Iota Exchanges - Set 3

iota, founded in 1999, is an organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the art of light and movement by constructing a database of information about artists (biographies) and their works (films, videos, performances, instruments, etc.) as well as bibliographic references (books, articles, exhibition catalogs, etc.). It's emphasis on dynamic media such as film and video animation represents another flavor of visual music.

The following exchanges were taken from the early 2000s. Due to HTML limitations on page length, links to additional exchanges are found at the end of this page. One approach to accessing the information in these exchanges is to read them from beginning to end. Given that many (but not all) subjects in the iota Exchanges can be found in list below, another approach is to use the links in the list. Most of the items in the subject list relate in one way or another to visual music and compositional thinking.



This set of exchanges grew out of a post by Andrew Lyons, an Australian visual music artist and researcher, who was musing about the value of the notion of synesthesia relative to the field of visual music and posed that question to the list so the rest of us could muse about it too.

The classic definition of synesthesia: a sensation produced in one modality when a stimulus is applied to another modality, as when the hearing of a certain sound induces the visualization of a certain color.

Issues addressed:



To: iotacenter@egroups.com
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Date: Fri, 7 Jul 2000 23:32:49 -0700
Subject: Re: [iota] Synesthesia - useful?

Pellegrino - Synesthesia as an art label has a number of serious liabilities. It's used ever more frequently to refer to a benign mental illness defined as a type of perceptual cross wiring, not an awful disease but a liability nevertheless. Also consider another serious liability - the academic music and art historians tend to love the expression, synesthesia, probably because it has a certain sexy, quasi-scientific, mellifluous glow to it on the written page; definitely a bad sign. Plus the notion only deals with the mapping of pitch to color and vice versa; and that's dwelling on the surface of the surface in both music and the visual arts. Going with the easiest factors to address (color and pitch) and stopping there on the surface works against probing deeper into the multidimensional subject of visual music.

During the latter decades of the 20th century the notion of mapping elements (both arbitrarily and quasi-naturally) across subject fields became prominent especially fields related to technology. ("Creating associations" is just another expression for mapping.) Because, as a technique, mapping is relatively easy and usually comes to mind first, its significance relative to deeper issues should be viewed with some skepticism. Mapping tends to be too mechanical, too superficial, too reductive, and too myopic. The tendency to overweight mechanics seems to go along with the tendency to underweight the spirit or soul in art in a way that leaves the life out of the art. Loss of life also goes with the process of intellectually reducing experience to abstract symbols (invented maps) to represent the experience in ways that make it easier to record and communicate. A further downside is that many people take the representation to be the experience (a virulent form of art materialism). Notated and recorded music are perfect examples.

Mapping normally focuses on cross-field connections between individual elements rather than the complex of the relationships formed by the elements. It's the multidimensional network of relationships that creates the whole and mapping simply isn't up to the task of giving any insight into that network. Mapping is now one of the tenets of the divide and conquer (analysis and resynthesis) approach of the religion of western science. The scientifically biased, unbalanced, overly rationalized and intellectualized approach to the arts (definitely not giving intuition its due) tends to be mostly mechanical and antithetical to the fundamental principles of freedom, ineffable complexity, and personal expression in the arts. An overreliance on the mapping process grows out of the need for artistically inclined people in academia to justify their place on the campus to the priests of science and secular humanism and their official followers.

