non-repeating sequence.

The software progressively calculates the sequence of digits in pi, starting at 3.14 and progressing towards infinity. As the program calculates the digits, it feeds the results into an algorithmic music generator containing my structural criteria for house music. The resulting piece of house music is infinitely long and static and never repeats itself.

The number of processor cycles required to calculate pi increase with the number of digits it is calculated to. After months or years of playing the song, any fixed computer hardware will be unable to calculate the digits fast enough for the song to play continuously.

The rate that the number of processor cycles increase per pi-digit is bound by the formula N*log(N). However based on Moore's Law, processor power per dollar increases at an exponential rate, doubling every two years. By upgrading computers regularly with market trends, the song can be played indefinitely.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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Tristan Perich's 1-Bit Symphony Release Party Tonight

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Rhizome-commissioned artist Tristan Perich celebrates the release of his 1-Bit Symphony on Cantaloupe tonight at Roulette with a special concert at 7pm. Daniel Wohl's "Glitch," Shawn Greenlee, Michael Gordon's "XY" and Steven Reich's "Violin Phase" are also scheduled. A "circuit album," 1-Bit Symphony performs a composition in five movements which have all been programmed onto a single microchip. Perich talks about the process in the clip above, and provides a sample of the work. I-Bit Symphony is an continuation of Perich's interest in 1-bit electronics, realized in previous projects such as in 1-Bit Video (2006-Ongoing) and his other circuit album 1-Bit Music (2004-2005).

We did a "1-Bit" interview with Perich on the occasion of his exhibition at bitforms gallery last Fall, check that out here.

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