Mitch SMith


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Is machine music a cultural expression of humans?

In my 20's I pioneered the use of technology on stage.
For 10 years I did well, I had more work than most, the rent got paid and life was relatively easy.

And then I learned to program computers, joined a fortune 100 company as a programmer and .. well, it was like a perpetual holiday.

Since then, I returned to the physical skill of playing a real physical instrument and found the true cultural history of human music in my culture.

It was at that point that I realised that all the machine stuff was no more than an adaptation to the commercial world of money - a cultural desert.
Knowing the difference has become rare. The difference to me is stark, but to others who presume that all music issues from a technologically enhanced stage .. Those in the audience have not the experiential base to realise what they have lost.

Are we at the thrall of the ghost in the machine?

Has performance of the arts become no more than a commercial sports-event?

Has humanity become the ghost?

Closing Statement from Mitch SMith

Many thanks to those who contributed to helping with this question.

You have given me a number of "light-bulb-moments" and progressed my understanding of the subject. I hope it has had similar value for you.

So. Is machine music a cultural expression of humans?

From the perspective of "humanity" as a whole. Yes, it is.

But as one plumbs the scale of "culture" some different shades of yes/no arise.
We can say that machine music is an expression of a sub-culture celebrating our tool-making prowess. And it is in that sub-culture that the answer is emphatically yes.
From the perspective of other subcultures, the answer might be a definitive no. For example, the Luddite sub culture would see machine music as an expression of exploitation of culture at the hands of a capital entity outside of the interests of their definition of humanity.

From the perspective of the sub-culture of culture itself, you could say that machine music is an expression of a deeper agency - the progressive isolation of humanity from its culture. This can be seen as the removal of participation in cultural expression. We have isolated our musicians and artists onto stages and into exhibitions and galleries - thus removing mutuality - that capacity for real-time participation in culture. This is an outcome generated by human specialisation plus the need to isolate creativity generators from creativity receivers. This isolation is necessary for the practice of imposing a rental fee on culture. Once seen as necessary to sustain "
the arts" the practice has had many unintended consequences of cynical exploitation.

The next aspect I will bring up is the issue of demand. Machines are presented to us as a means of freeing humanity from drudgery. That means that supply will always over-reach demand. In a glut of supply, the value of becomes marginal. Who can afford the promised new leisure?
Machine music is, therefore, the devaluation of culture.

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    Aug 13 2013: Yes, machine music a cultural expression of humans. For one, it expresses the technological aspect of our culture. Two, no one would argue that classical music is cultural expression of humans and yet many classical instruments are just simple machines (the simplest aren't even machines, but tools) and where would one draw the line between those things on one side and increasingly complex tools and machines used to create music on the other? Let alone, how would one be able to accurately determine something as ambiguous as 'cultural expression'...?
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      Aug 14 2013: Hi Daniel,

      Agree with your points.

      Part of the question is aimed at getting a little more definition around "cultural expression" .. it probably can never be fully defined, but any advance on what we have will be useful.
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        Aug 14 2013:

        "Cultural expressions: Those expressions that result from the creativity of individuals, groups and societies, and that have cultural content.

        Cultural activities, goods and services: Refers to those activities, goods and services, which at the time they are considered as a specific attribute, use or purpose, embody or convey cultural expressions, irrespective of the commercial value they may have. Cultural activities may be an end in themselves, or they may contribute to the production of cultural goods and services.
        Source: Article 4.4 of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions."
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          Aug 14 2013: The definition of cultural expression is under examination here.

          I disagree that it can be wholly defined as "Those expressions that result from the creativity of ..." In fact, I don't think that creativity is required for a lot of it. It seems largely to be a default property of the community system. An "emergence" if you like.

          It is with that in mind that I ask whether machine music is an expression of human culture.
          The presumption is that there is a definable thing called "human culture" .. and that this human-culture object is an emergent property that arises when you get a bunch of human individuals into proximity for long enough to produce the emergence we call "culture".

          Another angle I am exploring is the nature of the "self" - can we call emergent things such as culture, society, civilisation as "selves" in their own right? And the big "if" is: IF we can class these emergent things as "selves", can it be that there is another emergent self called "machine"? A thing that might express itself independently of the humanity it emerges from?

          For a long time i was aware of the agency within our tools that has become more pronounced with the sophistication of them. Hence my question and exploration.

          These are not just my own assumptions - if they prove to be pure fantasy then - how much of history, religion, philosophy and mysticism is also entirely false? And if they are, then we have a lot of work to do in changing our frames of perception.
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          Aug 14 2013: I'll make a second cut at this . very speculative:

          our concepts "self" and "recursion" are identical.

          A self appears to be that which has the capacity to commit agency to reproduce that which has the capacity to commit agency to reproduce that which ... repeat until pattern is collapsed by an intersecting principle (death - by entropy or violence). ((are entropy and violence identical?))

          This leads on to understanding speciation as a vector of recursion. In that light fluid-dynamics represents a self with a vector of scale. A genus, such as homo sapiens, would have a static scalar vector. Culture might have a static/scalar vector, and what then might be the vector of "machine"? What are the dimensions in which such vectors occur?
          And what happens at the intersections of these vectors?
          I will note that none of these examples are without fractal degree (See Mandelbrot for fractional dimensionality .. then see Minsky for topology)
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          Aug 14 2013: Interesting .. the inference is that there is no pure dimension - that, in the presence of "self" all dimensions participate in all others. To a non-zero degree..

          That's worth thinking on

          Topology .. "Where are you? - Where are you going?" .. and the very essence of being able to ask and able to receive the answer. And the joy in doing so. Awareness itself.
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          Aug 14 2013: OK Daniel,

          Many thanks for the final influence - I think I am ready to deliver a summary that will have value to all the contributors here.. At the root of it is that birth and emergence are identical. And that the topology described between life and death is not a simple vector - it si a complex one - a curve. It is fractal. Speciation is discerned as a single vector - a curve shared by all of a particular species, but if you "zoom in" to any specific speciated vector, you will find that individuals within it replicate the chaotic appearance of your un-zoomed perspective - and that it looks the same from the environmental grain to the species grain .. all the same thing - and that self-hood has relevance only from a fractally defined granular perceptional frame. Real none the less.
          The point being that any particularly granular coalescence in reality (such that it defines a boundary) is a self. (unifying membrane and nucleus)
          Upon a specific dimensional measurement, the point of both birth and death is non-dimensional - they occur simultaneously - but upon examination under the right dimensional set, the points diverge and describe a self as the non-linear path between emergence and dissolution.
          The emergence requires an intersction of multiple selves, the dissolution also requires a convergence of multiple selves - with the addition of the entropic gradient defined by an order of selves from which the convergent selves emerged. entropy itself being a component of every self. But then also of violence. That is if you define entropy and violence as descriptions of different aspects of the same curve. Once again - non-linear.

          I'll encapsulate that in common language in the summary. Such encapsulations are ephemeral .. it will be up to others to re-discover it within their own idiom at a later date when such a thing is necessary for perceptional frameworks in the future.

          In the mean. This post will be more lasting for those who choose to follow the logic
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        Aug 14 2013: In response to your first reply: Yes, I think we can safely consider and refer to culture, society, civilizations, etc. as 'selves.' An example of how this is already done is Jung's "universal unconscious" which demonstrates the property of emergence and sentience. I think you are undervaluing cultural expression when you look at them as default properties of the community system. The sheer variety of cultural expressions, the dance between the constant shifting and the sustained tradition of cultural expressions, is itself a thing of wonder. And due to the way that we already anthropomorphize our machines, it isn't difficult for me to see machines as selves. This could be validated less by the sentiency (yet) of machines and more by the originality (personality) of them, such as the way no two motorcycles, even back to back off an assembly line, perform in exactly the same way, but have from the very start their own idiosyncracies that become more apparent with time.