What I'm saying here is simply the perspective of a one who's been studying and experimenting with these matter since a graduate philosophy seminar in 1965 set the stage for my life's work in visual music. The subject of that philosophy seminar was symbolic logic in the arts as it was articulated in the work of Susanne K. Langer, especially in her book FEELING AND FORM. That classic book lays the foundation for morphological resonance as being the basis for meaning, value, and significance in the arts. In a paraphrased nutshell, Langer holds that people are literally moved by art that affects them directly, indirectly, or sympathetically through the physical principles of resonance, entrainment, tuning, corresponding patterns, transposition, translation, dynamic metaphor, gesture, movement, temporal structure, and dynamic form. As that art communicates through the organs of perception (alone and in various combinatorial weightings) its effects actually carry down to the cellular level of the organism. Just how this all works is still up for grabs; in fact the development of this flavor of symbolic logic helped to spawn the field of psychophysics (closely related to our struggle here). What we do know is that meaning in the arts is not just based on one-to-one correspondences (simple mappings). To get beyond the surface in the arts you have to contend with complex sets of variables interacting multidimensionally. Today's scientists might view this as a good subject for complexity theory (called Chaos theory just a few years ago). Closely related to all of this is the latest book of Ray Kurzweil (of considerable music synthesizer fame) entitled THE AGE OF SPIRITUAL MACHINES - definitely healthy thought food for students and practitioners of visual music.

Please don't misconstrue what I'm saying here as an attack on anyone's approach to visual music. I figure if we all start wherever we are, evolve with good intentions, and share our views, that everyone is bound to benefit. Incidentally, I'm actually a fan of mapping though I'm certainly not married to it. Along with other approaches I've been experimenting with the mapping process for decades. It's especially valuable for playing with "what if" scenarios. Even though I reject well over 99% of my experiments, I'm always curious to hear and see what others might have found that I've missed. In fact, in doing a new piece, I often crank my engine by starting easy - with mapping - and then let it fall away as the piece develops.

Ron Pellegrino



To: iotacenter@egroups.com
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Date: Sun, 9 Jul 2000 22:15:03 -0700
Subject: [iota] THE AGE OF SPIRITUAL MACHINES

The direct quote from my earlier post: "Closely related to all of this is the latest book of Ray Kurzweil (of considerable music synthesizer fame) entitled THE AGE OF SPIRITUAL MACHINES - definitely healthy thought food for students and practitioners of visual music."

The direct quote from Bernard Mont-Reynaud's post: "Ron, I am in violent agreement with everything you said, except for one thing: when your recommended Ray Kurzweil's book ("The Age of Spiritual Machines") as the palce [place] to look for answers for the future (I am quoting very loosely here)."

The direct quote from the post of Aaron Ross: "As for _The Age of Spiritual Machines_, I read it when it was published last year, and also found it very stimulating. However, the title is extremely misleading. There is nothing worth mentioning about spirituality in the book. I bought it because I thought it would explore the ideas of mind and spirit as they relate to self-conscious artificial intelligence. But no, the book is really a collection of more and more fantastic prognostications about technology, with very little exploration of the philosophical implications.

And so, I don't see what it has to contribute to any discussion about spirituality, art, or visual music in particular."

**********************

Pellegrino - Please note that my original post described the value of the Kurzweil's book as "definitely healthy thought food for students and practitioners of visual music." The only reasons I'd invest any of my lifetime in any activity, including reading a book like THE AGE OF SPIRITUAL MACHINES, are to be informed, stimulated, or inspired. What makes this particular book especially interesting is that it's a national bestseller by a relatively famous, commercially successful person in the electronic arts who also happens to represent the East Coast academic point of view. For any intellectual book to become a national bestseller means that a critical mass of intellectuals either already resonate with the book's ideas or will be more or less influenced by them. One of the contributions of such a book is to make us aware of the ideas that people in our field and those who might be interested in our field are thinking and subscribing to. It's an eternal source of wonder that people with very high IQs believe that we will eventually discover a mechanics of the spirit, that the soul boils down to no more than extreme mechanical complexity and speed. The key is to remember that such a position is just part of the credo of secular humanism, the ruling contemporary religion.

Much like Marvin Minsky's THE SOCIETY OF MIND, Kurzweil's book is one that I reserved for breakfast study when my mind was clearest. My notes go on and on full of arguments against Kurweil's beautifully articulated positions on the nature of technology and intelligence. I only take the time to do that when I'm highly stimulated by what I'm reading. In their posts, both Bernard and Aaron said they found the book "very stimulating." That admission is more than enough to ring my bell.

