Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Asterisking Bindi Discurso-Coginitions


"An Indian model wears a Analog integrated circuit (IC) with intelligent charging capabillities for Lithium-ion batteries pasted on a bindi during a launch ceremony in Bangalore.[AFP]" From here.

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Geof Huth calls miscellaneous entries on his blog (separated by centre-justified bullets) “bindi thoughts.” Much nicer to have the image of a bindi rather than a bullet. Here’s a few thoughts on some books I’ve been reading and an idea or two.

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I’ve been ruminating about doing something with the audio to Christian Bok’s Eunoia, the book where each chapter is a univocal lipogram (i.e. each chapter has only words that use a single vowel.) There’s the a chapter, the e chapter, and so on. I’ve always been partial to the thick-browed U chapter.

I had an idea to process the audio recording of Christian reading this chapter, but filter out all the frequencies which make up vowels. What makes a sound sound like a vowel are three dominant frequencies. These are called formants. I wonder if I could isolate the special frequencies or band of frequencies in Christian’s voice and then edit out the U’s. Next, I might add a drone track which uses exactly those frequencies that I’ve edited out. Or I could do the opposite. Only keep the bits of the audio file that has U’s and delete the consonants. I don’t know if any of this is possible, particularly given the software that I have. I probably could figure out how to program it using MAX/DSP but that might be beyond the energy of my lazy bones.

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I stumbled upon W.G. Sebald’s After Nature (trans. Michael Hamburger), three long poems which comprise one work, first published, in German in 1988. I knew nothing much about his work, and certainly nothing about his poetry. There was some lovely stuff in the book, particularly the second section about the naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller. Here’s a bit about whales:

Chamisso…
was led to think that perhaps
these animals could be tamed
and—no different from geese
on a stubble field—be herded
with a rod, as it were, on the sea.
Bring up the young in a fjord, he wrote,
fasten a spiked belt buoyed up by
air-bladders under their pectoral fins,
let them unlearn their submersions

and…

. . . .Chamisso,
it is true, also writes
of the steam engine as
the first warm-blooded animal
created by humankind.

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Also I’ve been rereading Josef Skvorecky. His collection of essays, Talking Moscow Blues. The essay, “Red Music” where he talks about Nazi restriction on jazz during the war is astounding. The piece was published originally along with his fantastic Bass Saxophone novella, which I remember stumbling upon in an airport when I was about fifteen.

The Nazis actually provided “objective” criteria and percentages in their rules.

For example:

“So-called jazz composition may contain at most 10% syncopation; the remainder must consist of a natural legato movement devoid of the hysterical rhythmic reverses characteristic of the music of the barbarian races and conducive to dark instincts alien to the German people (so-called riffs)”

and

“in this so-called jazz type repertoire, preference is to be given to compositions in a major key and to lyrics expressing joy in life rather than Jewishly gloomy lyrics.”

And from elsewhere, the states forbid certain things like mutes which “turn the noble sound of wind and brass instruments into a Jewish-Freemasonic yowl.”

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I've been thinking about the idea of quantum translation -- a translation that can be in two places at one, that can exist in a number of simultaneous worlds, whose meaning can't be exactly predicted & changes according to the position of the reader.

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I heard Chris Piuma read at the Lexiconjury reading at the Scream festival a few weeks ago. He is new to Toronto, arriving here to attend grad school He read a great piece, which can be found here. His blog is one I've begun following. Lot's of good stuff and commentary there. It's called Buggeryville.

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I’ve also been reading some of Skvorecky’s Lieutenant Boruvka detective stories, which, like much of his novel evoke a past Czech world, with colour, charm, nostalgia, and deep irony regarding the political situation (constantly turbulent for most of the 20th century) and bittersweetness

Here’s a bit from a great memoir in Talking Moscow Blues called “I was Born in Nachod.”

“I wonder if any artist has ever been absolutely sure that what he was doing was good, whether any has felt that he has mastered his art and that the process of creation from now on will be pure joy, unmixed with doubts.”

The essay ends with my new motto:

“Let’s leave it to the horses to figure out. They have bigger heads.”

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