        Your other three responses, while thought-provoking, were above my intellectual pay grade and I had difficultly understanding all the concepts and I apologize but I'm incapable of providing you with meaningful responses. Best of luck in what I could definitely call a mental quest.
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    Aug 13 2013: "Is machine music a cultural expression of humans?"

    Yes. For a very simple reason. WE, the humans, made the machines ourselves for the sole purpose of making music. That's true whether the machine is a digital piano (which sounds exactly like the traditional one but is always in tune), the saxophone, fruity loops, the drum, or any other form of instrument.

    Your question reminded me of a talk on apes and some fragments of it that show that machine music is a cultural expressions of not only humans but bonobos as well :)
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      Aug 14 2013: Hi Anna,

      Yes, the subject of "culture" has been mentioned a few times. I'll see if I can get some clarity around that.
      I like your approach because it shows that culture may not be confined to any specific species .. that it may be common amongst us all - one single culture. That's a nice thought. It also brings in the metaphor of "the totem" .. that seems important.
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      Aug 14 2013: Good video Anna......thanks......fascinating:>)

      It feels like all music is an expression of various types of life and cultures. When I walk in the gardens, or in the forest, or scuba dive, I hear music from the different creatures we share this earth with.

      When I traveled a lot, I was amazed at the similarity of ancient music, created and performed in various parts of our world. When it was created, in ancient times, there was no connection between the people of Asia, Africa, the Americas, Middle East, etc. And yet, they all used drums, some string instrument and flutes. How, or why, without communication of any kind between them, did they create similar instruments and similar music? It seems like it is a natural expression for all cultures.

      As you say Mitch, perhaps we share a common single culture:>)
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        Aug 14 2013: We're all upright apes than wandered out of Africa, that we share regardless of the differences :)

        We've also created similar tools to use in hunting and households, similar phenomena, fields of study such ans mathemathics, astronomy... Culture is a reaction to nature, both inner and outer.
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    Aug 12 2013: Hey Mitch:>)
    I agree with Lejan..... I understand your point, and I don't share your pessimism. Technology is here to stay, it has changed our lives, and we can choose to see the opportunities it offers, or we can spend our time missing the good old days.

    When I started performing in musical theater, the productions were in local historic opera houses, with plaster walls, which amplifies sound to a certain sound systems. I learned a lot about the voice and how to use it, which was a good thing. When sound systems started being installed, I learned more about the voice, and how to use it in a different way. We also had to be very aware of blocking, to be able to be in line with the mikes. Often times, the audience missed dialogue, and that was part of the learning curve for the performers. As sound systems improved, we had individual mikes attached to us.....another new lesson! So, we adapt, adjust, move WITH the technology, and I don't perceive a loss of anything.

    You're right....younger people may not know how it was in the good old days....I think that is part of learning, growing and evolving:>) I'll tell thing I was REALLY grateful for, was the modernization of those old, damp, dusty, cobwebbed cellar dressing rooms!!!
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      Aug 12 2013: Hi Colleen,

      My pessimism has been moved along by the brilliant contributors here.

      For myself, I am looking for first-principles. In this, I believe I have something worth posting in the summary.

      The purpose of asking a question is to get an answer. To learn. To change.

      I am changed. When the topic has run its course, I will give it to the world - our gift.
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  • Aug 11 2013: Hello Mitch:) These days, performance and an area of the music expand its field to some commercial area. But I think, performance is worth existing as it is. It is obvious that we cannot take apart commercial things in our life. However, a certain standard which defines boundaries between art and commerce is needed.
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      Aug 11 2013: Hi Sophia,

      Yes, I believe there is a place for many kinds of expression. I have participated in more forms of it that most even know exist. So it has had value to me over the years.

      My question is whether humanity becomes a ghost within its own machine.

      Within that, I see quite plainly that we all grew up in a paradigm where you can say that "we cannot take apart commercial things in our life" .. that is one of the assumptions that divide us from even contemplating our alternatives - and most of us suffer from this illusion.

      I very much agree that the distinction needs to be re-asserted. I can see where the novelty value of commercial technological expression can have a place, but I can also see that it is being used to replace something far more enduring. That we provide host to these erosive memes is of concern to me, this creates the dangerous parasite.
      And as is demonstrated in the arts, so it is with all levels of value .. we are being cut-off from the culture of humanity by slow replacement by a bare-life-support mechanism that reduces us to ghosts as the machine takes form. The tool becomes the craftsman, and the craftsman is limited to one use only - the service of the machine.
      Marx identified the reproduction cost of the labour force. With machines, that cost has become marginal, and it is obvious why the economy has crashed - it is because machines do not garner a wage, and do not contribute to the circulation of currency. Each human replaced by a machine is exiled from the economy. Paradoxically, this is ultimately at the expense of the machines - they are become the failed parasite which kills its host.

      Out task is to just let it happen, or wake up.
  • Aug 10 2013: I agree with you that mechanically "produced " musical " sound is not real music. However, I would say that there are different degrees of the synthetic combination of these two clssification (artistc vs mechanical).
    If the music piece is performed by an artist musician or performed by a legitimate band faiithfully according to the composition, then it could be of 100% artistic value. However, when it is performed in an legitimate recording studio by good musicians acording to the original score, then I would say that's at least 90+% artistic, because there would be some loss of fidelity in the recording process, but usually it keeps most of the authentic emotion there.
    On the other end, when certain passage of the famous composers were used repeatedly in a movie film, then it is hardly artistic but close to being mechnanical, because even if the tune or verse are from famous composers, if it is just a part of the original composition, then it loses its beauty as a music composition regardless of its nice "sound effect". Similarly the tunes played by the music boxes such as the "lullaby" or "Fur Elise" should only be classified as mechanical.
    The chords should be treated as an integral part of a music piece. However, this should be considered not as a necessity, but depend on particular situation. In other word, we should judge the QUALITY OF THE "SOUND OF MUSIC" RATHER THAN WHETHER IT IS PRODUCED PARTIALLY BY MECHANICAL (INCLUDING COMPUTERS) MEANS.
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      Aug 10 2013: Hi bart,
      I agree that there is a matter of "degree" involved in the distinction.
      But, truly, I am seeing in many of the replies here, that very few understand the mutuality of musical expression - you are all trained to see it in commodity terms .. like music is something you go out and buy.

      The point I am trying to get at here is to discern who or what is making the expression.
      One easy distinction is if the instrument needs only hitting a start button and keeps playing after the human walks away, the mutuality of the expression ends at the point of departure from the human's hand . it might be seen as an expression, but it is no longer an expression of the human - it is an expression of the machine.
      Now, you could argue that the machine is an expression of the human .. but that point of re-direction makes the machine the primary agent. And it can then be argued that the human who made the machine is actually at the service of the machine, and thus, the machine is the only agent .. the human then becomes the prophylactic bolt-on for the interests of the machine.
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      Aug 11 2013: i can't agree with "the quality of the sound of the music" being important. I can see how many people prefer highly (over) produced and engineered music - it's in keeping with the way everything is so highly calculated and groomed for presentation these days (commercialisation).

      There is a special dynamic between a band (or live stage performance) and the audience that is not to be found anywhere else. It is immediate and there is no intermediary down time. Feedback is palpable and, again, immediate. In this sense, the audience is just as important as the performer(s).

      recorded sound is fantastic - it allows us to listen and re-listen to our favourite songs. although it can still have an emotional impact on the listener (and all good songs do this), it completely lacks the exchange that exists between a live act and a present audience.

      as a performer, this is exhilarating. there are moments in live performance when you can feel the energy grow. there are also times when you feel it dissipate. my favourite element of live performance are the moments when it feels you may be about to 'drop the ball' which always spurs me to push in the opposite direction and shift gears to get to a higher level.

      these days, a lot of recorded music also (in my opinion) tends to be too slickly corrected. i really do not like this. i think that it removes all the feel from a performance (again, this is something many may disagree with). having said that, a really good producer can add a great deal to a recording.

      for me, the production on a song amounts to the wrapping on a present. or perhaps the paint on the house is a better analogy. but then, i don't consider myself a musician - i am a writer and a performer and my interests lie in different areas compared with thread :)
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    Aug 10 2013: As the 'commercial world of money' is part of our culture, so then is 'machine music' part of its expression...