Given that visual music is a subset of the electronic arts which are fed by technology and intelligence, grappling with Kurzweil's well informed and weighty thoughts on those matters should contribute in a healthy way to the artistic and intellectual evolution of "students and practitioners of visual music." I found his discussions and examples of neural nets and evolutionary algorithms especially fascinating because he was using contemporary scientific expressions to describe what some of us in the electronic arts, which includes visual music, have been exploring for decades and calling individually or in combination (complex, interactive, dynamic) systems design. In much the same way that developments in physics trail the musings of metaphysics by lengthy periods, western science trails the experimental arts. Some of us enjoy seeing the scientific specialists wake up and in the process wake up the culture.

You don't have to salute Kurzweil's flag or anyone else's flag, but in some cases, this one for example, it's a good idea to have a sense of what that flag represents because, whether or not you want to see it, it's flying over our field.

Ron Pellegrino



To: iotacenter@egroups.com
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2000 00:54:45 -0700
Subject: [iota] Re: synethesia and spiritual machines

Aaron Ross wrote:

>For me, synaesthesia is a way of appreciating the act of perception. Making
>correspondences among sensory modalities implies a vantage point "above"
>the physical senses. That type of pure consciousness, single-pointedness of
>mind, whatever you wish to call it, is what the word "spiritual" means to me.

>But of course, the way that can be named is not the true way.

Pellegrino - Although I love experimenting with and observing/doing pieces with all the flavors of visual music, there is one that I find the most attractive. That flavor involves the process that creates both the sound and the imagery from one and the same stereo wavetrain. What brings this thought to mind is the expression, "single-pointedness of mind" Aaron uses above. I've spent countless hours designing, massaging, and playing with wave systems just to hear and see what they were going to generate; those systems have been my best teacher by far. Some of the time in those countless hours was given over to pondering where those sound and light images were coming from. They don't come from above, below, or outside - instead, via compositional algorithms, they seem to briefly materialize through the ether, to come through a moving single point in time, and to leave ephemeral trails in one's consciousness if one has the ears to hear and the eyes to see. I've been field-testing this process from the beginning of my work and I discovered that some folks are simply unmoved by it whereas others observe it with religious awe; it seems to be a very accurate litmus test for evolutionary level. After over three decades of exploring this particular process for the pure pleasure of it and using it in my performance-multimedia work and psychoacoustic demos, I still find myself struggling to articulate the depth its meaning. And that's not for lack of trying. One of those efforts, another spin on spiritual machines, is a recent essay I did called Compositional Algorithms as Cyberspirit Attractors.

Ron Pellegrino



To: iotacenter@egroups.com
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2000 16:34:30 -0700
Subject: Re: [iota] Whitney Family and NTSC

Pellegrino - I'm moved, as I'm certain others on this list are, by how the Whitney family, with grace and aplomb, preserve and perpetuate the work and memory of John Sr. We should all be so lucky to be a member of such a family. It's also a rare privilege to be in the midst of those who were present at and participated in the birth of a movement in the arts. And I'm also happy to add my voice to the chorus of thanks going out to Larry Cuba and his crew for creating the iota environment. It's a major piece.

*******************

Tom Ditto wrote:

"It is interesting to read here that Kurzweil and Minsky can be categorized as East Coast intellectuals. I don't think the mapping holds. Hollywood has been feeding us sci-fi along this particular Kurtzweilian theme relentlessly, and I think they got the bug from Fritz Lang, a German."

Pellegrino - What Tom wrote was in response to a statement of mine in an earlier post, "The only reasons I'd invest any of my lifetime in any activity, including reading a book like THE AGE OF SPIRITUAL MACHINES, are to be informed, stimulated, or inspired. What makes this particular book especially interesting is that it's a national bestseller by a relatively famous, commercially successful person in the electronic arts who also happens to represent the East Coast academic point of view."

