16.03, Monday 26 May 2008 Link to this post
The Geometry of Music:
the cosmos of chords consists of weird, multidimensional spaces, known as orbifolds, that turn back on themselves with a twist.
Dmitri Tymoczko has created several movies of orbifolds. It's impossible, watching Chopin visualised on a Mobius strip, not to anthropomorphise the chord components, ballroom dancing around one another, the tension in the music building and held as the partners move apart, and harmonious closure achieved when they move together.
Then, watching Chopin in 4-dimensional space, I get confused with melody making in Super Mario Galaxy, where the level-select screen responds to the cursor with changes in the ambient music, and so you can use it as an instrument.
Cause and effect are confused. Which comes first, the visualisation or the music? If Tymoczko watched a partner and I dancing, could he interpret the plan view of the ballroom as an orbifold, run his algorithms backwards, and play generated Chopin that was magically in sync with our improvisation?
Michel Gondry's video for Around the World (Daft Punk) is the greatest ever made. The dancers move into and out of the video as the parts of the music they represent. The circular stage allows loops in the music to show up in the choreography.
And just as, finally, the blurring of music and representation Gondry further explored with Star Guitar seem to be making their way into generated music visualisations, in five years time we'll see 3d avatars auto-generating visualisations as complex as the 1997 Around the World video.
And five years after that, our dancing in clubs will alter the music which will alter our dancing, and the music and the visualisation/dancing will be translations of one another, and no way to tell which is first, because none is.
So let's let go of cause and effect as an explanatory framework. It never existed anyway, it was just easy. Let's demonise people who believe in it.
Causist people think things happen for a reason. If you make a causist, dirty causist, encounter some phenomenon, they'll point at some proceeding event or circumstance as if a. that caused the thing, or b. that explains it.
Explaining can't be done by looking at the past. The past is dead, filthy causist. If you try, the past retroactively becomes a series of events that were occurring towards a goal which, at the time, they are not. Explanations are to exist solely and entirely in the present, or not at all.
Well then, explanations are now no longer causes but networks of mutual contingencies. We can look at explanations not as predictions, but as chords that have reached closure. Seeing an explanation, we can feel relief that the world is at one.
To explain a thing is to tell the story of a lattice of things and events. To narrate a crystal.
Sometimes. Explanations dance around one another. Closure is never reached entirely, and that's why phenomena unfold like music. So mostly explanations are not complete, in which case almost every event - every note - is an exception.
Causists, dirty causists, filthy causists, are unable to see that the world is almost entirely exceptional.