Truth is not as attractive as fiction

I think it is one of the odd and unattractive side effects of the business I’m in (music, performing arts) that a certain amount of intellectual laziness is required to get things done in the first place – and that industriousness is used mainly for reinforcing the tropes of being ‘convincing’. It may be time to start over.

Here’s an interesting view, on the attractiveness of lies:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/08/opinion/sunday/truth-lies-spread-online.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region

New Yorker

Two fascinating reads. And the podcast has a tone of voice I’ve missed. I think I must subscribe to the New Yorker from afar.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/03/12/christopher-steele-the-man-behind-the-trump-dossier

https://www.newyorker.com/news/sporting-scene/roger-bannisters-solitary-pursuit-of-the-four-minute-mile

For a bit of renewed faith in the English-speaking world…

Thrashing

I’m not a computer scientist, but I think this accurately describes a lot of the effect that computers have on behaviour.

In computer science, thrashing occurs when a computer’s virtual memory subsystem is in a constant state of paging, rapidly exchanging data in memory for data on disk, to the exclusion of most application-level processing.  —https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrashing_(computer_science)

There is so much data to to get – so many potentially useful resources in so many places, that it becomes hard to get tasks done. They are never done.

I suppose that’s not entirely a new thing, but perhaps it was easier at one time to say, I have enough information, I will put it forth.

It’s probably true of reading, too, not just writing. How to settle upon a given thesis, knowing that infinite objection or variety of interpretation lies just beneath?

Another view on print/text

I think this fellow is writing similarly. When we pretend that we are ‘suspending disbelief’ at the movies, we are actually believing, much more than we would admit. And when the speed of communications is messing with our personal event horizons, there is danger of consequential confusion.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/everything-here-is-fake/2018/03/02/064a3d4a-18c6-11e8-8b08-027a6ccb38eb_story.html?utm_term=.bf71ee4057fb

 

Identification and singleness

Of course there comes a time when the practical matters need taking care of.   For me, that’s now – I really should get to practical matters now.

But there sometimes is a time amidst the pull of practical matters to think about what might be a larger picture, and I’ll take that time now so I can get back to those matters with clearer head. Hopefully.

The wish to identify everything, to record and analyze everything, in a big sea of data, is dependent at some level on 1) things being identifiable in the first place and 2) representations being useful enough to act upon — especially at that scale.

From a practical standpoint, these are sensible things to do. At some point, one must admit that a city map is a city map, and one must be oriented to it.

However, the certainty of orientation in a city is not quite the same as the certainty of being in the city yourself. And the more virtuality there is in the representation, the more one is likely to feel unstable at root, and a bit lost in the game-like mapping of the world.

And there is a bit of this problem in the on/off basis for digital representation. At a certain level, there is an absolute identification of a single thing at the very bottom, and that must be somewhat false.

You can sense a reaction to this problem in the popular tilt toward ‘non-binary’ living (especially around gender issues). But it seems to lead to atomisation of identity around ever-smaller units.

I suspect that it is one of the jobs of music, which circumvents the possibility of absolute identification by being invisible, to puncture this absoluteness.

Which is why I should get back to the practical matters of my own music work, I suppose.

 

Schlange

In recent days, it occurred to me once again how eerily similar fundamentalist readings of the second amendment to the US constitution…

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

… are to fundamentalist readings of the Biblical passage which brought us ‘snake-handling’:

These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will… pick up snakes with their hands.

Read either passage in a  violently literal way, as a command from above —  and then listen for the ambulances.

Of course, the snakes bite only the people lifting them…

===

And then, as though on cue, comes the president with his story of immigrant ‘snakes’.  The snake biting the (faithful) hand that offers mercy, that’s his story, his ‘poem’.  Evidently it excites the crowd.

It’s a curious trick: something feels true about it – but it feels true because he’s talking about himself.

I think they do know it, these believers, they knew he was a snake when they let him in.

But they also think they can handle it.

The sound of sirens following this experiment would not surprise me.

… and Text

‘Text’ is also an interesting word to pursue. (I realize now that my stated distrust of etymologies must be taken as a mere excuse.)

Where ‘print’ has to do with ‘pressing’, ‘text’ has to do with ‘weaving’. Weaving a story of words, over time. Not necessarily written down, so long as it hangs together.

So as a follow-up question: is expression to print as context is to text? Context is more passive, at the least. Expression (German ‘Ausdruck’) seems to indicate a  source in the print. Context (German ‘Zusammenhang’) is simply what is hanging around the weaving, as it hangs together on its own terms.

So context is a more or less indifferent space, and expression more the hope for a living object in the print – the hope that there may be something in there that might come out.

Press

And on the subject of print: what does ‘press’ mean when nothing is actually ‘pressed’? It doesn’t seem to be the same.

For a long time, the idea of making a mark, making something permanent (or at least long-enough-lasting to allow a moment’s consideration), came from an idea of contact. This is no longer true. Nothing is ‘pressed’ beyond the keyboard, and yet it still appears in ‘print’.  If it were all printed, we’d have no more trees at all, and fast.

You might wonder also, what this has to do with traditions of ‘expression’, which have to do with squeezing meaning in and out of print, at least in part.  A sort of parallel to (and inversion of)  the act of squeezing something onto a page or painting or medium in the first place.

Curiously, the idea of ‘express’ as ‘fast’ comes only later, with the idea that a train (such as the ICE ‘sprinter’ on which I’m currently riding and writing) would only go to certain ‘expressed’ (i.e. named) stations.

In this case, the opposite of ‘express’ is ‘local’ (see: NY subway, A train vs. C train, or 1/9 v. 2/3).

If you have nothing from which meaning can be pressed, I guess you’re left with only rhymes or memes.

What is heard

How can you tell that someone is listening?

There is a saying in improvisation that there are no mistakes. We can take it as an acceptable starting point, because it’s clear that there’s no saying what the rules might be, or how they might change.

This tends to get a lot of traction in improvisation circles, especially when it addresses the rather dangerously prescribed traditions of classical music, and to some extent those of jazz (which may well be at its most doctrinaire when it is at its least pre-determined).

There is the matter, though, of playing as though you are not listening. This may in fact be a mistake.

It is not  mistake because of what gets played under these conditions, though it does have a particular sound.  It has more to do with atmosphere: even when music is at its most traditional, its most familiar, its least mindful, an audience doesn’t just hear what’s played, it hears what could be played, what is probably-to-be-expected… that is, the hearers hear you listening forward, and the composer listening forward, and making choices in a field of possibilities.

So how would you make a machine seem to listen? How would you get it to codify these parameters of calculation and search, and desire for resonance?

And what would be the use?