I did say Kurzweil represents the "East Coast academic point of view." Given that they're both longtime professors at MIT located in Cambridge just across the river from Boston, all arguments support the position that they're East Coast academics and, given the focus and output of their lives, very serious intellectuals as well. So it's not much of a stretch, given the pressure in the academic world to conform (remember, that's the world that gave us the doctrine of political correctness), to say the odds are good that in their thinking and writing they would "represent the East Coast academic point of view" or as Tom paraphrased "East Coast intellectuals". No mapping in what I said, just simple logic.

If I were asked to counterpoise the West Coast equivalent to Kurzweil and Minsky, representatives from Southern California, especially Hollywood, would be lost in that dark mist of greed and juvenile sex that seems to cover that area most of the time. Instead I would offer up people like Fritjof Capra (of THE TAO OF PHYSICS fame) and other intellectuals published by Shambhala in Berkeley. People like Capra, though rooted in traditional western science, have made their way into fields such as theoretical high-energy physics and extreme ultra-violet astronomy and, in the process, thanks to the freedom of the West Coast (especially Santa Cruz and northward), have discovered that the ideas and ancient knowledge of Eastern mysticism are more than helpful in filling the gaps left by the relatively crude mechanics of western science. The West Coast intellectual approach tends to be more or less organically integrative of all knowledge, new and old, from anywhere and anyone. The East Coast approach tends to be more mechanistic, based on credentials and consensus, overly influenced by old Europe, and full of marketing and jockeying for position in the world of media, business, and government institutions. Just because I resonate with the West Coast approach doesn't mean I don't find the East Coast approach extremely fascinating; their hyperactivity and pyrotechnics makes for a great show but it doesn't leave much energy for them to go deep or wide.

*****************

Michael Whitney wrote:

> The color space of NTSC does not map well into the color palette available
> on the PC

Tom Ditto wrote:

> When it comes to our art, there is little sense in using NTSC or even 16 mm
> in the case of the Whitney Bros Belson shot mostly 16 mm, but I can
> appreciate that there is no longer a film lab that can meet his standards
> for a print. The obvious solution is using a computer screen set at an HDTV
> resolution with the colors properly calibrated, and that isn't so far in the
> future that we shouldn't simply wait. If there is a blessing in the brevity
> of most of these masterpieces, it is that the content will fit onto a CD-R
> or DVD-RAM at the highest resolution with the least amount of compression.
> In the case of the Whitney's work, interframe compression would actually be
> very effective. This would also apply to Fischinger. Belson's work demands
> more of the compression scheme, but the basic resolution required for Belson
> is 1/4 of that of the artists who were working in 35 mm.

Aaron Ross wrote:

> I see both sides of the issue. On the one hand, it's a travesty to present the
> work in a form which is not true to the artist's vision. On the other hand,
> isn't it better to have the work seen, even in a less than perfect format, than
> for it to be totally unavailable (and possibly forgotten)?

Pellegrino - NTSC video is a fact of life in the electronic arts; to many artists it's a nasty little box full of constraints - low resolution, color limitations, fixed aspect ratio, and fixed field chief among them. But for some of the purposes of some of us, especially performances on the road, NTSC is one of chief vehicles of expression. When, in the early 80s, I could count on finding working NTSC monitors (unfortunately sometimes TVs) and video projectors on the road at contracted institutions, I was ecstatic. During my gigs in the 70s I used a set of 16 mm film modules in my performances, some originally created for and on film and others converted to film from video work I'd started at The National Center for Experiments in Television and finished at Project Artaud, both located in San Francisco. Using film in performances was never a picnic. If my host put me in a space that didn't have a projection booth, for the audience to hear my music over the projector's din, I'd have to fashion a quick blimp out of whatever was available - a cardboard box, glue, acoustic tiles or foam or egg crates, cut holes on the top and sides near the bottom for ventilation so the rig wouldn't go up in flames, and spray black paint to cover the Kotex labels. And then I'd have to convince the host to rope off a section around the projector and to not put anyone in the row leading to the projection rig. Mostly they weren't happy about all those changes to their space. Sometimes when they did have a projection booth, the tech would commandeer my films, run up to booth, break one of my films, and splice it without consulting me. And ambient light. And dirty malfunctioning projectors. And tiny torn projection screens. Sound like fun to anyone?