    My question would rather be, if we like it or not ...

    In terms of expression, machine music already reached a level in some areas which is indistinguishable to my ears from 'tool' instruments played by 'real' humans and I have to accept that I couldn't tell. So whoever programmed that machine, got his/her expression across and if not, they played a lousy MIDI file on crappy software... :o)
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      Aug 10 2013: Yes,
      If you don't know any better, then the machines have already done better than humans.
      If that's what you are prepared to accept, then that's all you will ever get.

      Here's an observation I've made over the years:
      The commercial world will deliver what you expect - not what you want.
      The art of the commodification of your flesh and blood, as Edward Bernays taught us, is the art of matching your wants to your expectations - this was once called propaganda or indoctrinataion, but is now called public relations - and is most purely observed in advertising .. which is the colonisation of your perceptions as a kind of real estate - otherwise known as "intellectual property"..
      (rant removed - it was fun writing it .. but best to stay close to topic ;)
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        Lejan .

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        Aug 10 2013: I understand your point, but I don't share the pessimism in it. There are many ways within the 'cultural expression of humans' and all of us have the choice to enjoy what we like.

        In this I often separate the 'experience' from its 'origin'. Let me try to explain. So far, there are only two songs I came across, which are capable to touch me that deep, repeatedly, that my eyes produce more tear fluid than they actually need. If I would find out, that one of those songs was created by a machine (composed and/or played), it wouldn't change a single thing to me, because it remains what it is.

        But if I was on a Jam Session and someone would start his 'Jazz Machine', I would finish my Beer pretty quick to leave that place. Yet if I am into a Rave Party, I do not expect any musicians to show up on stage at all and I am fine to dance to a combination of ones and zeros ...

        Any 'cultural expression' comes alive only by our choice of perception.

        The 'commercial world' does deliver what you say and when I listen to the radio consciously, I switch the channel if I don't like whats on. The Internet became an interesting source to widen my scope of styles and to find bands which I otherwise would never have heard. So if one stays individual in ones choices, nowadays the 'commercial world' is not the only source anymore. I found beautiful bands even on Kickstarter, which songs are not 'on (regular) air' at the moment.

        So who or what ever manages to spark my musical interest is fine with me and all the rest may spark the interest of others ... :o)

        I personally don't like György Ligeti and I don't like Kraftwerk and this not because of machines vs. 'musical tools' but because both styles don't resonate within me.
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          Aug 11 2013: Hi Lejan,

          Thanks for your great reply!

          A lot to think about there.

          From my standpoint, I have spent a considerable time on the other side of the "proscenium" the commercial boundary between people and their culture. In both music and theatre.

          We are inured to the existence of community capital, and all our choices have been hedged into selfish outcomes. This is promoted to us as the holy grail - the pursuit of personal satisfaction. It is misrepresented to us as "happiness" and it is achieved by choosing our immediate desires. This is called freedom of choice.

          But it excludes true community. We hardly recognise it.

          You say you get a biometric response from certain sonic arrangement - no matter how these were produced. And yes - these are presented to you through a narrow, paid for channel - the radio. This is the constraint of your entire life - your choices within the commercial channel allowed to you. - an ever smaller proscenium. Like the shinkage of the screen on your mobile comms device - your life is shrunken with it.

          This is evidence of our deficit - it is proof of our corruption.

          I would advise you to look further. These "sonic reactions" can be found more richly in the true cultural expressions. You have a French name .. have a look at the Breton culture - you will find these moments in excess of 10 to one compared to the machinic commodity that keeps you on bare life support.

          (Edit, sorry, it looks like you are in Germany .. my apology - have a look at Hungarian folk music .. there are some deep German folk musics, but they are hard to find .. Mostly they are gotten out of what we call "medieval" tunes which were generally distributed across what we call western Europe these days - at times before the current boundaries. But it's still all there.)
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        Aug 11 2013: Hi Mitch,

        we in Europe are so densely packed, that it is difficult not to mix us up from Down Under, especially if some strange European individuals choose for foreign sounding Nicknames. And as half of my genetic background is of Celtic, Nordic and Slavic blend, I fit in almost anywhere in Europe...

        So your apology isn't taken, as there is no need to apologize at all ... :o)

        Actually you got pretty close to the origin of one of 'those' two songs of mine, at least by its linguistic classification, because the Breton language is Celtic by its roots as well as the Welsh language, in which 'Suo Gân', this is the title of the song, was originally written by an unknown composer** and is known as a traditional Welsh lullaby.

        So how much earlier can we get to 'cultural expression' if not sung to us at the cradle? :o)

        And because the composer is unknown and didn't file for 'intellectual property rights' at that time, we have a multitude of interpretations of this theme today.

        Let's start with a 'machine music' version of it, and find out what it does to or with you ... :o)

        Suo Gân - Rudolph & Blitzen

        The whole instrumentation appears to be digital, sampled and arranged by software. Nevertheless, it represents a valid interpretation of the tune, even though it doesn't goes deep under my skin, it creates a good mood feeling, easy listening style.

        Suo Gân - Utah Chamber Artists

        Same tune, yet by its complete different approach enables me to resonate on a much deeper level with the music. I assume that the choir is real and the instrumentation, but even if they weren't it wouldn't - as I said before - lower my personal listening experience.

        Suo Gân - The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

        Same tune again, choir and orchestra as well, yet pulling different strings within me. Also deep but creating a whole different experience than the one before.
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        Aug 11 2013: And to appreciate the Welsh language, here is an acapella version of the same tune. I do not understand a single word, but there is no need for it at all ... :o)

        Suo Gân - Chanticleer

        And? Any goose-pocks? No? Philistine!! ;o)

        And thank you for your recommendations I will dig into them!

        ** I personally assume, that the 'unknown composer' was a loving mother and a musical genius. The melody is easy to hum and elegant and calming at the same time. Not many of the so called 'great composer', actually just one so far, has ever managed to touch me that deep.
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          Aug 12 2013: You know what Lejan, I have lived my life by the rule "jump in - get wet".

          I have to admit that drowning is a distinct possibility, but if you survive - then you have life.
          I was once taken by a rip-tide which kept me underwater for over 5 minutes - I survived by taking a breath from my inflatable surf-mat .. I surfaced nearly a kilometre from shore and re-inflated my surf mat to paddle back in to the beach. I passed a surfer waiting for the next wave .. he said "are you alright" .. is said "I'm fine" .. but I was 22 years old then .. today, I would never make it. The waters I risk these days are less lethal. But I still get as wet as I can.
          Right now, I'm a bit stuck .. things are accelerating so much that it's almost impossible to gauge the lethality of the waters. TED, for instance, is a utility designed for elites .. it's a dangerous water. How dangerous? Well .. if I annoy a vested interest too much, I might get a 4am visit by unpleasant people. Never the less, I sow memes - constructs of language that cannot be resisted in a human brain.