I do take issue with Tom Ditto's statement that "When it comes to our art, there is little sense in using NTSC... The obvious solution is using a computer screen set at an HDTV resolution with the colors properly calibrated" In a group like iota the idea of "our art" covers a lot of territory. I seldom create set studio set pieces and I never include my pieces on video collections or video showings. Instead I normally create video modules only for the visual music context I wrap around local artists that I feature in my visual music shows on the road. Rather than confining my imagery to a fixed video field, in real time I simultaneously use multiple monitors, projected video, and live performers (music, dance, poetry, theater, etc.) being video captured, processed, and mixed with a video module source tape. It's performance-multimedia and without NTSC it doesn't happen. I just put a piece on my site called Omnimedia On The Road that goes into further detail on these matters.

On the other hand, I've been very reluctant to record to video tape the music-driven laser animations that I've been developing since 1975. One very powerful feature of laser imagery is that its aspect ratio is infinitely variable. Another is the range of the image size. And another is the living quality of the light; it's even more lively than the emitted light of the CRT. Boxing laser animations into a video field is like caging a wild animal. And I left out the problems associated with the inharmonicity of persistence of vision relative to the nature of video scanning - a serious problem. More detail on this subject can be found on my site (Playing Free of the Box) in an email exchange with Stephen Malinowski (creator of the Music Animation Machine and other truly amazing music visualization tools) who has for a long time been trying to convince me to record my laser work. That said, I recently had some sessions to record a number of my laser ragas. The NTSC recording technique I used is the same one I use with my computer generated video animations - all compositional decisions are made by what I'm seeing on the NTSC screen. The downside of recording this way is that much of what I do in performance can't be recorded, but what can be recorded using that technique bypasses the translation hurdle; what you see on the video screen is what you get at the moment and what you get when you play it back in the future. No question about it, NTSC has serious limitations, but as Aaron Ross and others say, "On the other hand, isn't it better to have the work seen, even in a less than perfect format, than for it to be totally unavailable (and possibly forgotten)?" A qualified yes from me.

Ron Pellegrino



To: iotacenter@egroups.com
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2000 15:45:29 -0700
Subject: Re: [iota] Metasynth

Kostas Giannakis wrote:

> Perhaps it is useful here to bring up the issue of 'sensory' vs.
> 'arbitrary' mappings. As Colin Ware states in his "Information
> Visualization: Perception for Design":
>
> "The word 'arbitrary' is used to define aspects of representation that
> must be learned, having no perceptual basis... 'Sensory' representations
> are effective (or misleading) beacause they are well matched to the
> early stages of neural processing. They tend to be stable across
> individuals and cultures and time...Sensory aspects of visualizations
> derive their expressive power from being well designed to stimulate the
> visual sensory system. In contrast, arbitrary, conventional aspects of
> visualizations derive the power from how well they are learned."

Pellegrino - What goes on in the "early stages of neural processing" is still up for grabs. The rain of scientific models of how we sense and learn are great for stimulating thought but the baby's not off the ground yet. Normally when scientists say they know something it should be interpreted to mean that they have a hypothesis that they've tested under a constrained set of laboratory conditions, that is, out of the flow of that noisy, gritty, complex thing called life. And most often their tests are biased to get the answers that they want (often for degrees and grants) so some scepticism by outsiders is definitely in order.

That's not to say they shouldn't be doing their research and running their tests. Rather they shouldn't be deceiving themselves and others into believing they've found THE answer. The history of science is the history of one generation after another of scientists debunking the TRUTHS of earlier generations. Many dynamic artists, on the other hand, jump right into the fray and play their games trying this, that, and the other, hoping for a momentary glimpse of the truth knowing full well that it's only emphemeral.

Kostas Giannakis - So my question still remains: "Why all perception-related research has
> been ignored in the formulation of image-to-sound mappings for
> computer-based synthesis tools?"

Pellegrino - The fact is that it's not being ignored. Certain areas of psychophysics, such as psychoacoustics, have become standard fields of study. Pyschoacoustics is now included in any discipline related to music and technology and that, of course, should include visual music whenever it becomes a discipline. Psychophysics also plays a crucial role in the continuing development of virtual reality which attempts to pull together all the disciplines of the arts, entertainment, and education. Lots of dreamers there.

The problem, as I see it, is that hordes of unprepared people are jumping onto the visual music bandwagon as instant experts. Here is a field that, for starters, requires a depth of knowledge and experience in music, the dynamic visual arts, emerging technology, psychophysics, and philosophy. That's a tall order. The departmentalized academic world looks at that list, cringes in disbelief, and points to their five year plan as their out. Who's preparing people to enter this field? Nobody, nowhere. If you want to do it you have to do it on your own and that means wading through the swamps of befuddlement, doubts and twisted expectations, institutional discouragement, formula art, and slightly baked science. I can't imagine a better thing to do.

Ron Pellegrino



To: iotacenter@egroups.com
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2000 19:06:37 -0700
Subject: Re: [iota] hordes [was Re: Metasynth]

Aaron Ross wrote:

> Ron Pellegrino wrote:

> > The problem, as I see it, is that hordes of unprepared people are jumping
> > onto the visual music bandwagon as instant experts. Here is a field that,
> > for starters, requires a depth of knowledge and experience in music, the
> > dynamic visual arts, emerging technology, psychophysics, and philosophy.
>
> Sorry Ron, but I have to disagree. You have made many contributions to our
> field, and your posts to this discussion list are always stimulating and
> well-thought-out. But I must jump in and refute this one.

Pellegrino - I don't understand with what it is that you're in disagreement. What is there to refute?

> There's more than enough room in the visual music field for all types of
> creators. Naive, academic, experimental, scientific, and everything else.
> The last thing I want to see is exclusion and insularity. Rather, we should
> embrace every attempt to work in this field and give it the respect it
> deserves.

Pellegrino - Of course, all work should be respected, more or less - original work more, copies less. We're talking about art here, not a manufacturing process.

> I don't see any hordes out there doing visual music. I see a small but
> dedicated group of individuals who are struggling with a very complex set
> of problems, and doing the best they can under the circumstances. Just
> about anything anyone does in this field is new and unusual, therefore
> worthy of consideration. Even when someone re-invents the wheel due to
> ignorance, the fact remains that he or she invented the wheel!

Pellegrino - Hordes, like any other word referring to size, is a relative term. In 1996, if you entered "visual music" into any search engine, it would have taken you directly to my site; try that today - hordes, relatively speaking. Below I quoted the entire last paragraph from my post and it neither says nor implies that there isn't "enough room for all types of creators". For further corroboration, see my essay called Visual Music Flavors. In fact, the last sentence is a clear invitation to join the fun.

As with any human endeavor, the greater the number, the greater the variety and complexity, the greater the confusion for newcomers or anyone else looking in on the field. That's "The problem, as I see it..."

"The problem, as I see it, is that hordes of unprepared people are jumping onto the visual music bandwagon as instant experts. Here is a field that, for starters, requires a depth of knowledge and experience in music, the dynamic visual arts, emerging technology, psychophysics, and philosophy. That's a tall order. The departmentalized academic world looks at that list, cringes in disbelief, and points to their five year plan as their out. Who's preparing people to enter this field? Nobody, nowhere. If you want to do it you have to do it on your own and that means wading through the swamps of befuddlement, doubts and twisted expectations, institutional discouragement, formula art, and slightly baked science. I can't imagine a better thing to do."