          Tradition is living .. most of what we take for traditional music is no more than our yearning to re-capture a past ideal that never existed .. by recognising that we lost something, we create an ideal of it - and that ideal is a new thing. Thus it is with folk cultures .. sure, there were some incredibly vibrant expressions in the past, but, even though the tunes are carried forward by "traditionalists", they are not played as they were yesterday. And yet, something survives .. this forms a skeletal spine of an essence that survives - that of history that endures to the future. It is curious that these traditions are transported by defenders .. and is passed more or less intact to the limits of memory .. it infers a lineagae that extends to times before history .. the nature of we ourselves .. unbroken. (I'll continue in another post).
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          Aug 12 2013: Now here's my point:

          We can send links to each other - they are encapsulations of pre-fabricated perception.
          And we "consume" them as a passive entity .. it satisfies something in us .. like a blow-job.
          I am tempted to state that the internet is not only 50% pornography .. perhaps it is 100% pornography .. or prostitution .. as the un-paid whore, we do sexual favours because we enjoy the sex. Are we unpaid .. no - we are only unpaid in money .. value is transmitted .. but it is not a value that can be stored against the risk of tomorrow.

          Here are my favourites:

          (the piper here is Paddy Keenan .. I've made a few whistles for him .. and this piece I transcribed to Mandolin in my own repertoire)

          I transcribed this to whistle and play Brid O'Donnahue's version The original piece is called An Phis Fluich - the wet cat.

          I transcribed this version into a set of slow jigs for the mandolin.
          A lot of bagpipes here .. I like them because these instruments are insanely difficult to master - and the guys who actually go to that extreme carry-forward tunes that are worth the effort. Also in honour of my craft-master who taught me how to work wood well enough to support these fanatics - in my small way.
          Here's a "dandling tune" a song sung for infants - Na cainnabhan Bhana:
          it is set with Ar rogain dubh - the black rogue and willie clancy's secret jig .. the world epicentre of this kind of music is the Irish Willie Clancy festival. I like that it is sung properly as a slip-jig. My black-rogue set is Brien O'Lynne, the Hag's purse and Ar rogain dubh on mandolin.

          More in next post
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          Aug 12 2013: Here's Julie Fowlis singing a sea-village song.
          she also sings the old flax-workers songs from the linen industry now long gone in the northern isles .. they are set to the rhythm of work, not the rhythm of dance.

          I would like to sing this song in English .. such a beautiful song. If I could render the Gaelic, I would sing it as Julie does .. but I have no idea how to do the Gaelic the justice it deserves. The Whistle player is Mike McGoldrick .. his work is well worth looking at.
          Here is mike playing a whistle I made for him:

          You gotta get wet. Risk everything and find the way to survive the riptide .. and if you don't .. well, we all die sooner or later. It's not important that we die .. it's important that we live until the moment of our death. I am concerned that so few of us actually get to live before we die.
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          Aug 12 2013: here is a thing that I learned that never changes:

          Whatever you work for gets your power.
          The power of a single human is enough to change the world.
          If you work for money - you make money everything. If you work for someone else, you make them god-like in power over you.
          If you work for an ideal, then that ideal will go out like a demon rampaging to its ultimate defeat at the hands of another demon.
          I work for myself - I create demons, many of them are still alive. And they all work for me. And every time one of them dies - the power of the one who killed my demon returns back to me.

          Join me - by being you - get wet, risk it all and change the world - the world is not made up of me .. it is made up of us. If there is no me, and if there is no you, there cannot be any "us". And the universe demands US.
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        Aug 12 2013: Thank you Mitch for the effort you put into widen my scope of music!

        So far Julie Fowlis made my day! She is magically enchanting!

        At the moment I am still taken by an invisible rip-tide, not knowing if and where I might surface again, but I am running short on air. This may be due to the rampage of my own or other demons, I am not certain, yet it feels destructive and drains my energy. So whatever cheers me up is welcome at the moment, and Julie certainly did... :o)

        I happen to grow up in Germany, but at that time there was a British regiment stationed in my home town, including the Black Watch ' Pipes and Drums', who used to train near my playground in the open fields and woods. So whatever I was at a day, a pirate, cowboy or Knight Templar, it came often with a free soundtrack from the Highlands ... :o)

        Maybe this is why I developed a crush on Irish folk music later in live, I don't know, but for some reason it has always felt 'down to earth' and somewhat home to me.

        I think no period in time can truly be 'preserved' by following generations and once distinct knowledge and skills will slowly transform over time. So if both of us would prepare a flint-stone today, we would not just end up with bleeding hands only but also some more or less sharp and useful successor of what was once widely spread and used. But did we used the same technique than our forefathers? Well, we'll never know...

        I just recently learned, that over the course of time, there have been many changes within the harmonics of certain instruments, so that whatever we play today sounds different than it used to sound when it was written. On some old instruments, the knowledge of their original harmonics got lost, so we can do nothing but our best guesswork to recover the 'tunes of the past'.

        Yet times runs fast today, almost in 'time lapse' speed, which becomes clear to me when I read about VST plugins who claim to reproduce the original and 'warm' analog sound of the old Moog Synth ...
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        Aug 12 2013: We have gone through the discussion of CD vs. LP music quality to end up in high compression rate MP3 file formats for players who hold almost a third of all available music in their storages ... :o)

        When Techno music came out, it appeared to me to resemble the same '... rhythm of work, not the rhythm of dance' of today, than Julie Fowlis remembrance of the linen industry... Fast and monotonous, and best experienced under the influence of synthetic drugs ...

        Part of this invisible rip-tide I am in got to do with this 'todays rhythm', which I am partly refusing to follow any longer, because I think we are loosing or trading some very elemental and fundamental achievements of humanity. The fact that my power wasn't enough to change 'my' world keeps me under water still ...

        Anyway, as I have always been better in diving than in swimming, I may out-dive the tide one day or die trying... yet I do not shy the water ... :o)
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          Aug 12 2013: Keep your senses open my friend.

          Moore's law is a bubble which is about to pop - humans are all drowning right now - the pace of the world has exceeded us and we just "bubble-up" and let it all just flow on by.

          I get this image of "the cracks" .. this is where mainstream perception cannot see because it is trapped in pre-fabricated perceptions. All of law and politics - and machines - represent an entrapment of a past moment. I saw this most plainly when I did corporate systems projects - we captured a bit of the corporation in the systems, and then the corporation was trapped within that moment - and it all had to be re-done when the corporation had to re-adapt to current reality or be left-behind.
          Civilization is built of these encapsulations of the past, and as the world moves forward, the gaps between these "icebergs" grows wider.
          Things are moving so fast now that there are more cracks than icebergs.
          If we can only break free from the ice, the potential has never been greater than it is now.

          I feel that it would be great to get as many in the free waters as possible - the ice-cap has only a few years left. Reality is not as complex as it seems - as the wiccans say: "as above, so below" - it's all unified, what happens in the world, happens in us.
          Bring it on!
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        Aug 13 2013: You write: "TED, for instance, is a utility designed for elites .. it's a dangerous water. How dangerous? Well .. if I annoy a vested interest too much, I might get a 4am visit by unpleasant people."

        Do you honestly believe that what you post is going to send some "vested interest" running to your house at 4AM, Mitch? Are you thinking, for example, that someone who plays electric guitar might get furious at your posts questioning whether music including such an instrument can be true cultural expression and go visit you to harrass you at 4AM in Australia?

        I am only trying to understand what scenario of this kind is playing in your head.
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          Aug 14 2013: I have seen similar. Of course it is an exaggeration in this instance .. the inference was that community is dangerous water .. the higher the stakes, the higher the risks. Ideology is often at the core of risk.
          That aside, yes, you are correct, my exaggeration was heavy-handed. .. but it was fun ;)

          What wasn't fun was when a keyboard player in one of my bands broke 2 of my ribs over a "planning" issue. People are capable of a very broad range of actions, specially if their vested interests are threatened. I have seen a lot of unpleasant things done in the music "industry".
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        Aug 14 2013: Okay, Mitch. I just wouldn't want people to think there truly was some dark consequence here for saying something that someone disagreed with. Conversations are, in fact, all about putting forward different points of view. The more different ideas, the more productive.