Along with some truly amazingly powerful work, you don't have to look very far today to see derivative and formula-based work cropping up like dandelions in the spring. That's to be expected as the field gains in popularity - good and bad, more or less.

The next time you see someone reinventing the wheel, rather than celebrate, help them save some of their lifetime and energy to explore deeper and wider. It's an evolutionary imperative.

Ron Pellegrino



To: iotacenter@egroups.com
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Date: Sat, 22 Jul 2000 00:49:34 -0700
Subject: Re: Two lists two worlds, Re: [iota] hordes [was Re: Metasynth]

Emile Tobenfeld wrote:

>I have to side completely with Aaron on this. Its good for people to
>do art, whether the art is any 'good' or ' or not, and the value of
>the art is not necessarily dependent on
>> "depth of knowledge and experience in music, the
>>dynamic visual arts, emerging technology, psychophysics, and philosophy."
>
>knowledge all of these things will usually help the artist, (although
>artist's have been known to get caught in the trap of too much
>intellectual knowledge removing them from their intuition), but it is
>far from the most essential thing.

Pellegrino - Intellectual knowledge comes from study, thought, and reflection. Artistic intuition comes from the actual experience. My statement covers both - "depth of knowledge and experience in music, the dynamic visual arts, emerging technology, psychophysics, and philosophy."

>An interesting side comment.
>
>I also subscribe to the eyecandy list
>(eyecandy-subscribe@egroups.com). The members of this list also do
>'visual music' (for want of a better definition). They almost
>exclusively do it in the context of rave culture -- I see little or
>no mention of academia on the list. Most of the discussion on the
>list is of hardware and software tools, there is little discussion of
>why we do the art in the first place.

Pellegrino - Beginners tend to be nuts and bolts folks. Tools, techniques, and tricks together make for the best way to dive into any field and have some fun. It you make that field your life's work then you feel more than obliged to both practice it and give it some serious thought toward having it make sense in a larger context. Otherwise you become a technician.

>Interestingly, I find my self writing much more on this list -- I
>find the dicussion of why we do things more interesting than the
>technical details -- even though I am much more likely to be invited
>to perform or present my work at a rave-culture related event than at
>an academic event.

Pellegrino - I've done both all my life (the rave-culture has roots that go back decades) and enjoy them equally well for different reasons (principally to balance intellect and intuition).

>I must say with all due respect Ron, that your quote (which you are
>perhaps backing away from in your subsequent post) reminds me of the
>academic/classical musician or listeners complaint that untrained and
>unsophisticated people are daring to create (pick one or more) jazz,
>rock, techno, hip-hop, and call them music.

Pellegrino - Your interpretation of what I wrote misses the target by a mile, but, no matter, since that quotation wasn't enough of my words to make sense. That was Aaron's quote of just enough of my words to make his point and confuse the issue. (See my previous post responding to Aaron.) But just for the record, here's the full quote again:

"The problem, as I see it, is that hordes of unprepared people are jumping onto the visual music bandwagon as instant experts. Here is a field that, for starters, requires a depth of knowledge and experience in music, the dynamic visual arts, emerging technology, psychophysics, and philosophy. That's a tall order. The departmentalized academic world looks at that list, cringes in disbelief, and points to their five year plan as their out. Who's preparing people to enter this field? Nobody, nowhere. If you want to do it you have to do it on your own and that means wading through the swamps of befuddlement, doubts and twisted expectations, institutional discouragement, formula art, and slightly baked science. I can't imagine a better thing to do."