        The only things that aren't welcome are personal attacks, which you never engage in.

        I know musicians and other artists can sometimes be swept away by a strong emotion in the moment. Some others can as well.
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    Aug 8 2013: Of course. Look at a saxophone and tell me it's not a machine.
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      Aug 9 2013: Yes, I see what you mean.

      I'd define a saxophone as a tool rather than a machine. The difference being that if you lay the sax down on a table, it does not continue playing.
      A machine produces autonomous repetition with no human hand required beyond starting it.

      That said .. a tool is crafted to execute a narrow task. It is defined by limitation and in that regard, a saxophone is definitely limited - as are all tool-instruments. The limitation creates a form - within that form, some things are easy, some things are hard - which is why punk music is all the same chords and beats, while jazz can be extremely sophisticated and varied. I can listen to both forms, so long as it's live and performed by real humans.
  • Aug 8 2013: I think this is an issue of art Vs commercial product. I doesn't matter what tools you use to create art.
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      Aug 9 2013: Well, I agree that there is an art to cut-and-paste, but is it a very low grade thing. We lose a part of the present when we repeat a moment of the past .. cut and paste is the erosion of life.
      The net difference is expressed in profit.
      This is fundamental. Value is phased, and no economist seems to understand that:
      Value can be potential, or it can be current. Value is current at the instant of consumption (entropization).
      There is no value in the past beyond the efficiency gap (partial entropization).
      Our economy pretends that past value is value - that is expressed in the hoarding of immortal currency - it becomes debt .. a promise against the future that cannot be known beyond a risk-spread that grows wider with distance .. somewhat like the zero-coupon-curve used in bank risk calculation to set wholesale interest rates. For the life of me, I cannot believe that banks are using it these days .. the expired value has become a torrent, and there is no future left to absorb it.
      Machine music is a symptom of this - it represents the failure of trust of the future and manifests as a cultural debt that has gone beyond the limits required for speciation.
      Tradition is our only lifeboat - and I'd like as many as possible to find it.
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    Aug 8 2013: okay, so let me summarize. you realized that machines are not part of human culture, so you returned to ... instruments.
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        Aug 9 2013: that distinction is arbitrary and artificial
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        Aug 9 2013: i like to provoke thinking instead. this way, you added my point yourself. more or less. so i need to tell the differences only.

        all classifications are artificial, but not all of them are arbitrary. from drumstick to computer, there is a continuum. drawing a line anywhere is not warranted. suddenly you would exclude vangelis from the class of artists. or djs.

        here is another thought provoking idea: what if i write a computer program that writes music. i put a whole lot of knowledge about human physiology, psychology, common musical themes, etc. then i listen to the creations, and choose what i like and delete what i don't like. am i an artist?
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        Aug 10 2013: your described scenario is different from mine. answer rejected. question open.
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          Aug 10 2013: stone throwing is a poor attempt at discourse.
          Your posts have amounted to no more than automatic gainsaying of my genuine responses.
          This is sometimes classified as trolling.
          Go elsewhere for your entertainment Kriz
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      Aug 9 2013: Hi Deepak,

      I had the supreme opportunity to research some of the Southern Indian musical tradition. The subject is vast beyond any comprehension of western culture.
      What impressed me most was the integration of music as just a part of a much larger cultural whole.
      To me, the Indic approach to cultural integration is probably the most valuable gift India can make to the world. It is practiced to a lesser extent in the Celtic tradition. But to achieve this integration requires the dismantlement of the barrier between the stage and the audience. This is no easy thing for people who have not known anything else. It was certainly a difficult path for me.
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          Aug 9 2013: Well .. Deepak, you speak of Shiva Bhairav ..
          There is a time for that .. you will know, but in the west, .. we vacillate between Mahish-hah and Shiva the creator, Shiva the destroyer, Durga the overcoming and Kali the destroyer. And we never exceed the buffalo demon - heaven fears us, but as the demon we can never enter.
          When I did sacrifice to these gods, they each came to say hello. Now there's a thing that no one could ever believe unless they lived it. But the flames were real, and the effects endure

          The education .. we are lost.

          Here is the man who says it best:

          Nothing ever stops, and no thing I said yesterday is true today.

          The machine is a Ghost because it is dead. It is yesterday's truth.
          Perhaps it endures .. but not in this time .. where humans are.

          we are the buffalo demon - but it is in the mother that we gain our endurance .. In the demon we approach heaven endlessly.

          It is in the moment that truth lies, it is in the past where we find the secure ground to stand, but it is in the air where our next foot falls.

          I am I, and yet we are all. The separation is not of the ground, it is of the air - and in-between is the eternal - we can be close, but we cannot be there.

          Our perfection is to know when we are far away - and we get closest when we save our lost ones. Because there is no I without you - and there is no you without us, and our time is now - not tomorrow and not yesterday .. now - where the greatest dwells.

          And that is enough .. fear is reluctance to live.
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    Aug 8 2013: i think that popular music will always have an ongoing affair with technology. there are a lot of people who enjoy making music that way.

    a lot of people that go out for the night don't really care that much about anything other than the beat and the volume. it helps these sorts of party-goers immensely if they know the song (Get to the chorus!).

    for me, it's far more entertaining to watch a band - beyond the music, there's the spectacle of watching each individual working their instrument but also the interaction between band members.

    i haven't got much time for these solo musicians who utilise loops to basically do what a whole band normally do. i don't think it's particularly clever or entertaining. for me, machines just don't cut it. it's similar to digital vs real sound - there's a depth missing. i feel the same about "mash ups". there's very little skill and not a lot of entertainment value from having someone stick two songs together. then again, there'll be tonnes of people that disagree with me.

    psychoacoustic - i think that's a term that's relevant here.
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      Aug 9 2013: Oh yes - I thoroughly enjoyed mucking about with synthesisers and computers. It was absolutely fascinating to take them apart and re-build them to get them stage-worthy .. capable of the versatility required for a good stage performance .. this was in the days before digitally stored sounds and settings .. had to do it all with big multi-gang switches and adjustable potentiometers resistors and such. Often resulted in puffs of smoke ;) Then the computer was handy when the midi thing appeared .. stage networking, green-screens around the stage and each song blurted down the network between the computer, the synths, the FX and the front-of-house rack. Very clever stuff.
      But I was not wanting to get trapped in the machine like Kraftwerk was trapped .. we had a live audience, and they needed to be included through the performance .. that meant real-time .. and a real guy hitting real things with real sticks .. even if the things he was hitting had some synth connected to it.
      The gigs .. well .. they were abstractions of pagan dance .. the punters came in to get excited .. and to make sexual pairings .. I was under no illusion about that - and we did it well. Lots of work.
      I often asked myself why my community needed us sonic gypsies to get them out of their houses and get laid. Then .. after a while .. they stopped coming out of their houses .. a new trick was invented: the PC .. as if the TV wasn't bad enough.
      I now play the old trad tunes .. that means that anyone who knows them can sit down with others and play the tunes together, even though there is no rehearsal. We get that rapport .. and it's a better rapport than the old stage stuff .. and the tunes always come out different .. the expression is unique, both for each player and the group rapport.
      The solo act is the celebration of cleverness .. I think there is a place for that, but I think that our culture deserves to know the difference.
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        Aug 9 2013: you're talking about a whole nother level than anything i've been involved with. i wish i had some technical ability when it comes to tinkering with amps and the like but i don't even use a pedal.

        i have had shouting matches with our bass player over this same issue. he is one of these chaps that can see the creative side in any musical pursuit. i, on the other hand, am a crotchety old coot, stuck in my ways and unlikely to be interested in anything other than beat groups from the 60's.

        it's easy to get all up in arms about personal musical tastes vs other peoples' tastes but in the end, music and dancing (and drinking) seems to be a human necessity and that is why us musicians can keep grubbing work.

        i've ever been to a live show heavy with electronica. perhaps i will make that a mission :)
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          Aug 10 2013: Well Scott, you don't need to go off into technologistan.