>At 5:14 PM -0700 7/21/00, Aaron Ross wrote:
>>Ron Pellegrino wrote:
>>
>> >The problem, as I see it, is that hordes of unprepared people are jumping
>> >onto the visual music bandwagon as instant experts. Here is a field that,
>> >for starters, requires a depth of knowledge and experience in music, the
>> >dynamic visual arts, emerging technology, psychophysics, and philosophy.
>>
>>Sorry Ron, but I have to disagree. You have made many contributions to our
>>field, and your posts to this discussion list are always stimulating and
>>well-thought-out. But I must jump in and refute this one.
>>
>>There's more than enough room in the visual music field for all types of
>>creators. Naive, academic, experimental, scientific, and everything else.
>>The last thing I want to see is exclusion and insularity. Rather, we should
>>embrace every attempt to work in this field and give it the respect it
>>deserves.
>>
>>I don't see any hordes out there doing visual music. I see a small but
>>dedicated group of individuals who are struggling with a very complex set
>>of problems, and doing the best they can under the circumstances. Just
>>about anything anyone does in this field is new and unusual, therefore
>>worthy of consideration. Even when someone re-invents the wheel due to
>>ignorance, the fact remains that he or she invented the wheel!
>>
>>Aaron

Pellegrino - Sometime in the future we should consider looking into the notions of values, discrimination, and originality in visual music. Should we really all "embrace every attempt to work in this field" on an equal footing without discrimination? Metooism is probably the main driving force in the commercialization of visual music (the eye-candy folks, vjs, and the like) and it ain't really all that deep thanks to the flood (horde) of beginners. Does or should that make a difference to anyone? Is it possible that when one writes "Just about anything anyone does in this field is new and unusual..." that the writer hasn't experienced enough of the field's output to notice what's derivative, repetitive, or formula-based? My apologies for raising more questions because I need to return to projects that have been moving very slowly the past few weeks while I've been seduced by all these issues on the iota list. Thanks to all for the stimulation but my projects are screaming for attention...NOW!

Ron Pellegrino



To: iotacenter@egroups.com
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2000 08:02:02 -0500
Subject: Re: [iota] A Deep Breath

Donna Whitney wrote:

>...An interesting argument, but sound and aural experience are directional. (Just watch a
>dog's ears.) Except in carefully crafted (usually by men) environments, sound does not
>envelop us simultaneously from all directions...

Pellegrino - The statement above is dead wrong in the sphere of sound. Pick up any basic book on the physics of music, acoustics, or psychoacoustics and look up terms like direct sound, early reflection, reverberation, echo, and all their relatives and study the illustrations that accompany them. What you'll discover is that the sound we hear is really a composite signal composed of direct sound and multiple reflections which come at us from all directions simultaneously. Our hearing system, based on informed and experienced steering, parses time variants of frequency, amplitude and phase into intelligible information chunks and streams that provide the identities of sound sources, spaces, distances, and their changes over time plus a whole lot more most of which is of special interest to visual music artists. All of this has nothing to do with genitalia.

Pellegrino - What the dog is doing with its ears is also practiced by many other animals - horses, cats, deer, and foxes are common examples I see everyday. They're using their ears to focus on the source - the direct sound. People can and do play the same game simply by cupping their hands around their ears. Doing that happens to be one of my favorite ways of discovering and analyzing a sound space without resorting to test equipment. In effect, cupping partially blocks (deflects and absorbs) from the convex side and captures (reflects and focuses) from the concave side. Most folks cup in the direction their looking but the fact is that you can cup in any direction to get a better focus on the acoustic energy that's coming from that direction. Try it the next time you're in an interesting acoustic space.

Pellegrino - Previous to the mid 60s the development of psychoacoustics was a slow go because we had neither market nor gear to drive the search for the information. During the past 35 years the field of psychoacoustics has progressed very quickly. During the past 10 years it's exploded thanks to virtual reality research funded by governments around the world as well as the business world. Psychoacoustics is one of many fields that feeds visual music. It shouldn't be ignored.

Ron Pellegrino



If you find valuable what you've read above you might want to look into the other sets of iota exchanges.

Go to iota Exchanges - Set 1

Go to iota Exchanges - Set 2

Go to iota Exchanges - Set 4



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