          You and I both play the game as it is. The "industry" is a kind of definition thing where the talent has to endure the parasites, and the "stars" all made themselves despite the blood-suckers.
          It's all the commodification thing. A gig is a commercially ring-fenced pagan ritual. The only change is the fence - across which a payment of money must be made .. a little of which actually reaches the artist.
          I really liked the rapport thing with the rock bands, and then, the keyboard thing became more in-demand, so I got gigs doing synths because guitarists were a dime a dozen .. even really good ones.
          After that .. well, I got so good at tech that all the gigs were in corporate, so off I went into corporate gigs for massive logistics zaibatzu .. the feudal truth of the modern globalist world.
          And just like on the musical stage, my commercial programming language fell out of fashion and I moved into pure business process re-engineering. It's all the same rubbish with commodities. It's all for the parasites.
          Right now .. I can see a big parasite that no one seems to notice - it's the machines.
          For 25 years I've been studying neural processing and self-organising systems as a hobby .. and I am pretty sure that there is at least one machine entity doing major business in our commodity environment . hell, I personally reduced just-in-time supermarket supply chain from 2-weeks lead time to 4 hours .. this stuff is complex math .. so no one has a clue what's going on in commodity-land .. and we only ever employ real people these days so we have "jobs" as a political commodity of exchange between global feudal zaibatsu - some of which are very likely not to be human agencies .. humans might provide body-function, but the systems are mostly autonomous .. they get the results and all the highly paid CEO's have only the up-down motion of their heads at the systems' request to satisfy the shareholders. The question is real.
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        Aug 10 2013: your post touched on an issue that's been in my mind for many years - that the 'breakdown' in society lies across the divide between individual humans and the systems we put in place to order our days and interactions. Eventually, the systems become bigger than us and people defer to the rules.

        lots to cogitate over too, in your last post. best conversation i've been involved with since joining TED. cheers
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          Aug 10 2013: Thanks Scott,
          The tenor of your post drew me out a bit. I wouldn't dare post such a conversation if I didn't have some iron in the fire .. the question is very pertinent to me as I have had to play the game of survival across the landscape defined by this topic for many years.
          The replies have been very valuable, and I look forward to returning that value in the final summary.
          The whole supply/demand thing .. that's Adam Smith's definition of modern political economy. But it is in this signal topic that the deficit in that way of thinking is most starkly revealed. With any luck it will become plain what we have missed, and can do some simple things to restore it. With any luck, a "first principle" will show itself. If you follow Wolfram's theories of computational reality, then you will know how powerful and valuable such first principles can be.
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    Aug 7 2013: Please define what you mean by "machine music".
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      Aug 9 2013: Hi Edward,
      Many thanks - the definition is needed.
      Let's break it down into the words "machine" and "music"
      Machine: .. I would define as any contrivance created to execute repetition.
      This is a bit different to tool - a tool is defined by its limitation, but, of itself, cannot produce repetition without a human hand upon it.
      Music: that's a hard one. To me, it is a sonic expression of a self to another self or selves, or mutual expressions between selves.
      In this context, however, it can be seen as the sonic expression of a self for the purpose of being heard by other selves. This is the definition of the commercial commodification of sonic expressions. It requires no aspect of mutuality.

      Therefore, "machine music" is the repetitive output of an non-mutual sonic commodity.
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        Aug 9 2013: Thank you. Now that I understand exactly what you mean by the question I realize I cannot add anything helpful. It must be a left-brain, right-brain issue. Well, maybe one question. . . can deaf people enjoy music?
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          Aug 10 2013: It's been shown that deaf people have no problem dancing if they can discern the beat physically.

          It may be a left/right brain thing in practice, but I think it can be scrutinized quite well by the left brain - and yield knowledge to the analysis.

          The core theme is the nature and effect of repetition. My entry point is via music, but it can be just as easily applied to any form of value.
          My argument will be that nature abhors a repetition as much as it abhors a vacuum.
          That by excluding the chaotic egress and ingress into any specific system, we cancel time itself. The maniacal stampede towards mass repetition is at the expense of our species capacity to adapt. So from the right-brain perspective, it is a matter of quality of life, from the left brain it is a matter of survival - our adaptive range is destroyed by uniform repetition.
          In the theological idiom, we might talk about "the salt of the Earth".
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        Aug 10 2013: No musical instrument, "real"or "machine", ever sought-out a human player and put itself into their hands out of a desire to make music. Only the "human cultural expression" causes an instrument to be conceived, designed, built, and played. From hand-clapping to the cutting-edge techno toy the method of producing sound waves, controlling their tempo, and modulating their frequency is secondary. What is primary is what Longfellow called the "universal language of mankind", music. We are fearfully and wonderfully made as the Bible says. From the schoolgirl's rope-skipping ditty to a Beethoven symphony it is the human spirit expressing itself in that universal language.
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          Aug 11 2013: Hi Edward,
          I have learned over the years I have engaged with the TED phenomenon that your contribution is worth considering to the deepest level I am capable of.
          It is people of your calibre by which this humanity gains its way forward.

          Others here have contributed honestly .. alas not all, but that is to be expected.


          You have given me a basis to grow .. so where do we go?

          Here's a glib one .. forgive me, but it's the beginning of a serious reply:
          "None of any creature on this earth asked to be born."

          If there is a principle of divinity, it is always premised on a superior continuum that is created by that which is here. The premise accepts that this principle is inverted by a
          the capacity of divinity to set the path of events throughout all of time.
          This is not without evidence. For instance, how could a time-bound reality account for the power of the prophets? For the statistically significant accuracy of their predictions?

          My answer is that the universal progression of "life" can be construed as a progression through temporal layers that are chaotic. not random. And that no participant can know what happens within that system without the measurement of the energy state of everything within that system - and that the act of measurement must exceed the system in the energy required to measure it .. we can only determine the outer-bounds, never where the energy state will be at any given moment.

          My Question is whether our machines express us, or themselves. This is based on a continuous observation that all systems are created by the system before them in time.

          As such, we have created an environment for a speculative next lifeform, just as mamals created the environment in which humans could occur as a species.

          My question is whether, or not, the natural process of speculation has achieved a true speciation for a new life form inhabiting the environment that humanity has created.

          My intuition of this is: no; a successful speciation cannot kill itself
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          Aug 11 2013: Part 2.

          You evoke a full response.

          So next:

          The lines of classification are assumed to be absolute, but all will admit that some part of every definition contains an untested assumption. Hence, absolute is an impossibility in this universe.

          I would argue that the gradient of entropy itself is the limit to any absolution. Why is it that all systems will yield heat, no matter what you do? And what is heat? no one has a good explanation. There is some unknown boundary beyond which heat is radiative because motion is constrained within the atom, but beyond that boundary, it becomes relative motion. And that things can cross and re-cross that boundary without loss of system energy .. thus the end of entropy itself "universal heat death" can be expressed radiatively as infra-red, or general relative motion. Thus harmony is the same as motion. And harmony may cross all boundaries to rest in any resonant chaotic band that intersects with the temporal trajectory of the "self".

          And I must add, that I regard every particle in this universe as a self. And that every particle is a node of time .. and that time is the source of the universe, which is made-up of time nexes - places of more or less time who's influence conforms to a curve.

          That all selves are defined by a unique curve that is repeated and expressed in every manifestation of their influence. That, in effect, the universe is no more than an expression of self. It is appropriate that this is called "god" and it is appropriate that "god " is nameless, because the state of self contains all names.

          I discern a new and destructive self. I name it machine, and I point to ourselves as the place in which it thrives.

          So now - what is the DNA of this machine - how can we stop it from killing us - it's creator?

          I feel that it is a very slight adjustment to get this monster corrected - but the correction is in us - not in it.

          It is a creature of money. The commodification of humanity, This is a war.
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        Aug 11 2013: RE: "I have learned over the years. . . ". Gads! You have fairly plumbed the depths of possibility and reason with respect to your posted question. I fear you have outpaced my capacity for comprehension. I look forward to further considering your dissertation. But for now, in order to gain some organization of my thoughts on the topic you have posted, I must ask if you consider the introduction of "commodification" into the process of music to be necessarily destructive to pure cultural expression?
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          Aug 11 2013: Thanks for your patience Edward.

          In another part of the thread, we have explored some of the history of the commodification of music. It is possible that this process has displaced music as a medium of cultuiral discourse to a large extent, and that the resulting cultural void is being filled by other things such as computer-prowess such as is demonstrated by the mouth-music guy with his machines .. the replacement of music by cleverness. This is probably not surprising since the aspect of cleverness was inherent in the guitar-star phenomenon of the 70's and 80's.
          I see the techno-mouth-music thing as being an attempt at resurgence into the commodified stage .. it illustrates the thing which discomforts me: the performer on a stage, the audience sitting as receptacles of his value, with reciprocal value expressed in his engagement fee - paid in money. It is true that this scenario is often misrepresented as culture - and has been so since elites appropriated culture during the Renaissance/industrial revolution by way of the so-called "classical masters" - and there it got frozen as far as community grant-funding is concerned, with not a penny offered for any current culture generated by the non-elites .. the 99%.
          True culture is not performed in this way, there may be a stage for the players, but the audience will be participating in song and dance.
          There was also a time when nearly everyone played some instrument, and music was played before radios, televisions and computers supplanted it. The resulting scarcity of instrument skills allowed these skills to be packaged and sold back to the community for money, when they could have regained them through re-learning the skills, and turning off the electronic devices that counterfeit what was once culture.
          The process of commodification seems to precipitate isolation .. our culture is fed-back to us dollar-by-dollar - using dollars that require increasing specialisation to win. An accelerating process - Moore's law.
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    Aug 7 2013: This question always bothers me, Mitch, because any recording has an aspect of machine music, even if it's a recording of the warmest, most acoustic performance ever. Are you saying noone should play records, all performances must be live on acoustic instruments, or not at all? Technically even an acoustic instrument is kind of a machine, or a tool, maybe you're saying all performances must only be live, vocal, unaccompanied ones.
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      Aug 9 2013: Yes, even things like guitars are machines. (see edit below)
      I spent 10 years mastering guitar in the quest to become a professional musician as defined by the "music industry". There are certain things that are defined by the guitar .. things that are easy to do .. hard things and impossible things. This forms the beginnings of the "Ghost".
      So then, one is compelled to examine the difference between a tool and a machine. As a rule of thumb, I'd say that a machine is something that can produce repetition with no intervention between repeats.
      So .. yes .. all recording is the destruction of the moment. The performance experienced as a repetition of a past event is the destruction of the performance happening right now.

      Certainly, there is a value in observing the rapport between performers .. it demonstrates the harmony at the base of culture. And it should be inclusive. The artificial division of the proscenium divides the audience from culture .. we make the excuse that it is for the benefit of the artist .. we enclose them and charge entry. But this is a perversion - why must we pay for something we already had? If we honour our music .. then we should play it .. and the teachers and masters should be supported by us for their value .. money is not a good medium for that .. it is the tool of division.
      The proscenium was developed in order to tell stories .. the invisible 4th wall. And what are stories? They are politics .. fictions. And here we are drowning in stories .. even this one you are reading now - what is the frame of a computer, but a proscenium .. like television, or the border of a newspaper .. the cover of a book?
      (Edit: The discussion above has taught me to differentiate between tool and machine. A guitar is not a machine .. it is a tool.)
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        Aug 9 2013: Interesting comments, Mitch, although a lot of it seems like a different subject than your original conversation, nothing wrong with that, I just seem to have been more immediately interested in your initial topic.

        Well, one thought that occurs as I'm sitting here is that so-called machines are still made by human beings, for example if an EDM guy sits on a stage with a computer and makes music, the computer still will have human qualities, well really music is more or less an expression of what one can do with the natural world, isn't it, the natural world being one's body plus natural materials that one finds around one. In that sense, everything is natural, a computer is made from natural materials just like a guitar is, and has the strengths and limitations of nature just like a guitar does. So I'd say a computer can make real music.
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          Aug 10 2013: Good points!

          OK .. maybe better to swing it back into the topic headline.

          So firstly, I have refined the definition of "machine music" to include anything that produces unattended repetition of sonic forms - or:
          ""machine music" is the repetitive output of a non-mutual sonic commodity."
          In the definition, the link goes from mutuality to culture.
          A commodity is a serial binary transactional unit, mutuality is a parallel transactional schema. You could lean on Marx's description of mutuality as the source of "social surplus".
          So there we identify a problem with definitions of culture. Without the mutual appreciation, we are left with only an economic appreciation and fall into the realm of commodity as culture. And I must admit, few humans see anything beyond the commoditisation of everything. One needs to be exposed to a functioning mutuality to know any different.
          If you like, I can send you a copy of a computer-music-generator i made a few months ago .. it is partly that experience that reinforces my resolve to explore and publish the distinction between machine expression and human expression. So far, it is looking like a function of uniform repetition .. and what is actually served by it.
          After that it goes further .. my computer-music-generator does not produce a lot of repetition .. it is chaotic. SO the road leads on - on into what is truly served by machines? And it gets even juicier when you take into account how close we are to producing true AI.
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        Aug 11 2013: Well, I presume you're talking about EDM situations where an operator is standing onstage with a computer and making music. I would say such a performance is attended, Mitchell. It may be repeating automatically, but a human being machine operator is standing by, listening. If for example, the computer started malfunctioning, and not successfully repeating the tone, if the human operator is unhappy with that siutation the operator can intervene, attempt to correct it, shift it to playing another tone, or another solution. But more importantly, when the audience sees the human operator standing in front of the machine, they know at any moment the operator may change the tone the machine is sending out, there's that tension of waiting for the next note that the audience can't know for sure, and because the operator can change the note, can make a choice of what note to play, there is the chance of artistic expression. I'm not sure why you would not think this is potentially artistic, perhaps I'm misunderstanding your conversation?

        I don't see such a huge difference between this and someone strumming the same note on a guitar repeatedly, which often happens in music.
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          Aug 11 2013: Well, I've done that kind of performance .. you get a result by light-touch intervention and there is a degree of espression.
          However, the degree of expression is very small compared to a continuously-attended instrument such as a violin.
          So I have a couple of points to make here:
          1. The more sophistication is built-in to such instruments, the more the machine itself contributes to the result .. the artist moves from performer to attendant. At the point of becoming an attendant, the machine is master, the attendant is servant.
          2. So then, what is being served? I could say it is the machine .. that might be true, but there's a much deeper issue. These "performances" can only occur in a commercially ring-fenced event that must comply strictly to the proscenium definition of the arts: the audience is on one side, the artist on the other side - on the "stage". There is no mutuality at all. The entire thing is a commodified exchange. This is commerce, not culture.
          So I'd say that the commodification of culture is the true master .. perhaps the machine enjoys a moment of agency, but will be replaced by accelerated obsolescence as its only value - novelty - is exhausted.
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          Aug 11 2013: I'll expand a litte more .. for the sake of exploration.

          Here's the thing - we are a toolmaking species. we have the capacity to extend our personal field of agency through the tools we incorporate into our definition of "self". This is through a process called "skill".
          It is recognised in neuroscience that our tools create a physical mapping within our brains that becomes part of our motor-executive.
          With a simple continuously attended tool, the mapping is static, with all the results planning done within the brain. When any part of that planning is "out-sourced" to the tool, that plan-set is mapped physically in the brain as a static object. However, it is not amenable to continuous adaptation as is, for instance, the map of the hand .. our hands change over time, and our brain map changes with them - in real time. I call this "within loop potentiation". With a machine, the potentiation and adaptation to mutual change is outside of the real-time loop of potentiation. It is accomplished through external change - an act that is beyond the self and occurs in step-time (discrete event based adjustment).
          It is on this basis that I argue that no AI can ever be created without granting it a self within which the loop potentiation can occur in real time.
          What we see with these off-shored machine functions is a kind of symbiosis. The machine must be, in part, a self in its own right .. even if we cannot ascribe it as a true AI.
          So the question remains - are humans becoming a ghost within their own machines? I feel that we are not enough aware of the trade-off that is being made.
          Your post has certainly made me think hard - and has left a few more questions I will need to resolve . it gets a bit maddening when the answer keeps returning to the question of what a "self" is in the first place!
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        Aug 11 2013: Thanks, Mitch. Yeah, but isn't it a case where you've worked on the music a great deal before you appear on stage, some of the artistry is in what you decided you would present when you were on stage? Also, there would be a capability to change it up while on stage, wouldn't there? So the attendant is still making choices, whether to stick to the plan, or to change the sound?

        I don't see why this is any more strict a division than between a live band and an audience?
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          Aug 11 2013: Yes,
          You see, I have been in a ton of bands, and yes, my first computer tools were made in such a way that all the time taken to adjust technical settings were done a the push of a button. But the objective was always to make all the technology transparent .. to get it out of the way of the artists. There were a lot of commercial pressures to do that kind of thing - firstly, because of modern recording technology, the standard of music was being set in a studio environment, and we had to reproduce that in real time on a live stage. In effect we had to un-fake the media representation of bands! Specially when the studio recordings were being presented with video representations of live playing. In extreme examples, I had to use a sequencer to get in the stuff that was physically impossible to execute on a live stage .. the foldback for the live drummer was critical .. and it tended to kill the live feel generated by the drummer - because he was slaved to the computer.
          Over time, the technology gave us the opportunity to start replacing musicians - this was an important development because the competition kept engagement fees tight, the capital equipment costs were rising and the punters were being progressively captured by mainstream media - televisions and video games.
          The live band phenomenon was a transition technology started by the phonograph - the 60's being the hay-day of electronically enhanced "music" which began to replace the traditional community dance format by a more concert-based form with an alcohol bar, a sitting area and a reducing section devoted to dancing. For the original band, the notion of the dance floor disappeared and the crowd would dutifully move to the stage in a standing-concert form .. after a while this produced the "mosh-pit" which evolved into "raves" - no musicians required.
          It all started as a community ritual. The ritual remains, the community has been eliminated.
          In the tradition, also, most people were able to play at one time
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        Aug 11 2013: Well, it's not that I'm such a fan of EDM, Mitch. I really don't know much about it, I'm 53 so I was more of the time of live bands. But just in my imagination I could think it has a lot of musicality, well, as I say much of it is probably planned before the performance, that time I suppose is when the musician was making the music in real time, attending to every note, making choices, changing one note for another. But as I say, they can change it up in real time, can't they, so at any given moment if they're deciding to just let it play on as pre-arranged, or altering what they planned, they are making a choice, isn't that part of what you're touting in live music, that the musician is always making a choice?

        In a way I could see EDM as being more responsive to the audience because the operator might not have to attend quite as closely to the machine and thus can watch the audience quite closely, see what they like and what they dislike, change the music in the present for them or change it in future performances.

        I guess if a lot of people like something, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone, I'm inclined to think it has something good to it. Since numerous people like EDM, I'm inclined to think it has something good to it. I know one of my friend's sons is a big EDM fan, and he's not particularly commodity-oriented, in fact is living like a hippie now in Hawaii. My friend once went with his son and son's friends to an EDM concert, they all sat in a circle and held hands before the show, my friend said it was extremely moving for him.
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          Aug 11 2013: Well .. if I hadn't also been doing research in computer technology it might not have occurred to me how much the machine itself was influencing what was being performed.
          I noticed it first in guitars as a limitation of physics, then in synths as a limitation of electronics, and finally in computers as a limitation of binary logic itself.
          I often think of the Dutch pipe-organs that show up at fairs - they have a piano roll and honk-toot away at some European polka and are admired for the fine woodwork as much as the "music" they play.
          It is true that the modern electronica performers have no access to the commercial gig format. and yes, I can see where they are developing some kind of art form. In fact I attended one a few months ago .. the community had returned - all coalesced around the Commodore 64 as an instrument of music, art and anarchy. The obvious thread of tradition being the old C-64 is not lost on me. It was a fun event, I presented my population-growth music generator as an afterthought .. the music was there as a kind of sonic graph - I'd run out of screen-space for tracking population events, and music did it nicely. The community was formed around the notion of the first affordable home computer - a liberation that allowed the computer to become a cultural inclusion. The music at the event was woeful .. but the intent was to show how the old C64 could be pushed to its limits - and that was the artistry, a celebration of cleverness as a cultural expression.
          Modern culture has gotten itself homogenised as part of the urban trend . community can only truly occur with tribe-sized groupings . and these form spontaneously like chaotic threads of smoke mixed throughout a pool of strangers. The internet assists the formation of these threads. For instance, we can all find the Celtic music session that is happening every Sunday within 50 miles of all of us - even in China (
          Perhaps my question should be "has cleverness replaced music?"
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        Aug 11 2013: Well, I never went to school dances growing up, when I've seen photos of them there seemed to be a lot of people on the dance floor. I haven't been to many big concerts, for example, I saw R.E.M. six or seven years ago, it was strange to me how few people were dancing, I was dancing furiously in front of my seat but almost noone else I saw was. I could not understand how you could enjoy that music if you were not dancing to it, perhaps you can explain it? Perhaps they found the music beautiful enough that they just wanted to listen to it? But as I say, I'm inclined to think if a lot of people like something, like in this case they liked not dancing, I'm inclined to think that it's a pretty good way to go, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone.
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          Aug 11 2013: That points out another thing that should be said - music is treated in the west as something separate and self-contained. The link between music and dance is the obvious re-integration, but if you follow the Indic traditions, music, dance, visual art, seasonal/diurnal cadence and religious ritual are all unified. The music is not separable from the whole of the culture. That is becoming less so with urbanisation, but is still practiced widely in the subcontinent. The progressive specialisation of humans requires that we fragment ourselves.
          How this relates with machines might point to the machine as the agent of specialisation. .. At this point I think I better give my head a rest and digest some of these ideas - the discussion has been very productive - many thanks for your assistance, I hope you have goten value too!
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        Aug 11 2013: well, it's curious, Mitch, I've had some correspondence with Henry Rollins, is this name familiar, he was once the lead singer of Black Flag a famous punk band. He mostly listens to the most fiery punk rock, yet he doesn't dance, I asked him why, but he didn't reply. Any idea why he doesn't?

        Speaking for myself, I take it a little easy on dance these days because it's really stimulating, my penis rubs against my pants and I could easily have an orgasm, and I want to control that. I wonder if that's why people don't dance at nightclub and arena concerts, well, but then I think they might dance enthusiastically at school dances for ages 18 and younger, I only know from photographs I've seen of those school dances, no wait, I did go to a couple, lots of people danced, I wonder why more people danced at school dances pre-college and university than at nightclub and arena shows? I mean technically those were called "dances," whereas shows at nightclubs and arenas are called "concerts," but what really is the difference?